[This Victorian Web version of The Angel in the House is based on the Project Gutenberg e-text, which was produced by David Price (e-mail ccx074@coventry.ac.uk), from the 1891 Cassell & Company edition. GPL created the html, added links, and made corrections in the text after comparing it with other editions.]

                                                

Preludes

                                                

I. The Joyful Wisdom.

Would Wisdom for herself be woo'd,
     And wake the foolish from his dream,
She must be glad as well as good,
     And must not only be, but seem.
Beauty and joy are hers by right;
     And, knowing this, I wonder less
That she's so scorn'd, when falsely dight
     In misery and ugliness.
What's that which Heaven to man endears,
     And that which eyes no sooner see
Than the heart says, with floods of tears,
     'Ah, that's the thing which I would be!'
Not childhood, full of frown and fret;
     Not youth, impatient to disown
Those visions high, which to forget
     Were worse than never to have known;
Not worldlings, in whose fair outside
     Nor courtesy nor justice fails,
Thanks to cross-pulling vices tied,
     Like Samson's foxes, by the tails;
Not poets; real things are dreams,
     When dreams are as realities,
And boasters of celestial gleams
     Go stumbling aye for want of eyes;
Not patriots or people's men,
     In whom two worse-match'd evils meet
Than ever sought Adullam's den,
     Base conscience and a high conceit;
Not new-made saints, their feelings iced,
     Their joy in man and nature gone,
Who sing 'O easy yoke of Christ!'
     But find 'tis hard to get it on;
Not great men, even when they're good;
     The good man whom the time makes great,
By some disgrace of chance or blood,
     God fails not to humiliate;
Not these: but souls, found here and there,
     Oases in our waste of sin,
Where everything is well and fair,
     And Heav'n remits its discipline;
Whose sweet subdual of the world
     The worldling scarce can recognise,
And ridicule, against it hurl'd,
     Drops with a broken sting and dies;
Who nobly, if they cannot know
     Whether a 'scutcheon's dubious field
Carries a falcon or a crow,
     Fancy a falcon on the shield;
Yet, ever careful not to hurt
     God's honour, who creates success,
Their praise of even the best desert
     Is but to have presumed no less;
Who, should their own life plaudits bring,
     Are simply vex'd at heart that such
An easy, yea, delightful thing
     Should move the minds of men so much.
They live by law, not like the fool,
     But like the bard, who freely sings
In strictest bonds of rhyme and rule,
     And finds in them, not bonds, but wings.
Postponing still their private ease
     To courtly custom, appetite,
Subjected to observances,
     To banquet goes with full delight;
Nay, continence and gratitude
     So cleanse their lives from earth's alloy,
They taste, in Nature's common food,
     Nothing but spiritual joy.
They shine like Moses in the face,
     And teach our hearts, without the rod,
That God's grace is the only grace,
     And all grace is the grace of God.

                                                

II. The Devices.

Love, kiss'd by Wisdom, wakes twice Love,
     And Wisdom is, thro' loving, wise.
Let Dove and Snake, and Snake and Dove,
     This Wisdom's be, that Love's device.

                                                

Going to Church

                               1

I woke at three; for I was bid
     To breakfast with the Dean at nine,
And thence to Church. My curtain slid,
     I found the dawning Sunday fine,
And could not rest, so rose. The air
     Was dark and sharp; the roosted birds
Cheep'd, 'Here am I, Sweet; are you there?'
     On Avon's misty flats the herds
Expected, comfortless, the day,
     Which slowly fired the clouds above;
The cock scream'd, somewhere far away;
     In sleep the matrimonial dove
Was crooning; no wind waked the wood,
     Nor moved the midnight river-damps,
Nor thrill'd the poplar; quiet stood
     The chestnut with its thousand lamps;
The moon shone yet, but weak and drear,
     And seem'd to watch, with bated breath,
The landscape, all made sharp and clear
     By stillness, as a face by death.

                              2

My pray'rs for her being done, I took
     Occasion by the quiet hour
To find and know, by Rule and Book,
     The rights of love's beloved power.

                               3

Fronting the question without ruth,
     Nor ignorant that, evermore,
If men will stoop to kiss the Truth,
     She lifts them higher than before,
I, from above, such light required
     As now should once for all destroy
The folly which at times desired
     A sanction for so great a joy.

                               4

Thenceforth, and through that pray'r, I trod
     A path with no suspicions dim.
I loved her in the name of God,
     And for the ray she was of Him;
I ought to admire much more, not less
     Her beauty was a godly grace;
The mystery of loveliness,
     Which made an altar of her face,
Was not of the flesh, though that was fair,
     But a most pure and living light
Without a name, by which the rare
     And virtuous spirit flamed to sight.
If oft, in love, effect lack'd cause
     And cause effect, 'twere vain to soar
Reasons to seek for that which was
     Reason itself, or something more.
My joy was no idolatry
     Upon the ends of the vile earth bent,
For when I loved her most then I
     Most yearn'd for more divine content.
That other doubt, which, like a ghost,
     In the brain's darkness haunted me,
Was thus resolved: Him loved I most,
     But her I loved most sensibly.
Lastly, my giddiest hope allow'd
     No selfish thought, or earthly smirch;
And forth I went, in peace, and proud
     To take my passion into Church;
Grateful and glad to think that all
     Such doubts would seem entirely vain
To her whose nature's lighter fall
     Made no divorce of heart from brain.

                               5

I found them, with exactest grace
     And fresh as Spring, for Spring attired;
And by the radiance in her face
     I saw she felt she was admired;
And, through the common luck of love,
     A moment's fortunate delay,
To fit the little lilac glove,
     Gave me her arm; and I and they
(They true to this and every hour,
     As if attended on by Time), Enter'd the Church while yet the tower
     Was noisy with the finish'd chime.

                               6

Her soft voice, singularly heard
     Beside me, in her chant, withstood
The roar of voices, like a bird
     Sole warbling in a windy wood;
And, when we knelt, she seem'd to be
     An angel teaching me to pray;
And all through the high Liturgy
     My spirit rejoiced without allay,
Being, for once, borne clearly above
     All banks and bars of ignorance,
By this bright spring-tide of pure love,
     And floated in a free expanse,
Whence it could see from side to side,
     The obscurity from every part
Winnow'd away and purified
     By the vibrations of my heart.


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Last updated 8 August 2004