[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 Changed Allegiance.

Watch how a bird, that captived sings,
     The cage set open, first looks out,
Yet fears the freedom of his wings,
     And now withdraws, and flits about,
And now looks forth again; until,
     Grown bold, he hops on stool and chair,
And now attains the window-sill,
     And now confides himself to air.
The maiden so, from love's free sky
     In chaste and prudent counsels caged,
But longing to be loosen'd by
     Her suitor's faith declared and gaged,
When blest with that release desired,
     First doubts if truly she is free,
Then pauses, restlessly retired,
     Alarm'd at too much liberty;
But soon, remembering all her debt
     To plighted passion, gets by rote
Her duty; says, 'I love him!' yet
     The thought half chokes her in her throat;
And, like that fatal 'I am thine,'
     Comes with alternate gush and check
And joltings of the heart, as wine
     Pour'd from a flask of narrow neck.
Is he indeed her choice? She fears
     Her Yes was rashly said, and shame,
Remorse and ineffectual tears
     Revolt from has conceded claim.
Oh, treason! So, with desperate nerve,
     She cries, 'I am in love, am his;'
Lets run the cables of reserve,
     And floats into a sea of bliss,
And laughs to think of her alarm,
     Avows she was in love before,
Though has avowal was the charm
     Which open'd to her own the door.
She loves him for his mastering air,
     Whence, Parthian-like, she slaying flies;
His flattering look, which seems to wear
     Her loveliness in manly eyes;
His smile, which, by reverse, portends
     An awful wrath, should reason stir;
(How fortunate it is they're friends,
     And he will ne'er be wroth with her!)
His power to do or guard from harm;
     If he but chose to use it half,
And catch her up in one strong arm,
     What could she do but weep, or laugh!
His words, which still instruct, but so
     That this applause seems still implied,
'How wise in all she ought to know,
     How ignorant of all beside!'
His skilful suit, which leaves her free,
     Gives nothing for the world to name,
And keeps her conscience safe, while he,
     With half the bliss, takes all the blame;
His clear repute with great and small;
     The jealousy his choice will stir;
But ten times more than ten times all,
     She loves him for his love of her.
How happy 'tis he seems to see
     In her that utter loveliness
Which she, for his sake, longs to be!
     At times, she cannot but confess
Her other friends are somewhat blind;
     Her parents' years excuse neglect,
But all the rest are scarcely kind,
     And brothers grossly want respect;
And oft she views what he admires
     Within her glass, and sight of this
Makes all the sum of her desires
     To be devotion unto his.
But still, at first, whatever's done,
     A touch, her hand press'd lightly, she
Stands dizzied, shock'd, and flush'd, like one
     Set sudden neck-deep in the sea;
And, though her bond for endless time
     To his good pleasure gives her o'er,
The slightest favour seems a crime,
     Because it makes her love him more.
But that she ne'er will let him know;
     For what were love should reverence cease?
A thought which makes her reason so
     Inscrutable, it seems caprice.
With her, as with a desperate town,
     Too weak to stand, too proud to treat,
The conqueror, though the walls are down,
     Has still to capture street by street;
But, after that, habitual faith,
     Divorced from self, where late 'twas due,
Walks nobly in its novel path,
     And she's to changed allegiance true;
And prizing what she can't prevent,
     (Right wisdom, often misdeem'd whim), Her will's indomitably bent
     On mere submissiveness to him;
To him she'll cleave, for him forsake
     Father's and mother's fond command!
He is her lord, for he can take
     Hold of her faint heart with his hand.

                                                

II. Beauty.

'Beauty deludes.' O shaft well shot,
     To strike the mark's true opposite!
That ugly good is scorn'd proves not
     'Tis beauty lies, but lack of it.
By Heaven's law the Jew might take
     A slave to wife, if she was fair;
So strong a plea does beauty make
     That, where 'tis seen, discretion's there.
If, by a monstrous chance, we learn
     That this illustrious vaunt's a lie,
Our minds, by which the eyes discern,
     See hideous contrariety.
And laugh at Nature's wanton mood,
     Which, thus a swinish thing to flout,
Though haply in its gross way good,
     Hangs such a jewel in its snout.

                                                

III. Lais and Lucretia.

Did first his beauty wake her sighs?
     That's Lais! Thus Lucretia's known:
The beauty in her Lover's eyes
     Was admiration of her own.

                                                

The Course of True Love

                               1

Oh, beating heart of sweet alarm,
     Which stays the lover's step, when near
His mistress and her awful charm
     Of grace and innocence sincere!
I held the half-shut door, and heard
     The voice of my betrothed wife,
Who sang my verses, every word
     By music taught its latent life;
With interludes of well-touch'd notes,
     That flash'd, surprising and serene,
As meteor after meteor floats
     The soft, autumnal stars between.
There was a passion in her tone,
     A tremor when she touch'd the keys,
Which told me she was there alone,
     And uttering all her soul at ease.
I enter'd; for I did not choose
     To learn how in her heart I throve,
By chance or stealth; beyond her use,
     Her greeting flatter'd me with love.

                              2

With true love's treacherous confidence,
     And ire, at last to laughter won,
She spoke this speech, and mark'd its sense,
     By action, as her Aunt had done.

                               3

'"You, with your looks and catching air,
     To think of Vaughan! You fool! You know,
You might, with ordinary care,
     Ev'n yet be Lady Clitheroe.
You're sure he'll do great things some day!
     Nonsense, he won't; he's dress'd too well.
Dines with the Sterling Club, they say;
     Not commonly respectable!
Half Puritan, half Cavalier!
     His curly hair I think's a wig;
And, for his fortune, why my Dear,
     'Tis not enough to keep a gig.
Rich Aunts and Uncles never die;
     And what you bring won't do for dress:
And so you'll live on By-and-by,
     Within oaten-cake and water-cress!"

                               4

'I cried, but did not let her see.
     At last she soften'd her dispraise,
On learning you had bought for me
     A carriage and a pair of bays.
But here she comes! You take her in
     To dinner. I impose this task
Make her approve my love; and win
     What thanks from me you choose to ask!'

                               5

'My niece has told you every word
     I said of you! What may I mean?
Of course she has; but you've not heard
     How I abused you to the Dean; -
Yes, I'll take wine; he's mad, like her;
     And she WILL have you: there it ends!
And, now I've done my duty, Sir,
     And you've shown common-sense, we're friends!'

                               6

'Go, child, and see him out yourself,'
     Aunt Maude said, after tea, 'and show
The place, upon that upper shelf,
     Where Petrarch stands, lent long ago.'

                               7

'These rose-leaves to my heart be press'd,
     Honoria, while it aches for you!'
(The rose in ruin, from her breast,
     Fell, as I took a fond adieu.)
'You must go now, Love!' 'See, the air
     Is thick with starlight!' 'Let me tie
This scarf on. Oh, your Petrarch! There!
     I'm coming, Aunt!' 'Sweet, Sweet!' 'Good-bye!'
'Ah, Love, to me 'tis death to part,
     Yet you, my sever'd life, smile on!'
These "Good-nights," Felix, break my heart;
     I'm only gay till you are gone!'
With love's bright arrows from her eyes,
     And balm on her permissive lips,
She pass'd, and night was a surprise,
     As when the sun at Quito dips.
Her beauties were like sunlit snows,
     Flush'd but not warm'd with my desire.
Oh, how I loved her! Fiercely glows
     In the pure air of frost the fire.
Who for a year is sure of fate!
     I thought, dishearten'd as I went,
Wroth with the Dean, who bade me wait,
     And vex'd with her, who seem'd content.
Nay, could eternal life afford
     That tyranny should thus deduct
From this fair land, which call'd me lord,
     A year of the sweet usufruct?
It might not and it should not be!
     I'd go back now, and he must own,
At once, my love's compulsive plea.
     I turn'd, I found the Dean alone.
'Nonsense, my friend; go back to bed!
     It's half-past twelve!' 'July, then, Sir!'
'Well, come to-morrow,' at last he said,
     'And you may talk of it with her.'
A light gleam'd as I pass'd the stair.
     A pausing foot, a flash of dress,
And a sweet voice. 'Is Felix there?'
     'July, Love!' 'Says Papa so?' 'Yes!'


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Last updated 8 August 2004