[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 Paragon

When I behold the skies aloft
     Passing the pageantry of dreams,
The cloud whose bosom, cygnet-soft,
     A couch for nuptial Juno seems,
The ocean broad, the mountains bright,
     The shadowy vales with feeding herds,
I from my lyre the music smite,
     Nor want for justly matching words.
All forces of the sea and air,
     All interests of hill and plain,
I so can sing, in seasons fair,
     That who hath felt may feel again.
Elated oft by such free songs,
     I think with utterance free to raise
That hymn for which the whole world longs,
     A worthy hymn in woman's praise;
A hymn bright-noted like a bird's,
     Arousing these song-sleepy times
With rhapsodies of perfect words,
     Ruled by returning kiss of rhymes.
But when I look on her and hope
     To tell with joy what I admire,
My thoughts lie cramp'd in narrow scope,
     Or in the feeble birth expire;
No mystery of well-woven speech,
     No simplest phrase of tenderest fall,
No liken'd excellence can reach
     Her, thee most excellent of all,
The best half of creation's best,
     Its heart to feel, its eye to see,
The crown and complex of the rest,
     Its aim and its epitome.
Nay, might I utter my conceit,
     'Twere after all a vulgar song,
For she's so simply, subtly sweet,
     My deepest rapture does her wrong.
Yet is it now my chosen task
     To sing her worth as Maid and Wife;
Nor happier post than this I ask,
     To live her laureate all my life.
On wings of love uplifted free,
     And by her gentleness made great,
I'll teach how noble man should be
     To match with such a lovely mate;
And then in her may move the more
     The woman's wish to be desired,
(By praise increased), till both shall soar,
     With blissful emulations fired.
And, as geranium, pink, or rose
     Is thrice itself through power of art,
So may my happy skill disclose
     New fairness even in her fair heart;
Until that churl shall nowhere be
     Who bends not, awed, before the throne
Of her affecting majesty,
     So meek, so far unlike our own;
Until (for who may hope too much
     From her who wields the powers of love?)
Our lifted lives at last shall touch
     That happy goal to which they move;
Until we find, as darkness rolls
     Away, and evil mists dissolve,
That nuptial contrasts are the poles
     On which the heavenly spheres revolve.

                                                

II. Love at Large.

Whene'er I come where ladies are,
     How sad soever I was before,
Though like a ship frost-bound and far
     Withheld in ice from the ocean's roar,
Third-winter'd in that dreadful dock,
     With stiffen'd cordage, sails decay'd,
And crew that care for calm and shock
     Alike, too dull to be dismay'd,
Yet, if I come where ladies are,
     How sad soever I was before,
Then is my sadness banish'd far,
     And I am like that ship no more;
Or like that ship if the ice-field splits,
     Burst by the sudden polar Spring,
And all thank God with their warming wits,
     And kiss each other and dance and sing,
And hoist fresh sails, that make the breeze
     Blow them along the liquid sea,
Out of the North, where life did freeze,
     Into the haven where they would be.

                                                

III. Love and Duty.

Anne lived so truly from above,
     She was so gentle and so good,
That duty bade me fall in love,
     And 'but for that,' thought I, 'I should!'
I worshipp'd Kate with all my will,
     In idle moods you seem to see
A noble spirit in a hill,
     A human touch about a tree.

                                                

IV. A Distinction.

The lack of lovely pride, in her
     Who strives to please, my pleasure numbs,
And still the maid I most prefer
     Whose care to please with pleasing comes.

                                                

Mary and Mildred.

                              1

One morning, after Church, I walk'd
     Alone with Mary on the lawn,
And felt myself, howe'er we talk'd,
     To grave themes delicately drawn.
When she, delighted, found I knew
     More of her peace than she supposed,
Our confidences heavenwards grew,
     Like fox-glove buds, in pairs disclosed.
Our former faults did we confess,
     Our ancient feud was more than heal'd,
And, with the woman's eagerness
     For amity full-sign'd and seal'd,
She, offering up for sacrifice
     Her heart's reserve, brought out to show
Some verses, made when she was ice
     To all but Heaven, six years ago;
Since happier grown! I took and read
     The neat-writ lines. She, void of guile,
Too late repenting, blush'd, and said,
     I must not think about the style.

                              2

'Day after day, until to-day,
     Imaged the others gone before,
The same dull task, the weary way,
     The weakness pardon'd o'er and o'er,

'The thwarted thirst, too faintly felt,
     For joy's well-nigh forgotten life,
The restless heart, which, when I knelt,
     Made of my worship barren strife.

'Ah, whence to-day's so sweet release,
     This clearance light of all my care,
This conscience free, this fertile peace,
     These softly folded wings of prayer,

'This calm and more than conquering love,
     With which nought evil dares to cope,
This joy that lifts no glance above,
     For faith too sure, too sweet for hope?

'O, happy time, too happy change,
     It will not live, though fondly nurst!
Full soon the sun will seem as strange
     As now the cloud which seems dispersed.'

                              3

She from a rose-tree shook the blight;
     And well she knew that I knew well
Her grace with silence to requite;
     And, answering now the luncheon bell,
I laugh'd at Mildred's laugh, which made
     All melancholy wrong, its mood
Such sweet self-confidence display'd,
     So glad a sense of present good.

                              4

I laugh'd and sigh'd: for I confess
     I never went to Ball, or Fete,
Or Show, but in pursuit express
     Of my predestinated mate;
And thus to me, who had in sight
     The happy chance upon the cards,
Each beauty blossom'd in the light
     Of tender personal regards;
And, in the records of my breast,
     Red-letter'd, eminently fair,
Stood sixteen, who, beyond the rest,
     By turns till then had been my care:
At Berlin three, one at St. Cloud,
     At Chatteris, near Cambridge, one,
At Ely four, in London two,
     Two at Bowness, in Paris none,
And, last and best, in Sarum three;
     But dearest of the whole fair troop,
In judgment of the moment, she
     Whose daisy eyes had learn'd to droop.
Her very faults my fancy fired;
     My loving will, so thwarted, grew;
And, bent on worship, I admired
     Whate'er she was, with partial view.
And yet when, as to-day, her smile
     Was prettiest, I could not but note
Honoria, less admired the while,
     Was lovelier, though from love remote.


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Last updated 8 August 2004