[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. Joy and Use.

Can ought compared with wedlock be
     For use? But He who made the heart
To use proportions joy. What He
     Has join'd let no man put apart.
Sweet Order has its draught of bliss
     Graced with the pearl of God's consent,
Ten times delightful in that 'tis
     Considerate and innocent.
In vain Disorder grasps the cup;
     The pleasure's not enjoy'd but spilt,
And, if he stoops to lick it up,
     It only tastes of earth and guilt.
His sorry raptures rest destroys;
     To live, like comets, they must roam;
On settled poles turn solid joys,
     And sunlike pleasures shine at home.

                                                

II. 'She Was Mine.'

'Thy tears o'erprize thy loss! Thy wife,
     In what was she particular?
Others of comely face and life,
     Others as chaste and warm there are,
And when they speak they seem to sing;
     Beyond her sex she was not wise;
And there is no more common thing
     Than kindness in a woman's eyes.
Then wherefore weep so long and fast,
     Why so exceedingly repine!
Say, how has thy Beloved surpass'd
     So much all others?' 'She was mine.'

                                                

The Revulsion.

                              1

'Twas when the spousal time of May
     Hangs all the hedge with bridal wreaths,
And air's so sweet the bosom gay
     Give thanks for every breath it breathes,
When like to like is gladly moved,
     And each thing joins in Spring's refrain,
'Let those love now who never loved;
     Let those who have loved love again;'
That I, in whom the sweet time wrought,
     Lay stretch'd within a lonely glade,
Abandon'd to delicious thought
     Beneath the softly twinkling shade.
The leaves, all stirring, mimick'd well
     A neighbouring rush of rivers cold,
And, as the sun or shadow fell,
     So these were green and those were gold;
In dim recesses hyacinths droop'd,
     And breadths of primrose lit the air,
Which, wandering through the woodland, stoop'd
     And gather'd perfumes here and there;
Upon the spray the squirrel swung,
     And careless songsters, six or seven.
Sang lofty songs the leaves among,
     Fit for their only listener, Heaven.
I sigh'd, 'Immeasurable bliss
     Gains nothing by becoming more!
Millions have meaning; after this
     Cyphers forget the integer.'

                              2

And so I mused, till musing brought
     A dream that shook my house of clay,
And, in my humbled heart, I thought,
     To me there yet may come a day
With this the single vestige seen
     Of comfort, earthly or divine,
My sorrow some time must have been
     Her portion, had it not been mine.
Then I, who knew, from watching life,
     That blows foreseen are slow to fall,
Rehearsed the losing of a wife,
     And faced its terrors each and all.
The self-chastising fancy show'd
     The coffin with its ghastly breath;
The innocent sweet face that owed
     None of its innocence to death;
The lips that used to laugh; the knell
     That bade the world beware of mirth;
The heartless and intolerable
     Indignity of 'earth to earth;'
At morn remembering by degrees
     That she I dream'd about was dead;
Love's still recurrent jubilees,
     The days that she was born, won, wed;
The duties of my life the same,
     Their meaning for the feelings gone;
Friendship impertinent, and fame
     Disgusting; and, more harrowing none,
Small household troubles fall'n to me,
     As, 'What time would I dine to-day?'
And, oh, how could I bear to see
     The noisy children at their play.
Besides, where all things limp and halt,
     Could I go straight, should I alone
Have kept my love without default,
     Pitch'd at the true and heavenly tone?
The festal-day might come to mind
     That miss'd the gift which more endears;
The hour which might have been more kind,
     And now less fertile in vain tears;
The good of common intercourse,
     For daintier pleasures, then despised,
Now with what passionate remorse,
     What poignancy of hunger prized!
The little wrong, now greatly rued,
     Which no repentance now could right;
And love, in disbelieving mood,
     Deserting his celestial height.
Withal to know, God's love sent grief
     To make me less the world's, and more
Meek-hearted: ah, the sick relief!
     Why bow'd I not my heart before?

                              3

'What,' I exclaimed, with chill alarm,
     'If this fantastic horror shows
The feature of an actual harm!'
     And, coming straight to Sarum Close,
As one who dreams his wife is dead,
     And cannot in his slumber weep,
And moans upon his wretched bed,
     And wakes, and finds her there asleep,
And laughs and sighs, so I, not less
     Relieved, beheld, with blissful start,
The light and happy loveliness
     Which lay so heavy on my heart.


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Last updated 8 August 2004