[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.

'Ah, dearest Wife, a fresh-lit fire
     Sends forth to heaven great shows of fume,
And watchers, far away, admire;
     But when the flames their power assume,
The more they burn the less they show,
     The clouds no longer smirch the sky,
And then the flames intensest glow
     When far-off watchers think they die.
The fumes of early love my verse
     Has figured--' 'You must paint the flame!'
'Twould merit the Promethean curse!
     But now, Sweet, for your praise and blame.'
'You speak too boldly; veils are due
     To women's feelings.' 'Fear not this!
Women will vow I say not true,
     And men believe thine lips they kiss.'
I did not call you "Dear" or "Love,"
     'I think, till after Frank was born.'
'That fault I cannot well remove;
     The rhymes'--but Frank now blew his horn,
And Walter bark'd, on hands and knees,
     At Baby in the mignonette,
And all made, full-cry, for the trees
     Where Felix and his Wife were set.
Again disturb'd, (crickets have cares!)
     True to their annual use they rose,
To offer thanks at Evening Prayers
     In three times sacred Sarum Close.

                              2

Passing, they left a gift of wine
     At Widow Neale's. Her daughter said:
'O, Ma'am, she's sinking! For a sign,
     She cried just now, of him that's dead,
"Mary, he's somewhere close above,
     Weeping and wailing his dead wife,
With forceful prayers and fatal love
     Conjuring me to come to life.
A spirit is terrible though dear!
     It comes by night, and sucks my breath,
And draws me with desire and fear."
     Ah, Ma'am, she'll soon be his in death!'

                              3

Vaughan, when his kind Wife's eyes were dry,
     Said, 'This thought crosses me, my Dove;
If Heaven should proffer, when we die,
     Some unconceiv'd, superior love,
How take the exchange without despair,
     Without worse folly how refuse?'
But she, who, wise as she was fair,
     For subtle doubts had simple clues,
Said, 'Custom sanctifies, and faith
     Is more than joy: ah, how desire
In any heaven a different path,
     Though, found at first, it had been higher?
Yet love makes death a dreadful thought!
     Felix, at what a price we live!'
But present pleasures soon forgot
     The future's dread alternative;
For, as became the festal time,
     He cheer'd her heart with tender praise,
And speeches wanting only rhyme
     To make them like his winged lays.
He discommended girlhood. 'What
     For sweetness like the ten-years' wife,
Whose customary love is not
     Her passion, or her play, but life?
With beauties so maturely fair,
     Affecting, mild, and manifold,
May girlish charms mo more compare
     Than apples green with apples gold.
Ah, still unpraised Honoria, Heaven,
     When you into my arms it gave,
Left nought hereafter to be given
     But grace to feel the good I have.'

                               4

Her own and manhood's modesty
     Made dumb her love, but, on their road,
His hand in hers felt soft reply,
     And like rejoinder found bestow'd;
And, when the carriage set them down,
     'How strange,' said he, ''twould seem to meet,
When pacing, as we now this town,
     A Florence or a Lisbon Street,
That Laura or that Catherine, who,
     In the remote, romantic years,
From Petrarch or Camoens drew
     Their songs and their immortal tears!'
But here their converse had its end;
     For, crossing the Cathedral Lawn,
There came an ancient college-friend,
     Who, introduced to Mrs. Vaughan,
Lifted his hat, and bow'd and smiled.
     And fill'd her kind large eyes with joy,
By patting on the cheek her child,
     With, 'Is he yours, this handsome boy?'


Victorian Overview Coventry Patmore

Last updated 8 August 2004