[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. Love's Immortality.

How vilely 'twere to misdeserve
     The poet's gift of perfect speech,
In song to try, with trembling nerve,
     The limit of its utmost reach,
Only to sound the wretched praise
     Of what to-morrow shall not be;
So mocking with immortal bays
     The cross-bones of mortality!
I do not thus. My faith is fast
     That all the loveliness I sing
Is made to bear the mortal blast,
     And blossom in a better Spring.
Doubts of eternity ne'er cross
     The Lover's mind, divinely clear;
FOR EVER is the gain or loss
     Which maddens him with hope or fear:
So trifles serve for his relief,
     And trifles make him sick and pale;
And yet his pleasure and his grief
     Are both on a majestic scale.
The chance, indefinitely small,
     Of issue infinitely great,
Eclipses finite interests all,
     And has the dignity of fate.

                                                

II. Heaven and Earth.

How long shall men deny the flower
     Because its roots are in the earth,
And crave with tears from God the dower
     They have, and have despised as dearth,
And scorn as low their human lot,
     With frantic pride, too blind to see
That standing on the head makes not
     Either for ease or dignity!
But fools shall feel like fools to find
     (Too late inform'd) that angels' mirth
Is one in cause, and mode, and kind
     With that which they profaned on earth.

                                                

Aetna and the Moon.

                              1

To soothe my heart I, feigning, seized
     A pen, and, showering tears, declared
My unfeign'd passion; sadly pleased
     Only to dream that so I dared.
Thus was the fervid truth confess'd,
     But wild with paradox ran the plea.
As wilfully in hope depress'd,
     Yet bold beyond hope's warranty:

                              2

'O, more than dear, be more than just,
     And do not deafly shut the door!
I claim no right to speak; I trust
     Mercy, not right; yet who has more?
For, if more love makes not more fit,
     Of claimants here none's more nor less,
Since your great worth does not permit
     Degrees in our unworthiness.
Yet, if there's aught that can be done
     With arduous labour of long years,
By which you'll say that you'll be won,
     O tell me, and I'll dry my tears.
Ah, no; if loving cannot move,
     How foolishly must labour fail!
The use of deeds is to show love;
     If signs suffice let these avail:
Your name pronounced brings to my heart
     A feeling like the violet's breath,
Which does so much of heaven impart
     It makes me amorous of death;
The winds that in the garden toss
     The Guelder-roses give me pain,
Alarm me with the dread of loss,
     Exhaust me with the dream of gain;
I'm troubled by the clouds that move;
     Tired by the breath which I respire;
And ever, like a torch, my love,
     Thus agitated, flames the higher;
All's hard that has not you for goal;
     I scarce can move my hand to write,
For love engages all my soul,
     And leaves the body void of might;
The wings of will spread idly, as do
     The bird's that in a vacuum lies;
My breast, asleep with dreams of you,
     Forgets to breathe, and bursts in sighs;
I see no rest this side the grave,
     No rest nor hope, from you apart;
Your life is in the rose you gave,
     Its perfume suffocates my heart;
There's no refreshment in the breeze;
     The heaven o'erwhelms me with its blue;
I faint beside the dancing seas;
     Winds, skies, and waves are only you;
The thought or act which not intends
     You service seems a sin and shame;
In that one only object ends
     Conscience, religion, honour, fame.
Ah, could I put off love! Could we
     Never have met! What calm, what ease!
Nay, but, alas, this remedy
     Were ten times worse than the disease!
For when, indifferent, I pursue
     The world's best pleasures for relief,
My heart, still sickening back to you,
     Finds none like memory of its grief;
And, though 'twere very hell to hear
     You felt such misery as I,
All good, save you, were far less dear!
     Than is that ill with which I die
Where'er I go, wandering forlorn,
     You are the world's love, life, and glee:
Oh, wretchedness not to be borne
     If she that's Love should not love me!'

                               3

I could not write another word,
     Through pity for my own distress;
And forth I went, untimely stirr'd
     To make my misery more or less.
I went, beneath the heated noon
     To where, in her simplicity,
She sate at work; and, as the Moon
     On AEtna smiles, she smiled on me.
But, now and then, in cheek and eyes,
     I saw, or fancied, such a glow
As when, in summer-evening skies,
     Some say, 'It lightens,' some say, 'No.'
'Honoria,' I began--No more.
     The Dean, by ill or happy hap,
Came home; and Wolf burst in before,
     And put his nose upon her lap.


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Last updated 8 August 2004