[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.]

                                                

Introduction

There could be but one answer to the suggestion of Mr. Coventry Patmore that his "Angel in the House" might usefully have a place in this "National Library." The suggestion was made with the belief that wide and cheap diffusion would not take from the value of a copyright library edition, while the best use of writing is fulfilled by the spreading of verse dedicated to the sacred love of home. The two parts of the Poem appeared in 1854 and 1856, were afterwards elaborately revised, and have since obtained a permanent place among the Home Books of the English People. Our readers will join, surely, in thanks to the author for the present he has made us.

H. M.

                                                

Book I. The Prologue

                              1

'Mine is no horse with wings, to gain
     The region of the spheral chime;
He does but drag a rumbling wain,
     Cheer'd by the coupled bells of rhyme;
And if at Fame's bewitching note
     My homely Pegasus pricks an ear,
The world's cart-collar hugs his throat,
     And he's too wise to prance or rear.'

                               2

Thus ever answer'd Vaughan his Wife,
     Who, more than he, desired his fame;
But, in his heart, his thoughts were rife
     How for her sake to earn a name.
With bays poetic three times crown'd,
     And other college honours won,
He, if he chose, might be renown'd,
     He had but little doubt, she none;
And in a loftier phrase he talk'd
     With her, upon their Wedding-Day,
(The eighth), while through the fields they walk'd,
     Their children shouting by the way.
'Not careless of the gift of song,
     Nor out of love with noble fame,
I, meditating much and long
     What I should sing, how win a name,
Considering well what theme unsung,
     What reason worth the cost of rhyme,
Remains to loose the poet's tongue
     In these last days, the dregs of time,
Learn that to me, though born so late,
     There does, beyond desert, befall
(May my great fortune make me great!)
     The first of themes, sung last of all.
In green and undiscover'd ground,
     Yet near where many others sing,
I have the very well-head found
     Whence gushes the Pierian Spring.'

                              4

Then she: 'What is it, Dear? The Life
     Of Arthur, or Jerusalem's Fall?'
'Neither: your gentle self, my Wife,
     And love, that grows from one to all.
And if I faithfully proclaim
     Of these the exceeding worthiness,
Surely the sweetest wreath of Fame
     Shall, to your hope, my brows caress;
And if, by virtue of my choice
     Of this, the most heart-touching theme
That ever tuned a poet's voice,
     I live, as I am bold to dream,
To be delight to many days,
     And into silence only cease
When those are still, who shared their bays
     With Laura and with Beatrice,
Imagine, Love, how learned men
     Will deep-conceiv'd devices find,
Beyond my purpose and my ken,
     An ancient bard of simple mind.
You, Sweet, his Mistress, Wife, and Muse,
     Were you for mortal woman meant?
Your praises give a hundred clues
     To mythological intent!
And, severing thus the truth from trope,
     In you the Commentators see
Outlines occult of abstract scope,
     A future for philosophy!
Your arm's on mine! these are the meads
     In which we pass our living days;
There Avon runs, now hid with reeds,
     Now brightly brimming pebbly bays;
Those are our children's songs that come
     With bells and bleatings of the sheep;
And there, in yonder English home,
     We thrive on mortal food and sleep!'
She laugh'd. How proud she always was
     To feel how proud he was of her!
But he had grown distraught, because
     The Muse's mood began to stir.

                               5

His purpose with performance crown'd,
     He to his well-pleased Wife rehears'd,
When next their Wedding-Day came round,
     His leisure's labour, 'Book the First.'


Victorian Overview Coventry Patmore Next section

Last updated 8 August 2004