Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “The Angel in the House”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore 1823–96

From “The Angel in the House”



THE LADIES rose. I held the door,

And sigh’d, as her departing grace

Assur’d me that she always wore

And heart as happy as her face;

And, jealous of the winds that blew,

I dreaded, o’er the tasteless wine,

What fortune momently might do

To hurt the hope that she ’d be mine.

Towards my mark the Dean’s talk set:

He praised my “Notes on Abury,”

Read when the Association met

At Sarum; he was pleas’d to see

I had not stopp’d, as some men had,

At Wrangler and Prize Poet; last,

He hop’d the business was not bad

I came about: then the wine pass’d.

A full glass prefaced my reply:

I lov’d his daughter, Honor; I told

My estate and prospects; might I try

To win her? At my words so bold

My sick heart sank. Then he: He gave

His glad consent, if I could get

Her love. A dear, good Girl! she ’d have

Only three thousand pounds as yet;

More by and by. Yes, his good will

Should go with me; he would not stir;

He and my father in old time still

Wish’d I should one day marry her;

But God so seldom lets us take

Our chosen pathway, when it lies

In steps that either mar or make

Or alter others’ destinies,

That, though his blessing and his pray’r

Had help’d, should help, my suit, yet he

Left all to me, his passive share

Consent and opportunity.

My chance, he hop’d, was good: I ’d won

Some name already; friends and place

Appear’d within my reach, but none

Her mind and manners would not grace.

Girls love to see the men in whom

They invest their vanities admir’d;

Besides, where goodness is, there room

For good to work will be desir’d.

’T was so with one now pass’d away;

And what she was at twenty-two,

Honor was now; and he might say

Mine was a choice I could not rue.

He ceas’d, and gave his hand. He had won

(And all my heart was in my word)

From me the affection of a son,

Whichever fortune Heaven conferr’d!

Well, well, would I take more wine? Then go

To her; she makes tea on the lawn

These fine warm afternoons. And so

We went whither my soul was drawn;

And her light-hearted ignorance

Of interest in our discourse

Fill’d me with love, and seem’d to enhance

Her beauty with pathetic force,

As, through the flowery mazes sweet,

Fronting the wind that flutter’d blithe,

And lov’d her shape, and kiss’d her feet,

Shown to their insteps proud and lithe,

She approach’d, all mildness and young trust,

And ever her chaste and noble air

Gave to love’s feast its choicest gust,

A vague, faint augury of despair.


From little signs, like little stars,

Whose faint impression on the sense

The very looking straight at mars,

Or only seen by confluence;

From instinct of a mutual thought,

Whence sanctity of manners flow’d;

From chance unconscious, and from what

Concealment, overconscious, show’d;

Her hand’s less weight upon my arm,

Her lovelier mien; that match’d with this;

I found, and felt with strange alarm,

I stood committed to my bliss.

I grew assur’d, before I ask’d,

That she ’d be mine without reserve,

And in her unclaim’d graces bask’d,

At leisure, till the time should serve,

With just enough of dread to thrill

The hope, and make it trebly dear;

Thus loth to speak the word to kill

Either the hope or happy fear.

Till once, through lanes returning late,

Her laughing sisters lagg’d behind;

And, ere we reach’d her father’s gate,

We paus’d with one presentient mind;

And, in the dim and perfum’d mist,

Their coming stay’d, who, friends to me,

And very women, lov’d to assist

Love’s timid opportunity.

Twice rose, twice died my trembling word;

The faint and frail Cathedral chimes

Spake time in music, and we heard

The chafers rustling in the limes.

Her dress, that touch’d me where I stood,

The warmth of her confided arm,

Her bosom’s gentle neighborhood,

Her pleasure in her power to charm;

Her look, her love, her form, her touch,

The least seem’d most by blissful turn,

Blissful but that it pleas’d too much,

And taught the wayward soul to yearn.

It was as if a harp with wires

Was travers’d by the breath I drew;

And, oh, sweet meeting of desires,

She, answering, own’d that she lov’d too.

Honoria was to be my bride!

The hopeless heights of hope were scal’d;

The summit won, I paus’d and sigh’d,

As if success itself had fail’d.

It seem’d as if my lips approach’d

To touch at Tantalus’ reward,

And rashly on Eden life encroach’d,

Half-blinded by the flaming sword.

The whole world’s wealthiest and its best,

So fiercely sought, appear’d, when found,

Poor in its need to be possess’d,

Poor from its very want of bound.

My queen was crouching at my side,

By love unsceptred and brought low,

Her awful garb of maiden pride

All melted into tears like snow;

The mistress of my reverent thought,

Whose praise was all I ask’d of fame,

In my close-watch’d approval sought

Protection as from danger and blame;

Her soul, which late I lov’d to invest

With pity for my poor desert,

Buried its face within my breast,

Like a pet fawn by hunters hurt.


Why, having won her, do I woo?

Because her spirit’s vestal grace

Provokes me always to pursue,

But, spirit-like, eludes embrace;

Because her womanhood is such

That, as on court-days subjects kiss

The Queen’s hand, yet so near a touch

Affirms no mean familiarness,

Nay, rather marks more fair the height

Which can with safety so neglect

To dread, as lower ladies might,

That grace could meet with disrespect,

Thus she with happy favor feeds

Allegiance from a love so high

That thence no false conceit proceeds

Of difference bridged, or state put by;

Because, although in act and word

As lowly as a wife can be,

Her manners, when they call me lord,

Remind me ’t is by courtesy;

Not with her least consent of will,

Which would my proud affection hurt,

But by the noble style that still

Imputes an unattain’d desert;

Because her gay and lofty brows,

When all is won which hope can ask,

Reflect a light of hopeless snows

That bright in virgin ether bask;

Because, though free of the outer court

I am, this Temple keeps its shrine

Sacred to Heaven; because, in short,

She ’s not and never can be mine.

Feasts satiate; stars distress with height;

Friendship means well, but misses reach,

And wearies in its best delight

Vex’d with the vanities of speech;

Too long regarded, roses even

Afflict the mind with fond unrest;

And to converse direct with Heaven

Is oft a labor in the breast;

Whate’er the up-looking soul admires,

Whate’er the senses’ banquet be,

Fatigues at last with vain desires,

Or sickens by satiety;

But truly my delight was more

In her to whom I ’m bound for aye

Yesterday than the day before,

And more to-day than yesterday.