Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “The Unknown Eros”

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

Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore 1823–96

From “The Unknown Eros”



MY little son, who look’d from thoughtful eyes

And mov’d and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,

Having my law the seventh time disobey’d,

I struck him, and dismiss’d

With hard words and unkiss’d,

His Mother, who was patient, being dead.

Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,

I visited his bed,

But found him slumbering deep,

With darken’d eyelids, and their lashes yet

From his late sobbing wet.

And I, with moan,

Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;

For, on a table drawn beside his head,

He had put, within his reach,

A box of counters and a red-vein’d stone,

A piece of glass abraded by the beach,

And six or seven shells,

A bottle with bluebells

And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,

To comfort his sad heart.

So when that night I pray’d

To God, I wept, and said:

Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath,

Not vexing Thee in death,

And Thou rememberest of what toys

We made our joys,

How weakly understood

Thy great commanded good,

Then, fatherly not less

Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,

Thou’lt leave Thy wrath, and say,

“I will be sorry for their childishness.”


Not greatly mov’d with awe am I

To learn that we may spy

Five thousand firmaments beyond our own.

The best that ’s known

Of the heavenly bodies does them credit small.

View’d close, the Moon’s fair ball

Is of ill objects worst,

A corpse in Night’s highway, naked, firescarr’d, accurst;

And now they tell

That the Sun is plainly seen to boil and burst

Too horribly for hell.

So, judging from these two,

As we must do,

The Universe, outside our living Earth,

Was all conceiv’d in the Creator’s mirth,

Forecasting at the time Man’s spirit deep,

To make dirt cheap.

Put by the Telescope!

Better without it man may see,

Stretch’d awful in the hush’d midnight,

The ghost of his eternity.

Give me the nobler glass that swells to the eye

The things which near us lie,

Till Science rapturously hails,

In the minutest water-drop,

A torment of innumerable tails.

These at the least do live.

But rather give

A mind not much to pry

Beyond our royal-fair estate

Betwixt these deserts blank of small and great.

Wonder and beauty our own courtiers are,

Pressing to catch our gaze,

And out of obvious ways

Ne’er wandering far.