Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Sahara

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Coventry Patmore (1823–1896)

From ‘The Angel in the House’

I STOOD by Honor and the Dean,

They seated in the London train.

A month from her! yet this had been,

Ere now, without such bitter pain;

But neighborhood makes parting light,

And distance remedy has none.

Alone, she near, I felt as might

A blind man sitting in the sun;

She near, all for the time was well:

Hope’s self, when we were far apart,

With lonely feeling, like the smell

Of heath on mountains, filled my heart.

To see her seemed delight’s full scope;

And her kind smile, so clear of care.

Even then, though darkening all my hope,

Gilded the cloud of my despair.

She had forgot to bring a book.

I lent one: blamed the print for old;

And did not tell her that she took

A Petrarch worth its weight in gold.

I hoped she’d lose it; for my love

Was grown so dainty, high, and nice,

It prized no luxury above

The sense of fruitless sacrifice.

The bell rang; and with shrieks like death,

Link catching link, the long array,

With ponderous pulse and fiery breath.

Proud of its burthen, swept away.

And through the lingering crowd I broke,

Sought the hillside, and thence, heart-sick,

Beheld, far off, the little smoke

Along the landscape kindling quick.

What should I do, where should I go,

Now she was gone, my love! for mine

She was, whatever here below

Crossed or usurped my right divine.

Life without her was vain and gross,

The glory from the world was gone;

And on the gardens of the Close

As on Sahara shone the sun.

Oppressed with her departed grace,

My thoughts on ill surmises fed;

The harmful influence of the place

She went to, filled my soul with dread.

She, mixing with the people there,

Might come back altered, having caught

The foolish, fashionable air

Of knowing all and feeling naught.

Or giddy with her beauty’s praise,

She’d scorn our simple country life,

Its wholesome nights and tranquil days,

And would not deign to be my wife.

“My wife,” “my wife,”—ah, tenderest word!

How oft, as fearful she might hear,

Whispering that name of “wife,” I heard

The chiming of the inmost sphere.

I passed the home of my regret.

The clock was striking in the hall,

And one sad window open yet,

Although the dews began to fall.

Ah, distance showed her beauty’s scope!

How light of heart and innocent

That loveliness which sickened hope

And wore the world for ornament!

How perfectly her life was framed;

And, thought of in that passionate mood,

How her affecting graces shamed

The vulgar life that was but good!

I wondered, would her bird be fed,

Her rose-plots watered, she not by;

Loading my breast with angry dread

Of light, unlikely injury.

So, filled with love and fond remorse,

I paced the Close, its every part

Endowed with reliquary force

To heal and raise from death my heart.

How tranquil and unsecular

The precinct! Once through yonder gate

I saw her go, and knew from far

Her love-lit form and gentle state.

Her dress had brushed this wicket; here

She turned her face, and laughed, with light

Like moonbeams on a wavering mere.

Weary beforehand of the night,

I went; the blackbird in the wood

Talked by himself, and eastward grew

In heaven the symbol of my mood,

Where one bright star engrossed the blue.