coventry patmore

A Dream

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Amid the mystic fields of Love
I wander’d, and beheld a grove.
Breathlessly still was part, and part
Was breathing with an easy heart;
And there below, in lamblike game,
Were virgins, all so much the same,
That each was all. A youth drew nigh,
And on them gazed with wandering eye,
And would have pass’d, but that a maid,
Clapping her hands above her, said,
‘My time is now!’ and laughing ran
After the dull and strange young man,
And bade him stop and look at her.
And so he call’d her lovelier
Than any else, only because
She only then before him was.
And, while they stood and gazed, a change
Was seen in both, diversely strange:
The youth was ever more and more
That good which he had been before;
But the glad maiden grew and grew
Such that the rest no longer knew
Their sister, who was now to sight
The young man’s self, yet opposite,
As the outer rainbow is the first,
But weaker, and the hues reversed.
And whereas, in the abandon’d grove,
The virgin round the Central Love
Had blindly circled in her play,
Now danced she round her partner’s way;
And, as the earth the moon’s, so he
Had the responsibility
Of her diviner motion. ‘Lo,’
He sang, and the heavens began to glow,
‘The pride of personality,
Seeking its highest, aspires to die,
And in unspeakably profound
Humiliation Love is crown’d!
And from his exaltation still
Into his ocean of good-will
He curiously casts the lead
To find strange depths of lowlihead.’

To one same tune, but higher, ‘Bold,’
The maiden sang, ‘is Love! For cold
On Earth are blushes, and for shame
Of such an ineffectual flame
As ill consumes the sacrifice!’


– Coventry Patmore


The Yew – Berry

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I call this idle history the ‘Berry of the Yew;
Because there’s nothing sweeter than its husk of scarlet glue,
And nothing half so bitter as its black core bitten through.
I loved, saw hope, and said so; learn’d that Laura loved again:
Why speak of joy then suffer’d? My head throbs, and I would fain
Find words to lay the spectre starting now before my brain.
She loved me: all things told it; eye to eye, and palm to palm:
As the pause upon the ceasing of a thousand-voiced psalm
Was the mighty satisfaction and the full eternal calm.
On her face, when she was laughing, was the seriousness within;
Her sweetest smiles, (and sweeter did a lover never win,)
In passing, grew so absent that they made her fair cheek thin.
On her face, when she was speaking, thoughts unworded used to live;
So that when she whisper’d to me, ‘Better joy Earth cannot give,’
Her following silence added, ‘But Earth’s joy is fugitive.’
For there a nameless something, though suppress’d, still spread around;
The same was on her eyelids, if she look’d towards the ground;
In her laughing, singing, talking, still the same was in the sound;—
A sweet dissatisfaction, which at no time went away,
But shadow’d on her spirit, even at its brightest play,
That her mirth was like the sunshine in the closing of the day.

Let none ask joy the highest, save those who would have it end
There’s weight in earthly blessings; they are earthy, and they tend,
By predetermin’d impulse, at their highest, to descend.
I still for a happy season, in the present, saw the past,
Mistaking one for the other, feeling sure my hold was fast
On that of which the symbols vanish’d daily: but, at last,
As when we watch bright cloud-banks round about the low sun ranged,
We suddenly remember some rich glory gone or changed,
All at once I comprehended that her love was grown estranged.
From this time, spectral glimpses of a darker fear came on:
They came; but, since I scorn’d them, were no sooner come than gone.—
At times, some gap in sequence frees the spirit, and, anon,
We remember states of living ended ere we left the womb,
And see a vague aurora flashing to us from the tomb,
The dreamy light of new states, dash’d tremendously with gloom.
We tremble for an instant, and a single instant more
Brings absolute oblivion, and we pass on as before!
Ev’n so those dreadful glimpses came, and startled, and were o’er.

One morning, one bright morning, Wortley met me. He and I,
As we rode across the country, met a friend of his. His eye
Caught Wortley’s, who rode past him. ‘What,’ said he, ‘pass old friends by?
So I’ve heard your game is grounded! Why your life’s one long romance
After your last French fashion. But, ah! ha! should Herbert chance—’
‘Nay, Herbert’s here,’ said he, and introduced me, with a glance
Of easy smiles, ignoring this embarrassment; and then
This pass’d off, and soon after I went home, and took a pen,
And wrote the signs here written, with much more, and where, and when;
And, having read them over once or twice, sat down to think,
From time to time beneath them writing more, till, link by link,
The evidence against her was fulfill’d: I did not shrink,
But I read them all together, and I found it was no dream.
What I felt I can’t remember; an oblivion which the gleam
Of light which oft comes through it shews for blessedness extreme.
At last I moved, exclaiming, ‘I will not believe, until
‘I’ve spoken once with Laura.’ Thereon all my heart grew still
For doubt and faith are active, and decisions of the will.

I found my Love. She started: I suppose that I was pale.
We talk’d; but words on both sides, seem’d to sicken, flag, and fail.
Then I gave her what I’d written, watching whether she would quail.
In and out flew sultry blushes: so, when red reflections rise
From conflagrations, filling the alarm’d heart with surmise,
They lighten now, now darken, up and down the gloomy skies.
She finish’d once; but fearing to look from it, read it o’er
Ten times at least. Poor Laura, had those readings been ten score,
That refuge from confusion had confused thee more and more!
I said, ‘You’re ill, sit Laura,’ and she sat down and was meek.
‘Ah tears! not lost to God then. But pray Laura, do not speak
I understand you better by the moisture on your cheek.’
She shook with sobs, in silence. I yet checking passion’s sway,
Said only, ‘Farewell Laura!’ then got up, and strode away;
For I felt that she would burst my heart asunder should I stay.
Oh, ghastly corpse of Love so slain! it makes the world its hearse;
Or, as the sun extinct and dead, after the doomsday curse,
It rolls, an unseen danger, through the darken’d universe.
I struggled to forget this; but, forgetfulness too sweet!
It startled with its sweetness, thus involv’d its own defeat;
And, every time this happen’d, aching memory would repeat
The shock of that discovery: so at length I learn’d by heart
And never, save when sleeping, suffer’d thenceforth to depart,
The feeling of my sorrow: and in time this sooth’d the smart.
Yet even now not seldom, in my leisure, in the thick
Of other thoughts, unchallenged, words and looks come crowding quick—
They do while I am writing, till the sunshine makes me sick.


– Coventry Patmore


Night And Sleep

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How strange at night to wake
And watch, while others sleep,
Till sight and hearing ache
For objects that may keep
The awful inner sense
Unroused, lest it should mark
The life that haunts the emptiness
And horror of the dark!
How strange at night the bay
Of dogs, how wild the note
Of cocks that scream for day,
In homesteads far remote;
How strange and wild to hear
The old and crumbling tower,
Amid the darkness, suddenly
Take tongue and speak the hour!
Albeit the love-sick brain
Affects the dreary moon,
Ill things alone refrain
From life’s nocturnal swoon:
Men melancholy mad,
Beasts ravenous and sly,
The robber, and the murderer,
Remorse, with lidless eye.
The nightingale is gay,
For she can vanquish night;
Dreaming, she sings of day
Notes that make darkness bright;
But when the refluent gloom
Saddens the gaps of song,
Men charge on her the dolefulness,
And call her crazed with wrong.


– Coventry Patmore


26th November – On This Day In History

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1939 Tina Turner (singer)




1896 Coventry Patmore (poet)



On This Day:

1924 Mongolian People’s Republic proclaimed



Have a good Monday, 26th November

The Barren Shore

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Full many sing to me and thee
Their riches gather’d by the sea;
But I will sing, for I’m footsore,
The burthen of the barren shore.
The hue of love how lively shown
In this sole found cerulean stone
By twenty leagues of ocean roar.
O, burthen of the barren shore!
And these few crystal fragments bright,
As clear as truth, as strong as right,
I found in footing twenty more.
O, burthen of the barren shore!
And how far did I go for this
Small, precious piece of ambergris?
Of weary leagues I went threescore.
O, burthen of the barren shore!
The sand is poor, the sea is rich,
And I, I am I know not which;
And well it were to know no more
The burthen of the barren shore!


– Coventry Patmore


The River

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It is a venerable place,
An old ancestral ground,
So broad, the rainbow wholly stands
Within its lordly bound;
And here the river waits and winds
By many a wooded mound.
Upon a rise, where single oaks
And clumps of beeches tall
Drop pleasantly their shade beneath,
Half-hid amidst them all,
Stands in its quiet dignity
An ancient manor-hall.
About its many gable-ends
The swallows wheel their flight;
The huge fantastic weather-vanes
Look happy in the light;
The warm front through the foliage gleams,
A comfortable sight.
The ivied turrets seem to love
The low, protected leas;
And, though this manor-hall hath seen
The snow of centuries,
How freshly still it stands amid
Its wealth of swelling trees!
The leafy summer-time is young;
The yearling lambs are strong;
The sunlight glances merrily;
The trees are full of song;
The valley-loving river flows
Contentedly along.
Look where the merry weather-vanes
Veer upon yonder tower:
There, amid starry jessamine
And clasping passion-flower,
The sweetest Maid of all the land
Is weeping in her bower.
Alas, the lowly Youth she loves
Loves her, but fears to sue:
He came this morning hurriedly;
Then forth her blushes flew!
But he talk’d of common things, and so
Her eyes are fill’d with dew.
Time passes on; the clouds are come;
The river, late so bright,
Rolls foul and black, and gloomily
Makes known across the night,
In far-heard plash and weary drench,
The passage of its might.
The noble Bridegroom counts the hours;
The guests are coming fast;
(The vanes are creaking drearily
Within the dying blast!)
The bashful Bride is at his side;
And night is here at last.
The guests are gay; the minstrels play;
‘Tis liker noon than night;
From side to side, they toast the Bride,
Who blushes ruby light:
For one and all within that hall,
It is a cheerful sight.
But unto one, who stands alone,
Among the mists without,
Watching the windows, bright with shapes
Of king and saint devout,
Strangely across the muffled air
Pierces the laughter-shout.
No sound or sight this solemn night
But moves the soul to fear:
The faded saints stare through the gloom,
Askant, and wan, and blear;
And wither’d cheeks of watchful kings
Start from their purple gear.
The burthen of the wedding-song
Comes to him like a wail;
The stream, athwart the cedar-grove,
Is shining ghastly pale:
His cloudy brow clears suddenly!
Dark soul, what does thee ail?
He turns him from the lighted hall;
The pale stream curls and heaves
And moans beyond the gloomy wood,
Through which he breaks and cleaves;
And now his footfall dies away
Upon the wither’d leaves.
The restless moon, among the clouds,
Is loitering slowly by;
Now in a circle like the ring
About a weeping eye;
Now left quite bare and bright; and now
A pallor in the sky;
And now she’s looking through the mist,
Cold, lustreless, and wan,
And wildly, past her dreary form,
The watery clouds rush on,
A moment white beneath her light,
And then, like spirits, gone.
Silent and fast they hurry past,
Their swiftness striketh dread,
For earth is hush’d, and no breath sweeps
The spider’s rainy thread,
And everything, but those pale clouds,
Is dark, and still, and dead.
The lonely stars are here and there,
But weak and wasting all;
The winds are dead, the cedars spread
Their branches like a pall;
The guests, by laughing twos and threes,
Have left the bridal hall.
Beneath the mossy, ivied bridge,
The river slippeth past:
The current deep is still as sleep,
And yet so very fast!
There’s something in its quietness
That makes the soul aghast.
No wind is in the willow-tree
That droops above the bank;
The water passes quietly
Beneath the sedges dank;
Yet the willow trembles in the stream,
And the dry reeds talk and clank.
The weak stars swoon; the jagged moon
Is lost in the cloudy air.
No thought of light! save where the wave
Sports with a fitful glare.
The dumb and dreadful world is full
Of darkness and night-mare.
The hall-clocks clang; the watch-dog barks.
What are his dreams about?
Marsh lights leap, and tho’ fast asleep
The owlets shriek and shout;
The stars, thro’ chasms in utter black,
Race like a drunken rout.
‘Wake, wake, oh wake!’ the Bridegroom now
Calls to his sleeping Bride:
‘Alas, I saw thee, pale and dead,
Roll down a frightful tide!’
He takes her hand: ‘How chill thou art!
What is it, sweet my Bride?’

The Bride bethinks her now of him
Who last night was no guest.
‘Sweet Heaven! and for me? I dream!
Be calm, thou throbbing breast.’
She says, in thought, a solemn prayer
And sinks again to rest.
Along, along, swiftly and strong
The river slippeth past;
The current deep is still as sleep,
And yet so very fast!
There’s something in its quietness
That makes the soul aghast.
The morn has risen: wildly by
The water glides to-day;
Outspread upon its eddying face,
Long weeds and rushes play;
And on the bank the fungus rots,
And the grass is foul’d with clay.
Time passes on: the park is bare;
The year is scant and lean;
The river’s banks are desolate;
The air is chill and keen;
But, now and then, a sunny day
Comes with a thought of green.
Amid blear February’s flaw,
Tremulous snowdrops peep;
The crocus, in the shrewd March morn,
Starts from its wintry sleep;
The daisies sun themselves in hosts,
Among the pasturing sheep.
The waters, in their old content,
Between fresh margins run;
The pike, as trackless as a sound,
Shoots thro’ the current dun;
And languid new-born chestnut-leaves
Expand beneath the sun.
The summer’s prime is come again;
The lilies bloom anew;
The current keeps the doubtful past
Deep in its bosom blue,
And babbles low thro’ quiet fields
Gray with the falling dew.
The sheep-bell tolls the curfew-time;
The gnats, a busy rout,
Fleck the warm air; the distant owl
Shouteth a sleepy shout;
The voiceless bat, more felt than seen,
Is flitting round about;
The poplar’s leaflet scarcely stirs;
The river seems to think;
Across the dusk, the lily broad
Looks coolly from the brink;
And knee-deep in the freshet’s fall,
The meek-eyed cattle drink.
The chafers boom; the white moths rise
Like spirits from the ground;
The gray-flies sing their weary tune,
A distant, dream-like sound;
And far, far off, in the slumberous eve,
Bayeth a restless hound.
At this sweet time, the Lady walks
Beside the gentle stream;
She marks the waters curl along,
Beneath the sunset gleam,
And in her soul a sorrow moves,
Like memory of a dream.
She passes on. How still the earth,
And all the air above!
Here, where of late the scritch-owl shriek’d,
Whispers the happy dove;
And the river, through the ivied bridge,
Flows calm as household love.


– Coventry Patmore


The Storm

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Within the pale blue haze above,
Some pitchy shreds took size and form,
And, like a madman’s wrath or love,
From nothing rose a sudden storm.
The blossom’d limes, which seem’d to exhale
Her breath, were swept with one strong sweep,
And up the dusty road the hail
Came like a flock of hasty sheep,
Driving me under a cottage-porch,
Whence I could see the distant Spire,
Which, in the darkness, seem’d a torch
Touch’d with the sun’s retreating fire.
A voice, so sweet that even her voice,
I thought, could scarcely be more sweet,
As thus I stay’d against my choice,
Did mine attracted hearing greet;
And presently I turn’d my head
Where the kind music seem’d to be,
And where, to an old blind man, she read
The words that teach the blind to see.
She did not mark me; swift I went,
Thro’ the fierce shower’s whistle and smoke,
To her home, and thence her woman sent
Back with umbrella, shoes and cloak.
The storm soon pass’d; the sun’s quick glare
Lay quench’d in vapour fleecy, fray’d;
And all the moist, delicious air
Was fill’d with shine that cast no shade;
And, when she came, forth the sun gleam’d,
And clash’d the trembling Minster chimes;
And the breath with which she thank’d me seem’d
Brought thither from the blossom’d limes.


– Coventry Patmore


The Falcon

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Who would not be Sir Hubert, for his birth and bearing fine,
His rich sky-skirted woodlands, valleys flowing oil and wine;
Sir Hubert, to whose sunning all the rays of fortune shine?
So most men praised Sir Hubert, and some others warm’d with praise
Of Hubert noble-hearted, than whom none went on his ways
Less spoilt by splendid fortune, whom no peril could amaze.
To Ladies all, save one, he was the rule by which the worth
Of other men was reckon’d; so that many a maid, for dearth
Of such a knight to woo her, love forswore, and with it mirth.
No prince could match his banquets, when proud Mabel was his guest;
And shows and sumptuous triumphs day by day his hope express’d
That love e’en yet might burgeon in her young unburgeon’d breast.
Time pass’d, and use for riches pass’d with hope, which slowly fled;
And want came on unheeded; and report in one day spread
Of good Sir Hubert houseless, and of Mabel richly wed.
Forth went he from the city where she dwelt, to one poor farm,
All left of all his valleys: there Sir Hubert’s single arm
Served Hubert’s wants; and labour soon relieved love’s rankling harm.
Much hardship brought much easement of the melancholy freight
He bore within his bosom; and his fancy was elate
And proud of Love’s rash sacrifice which led to this estate.
One friend was left, a falcon, famed for beauty, skill, and size,
Kept from his fortune’s ruin, for the sake of its great eyes,
That seem’d to him like Mabel’s. Of an evening he would rise,
And wake its royal glances and reluctantly flapp’d wings,
And looks of grave communion with his lightsome questionings,
That broke the drowsy sameness, and the sense like fear that springs
At night, when we are conscious of our distance from the strife
Of cities, and the memory of the spirit in all things rife
Endows the silence round us with a grim and ghastly life.
His active resignation wrought, in time, a heartfelt peace,
And though, in noble bosoms, love once lit can never cease,
He could walk and think of Mabel, and his pace would not increase.
Who say, when somewhat distanced from the heat and fiercer might,
‘Love’s brand burns us no longer; it is out,’ use not their sight
For ever and for ever we are lighted by the light:
And ere there be extinguish’d one minutest flame, love-fann’d,
The Pyramids of Egypt shall have no place in the land,
But as a nameless portion of its ever-shifting sand.
News came at last that Mabel was a widow; but, with this,
That all her dead Lord’s wealth went first to her one child and his;
So she was not for Hubert, had she beckon’d him to bliss;
For Hubert felt, tho’ Mabel might, like him, become resign’d
To poverty for Love’s sake, she might never, like him, find
That poverty is plenty, peace, and freedom of the mind.
One morning, while he rested from his delving, spade in hand,
He thought of her and blest her, and he look’d about the land,
And he, and all he look’d at, seem’d to brighten and expand.
The wind was newly risen; and the airy skies were rife
With fleets of sailing cloudlets, and the trees were all in strife,
Extravagantly triumphant at their newly gotten life.
Birds wrangled in the branches, with a trouble of sweet noise;
Even the conscious cuckoo, judging wisest to rejoice,
Shook round his ‘cuckoo, cuckoo,’ as if careless of his voice.
But Hubert mused and marvell’d at the glory in his breast;
The first glow turn’d to passion, and he nursed it unexpress’d;
And glory gilding glory turn’d, at last, to sunny rest.
Then again he look’d around him, like an angel, and, behold,
The scene was changed; no cloudlets cross’d the serious blue, but, roll’d
Behind the distant hill-tops, gleam’d aërial hills of gold.
The wind too was abated, and the trees and birds were grown
As quiet as the cloud-banks; right above, the bright sun shone,
Down looking from the forehead of the giant sky alone.
Then the nightingale, awaken’d by the silence, shot a throng
Of notes into the sunshine: cautious first, then swift and strong;
Then he madly smote them round him, till the bright air throbb’d with song,
And suddenly stopp’d singing, all amid his ecstasies:—
Myrtles rustle; what sees Hubert? sight is sceptic, but his knees
Bend to the Lady Mabel, as she blossoms from the trees.
She spoke, her eyes cast downwards, while upon them, dropp’d half way,
Lids fairer than the bosom of an unblown lily lay:
‘In faith of ancient amity, Sir Hubert, I this day
‘Would beg a boon, and bind me your great debtor.’ O, her mouth
Was sweet beyond new honey, or the bean-perfumed South,
And better than pomegranates to a pilgrim dumb for drouth!
She look’d at his poor homestead; at the spade beside his hand;
And then her heart reproach’d her, What inordinate demand
Was she come there for making! Then she says, in accents bland,
Her Page and she are weary, and her wish can wait; she’ll share
His noontide meal, by his favour. This he hastens to prepare;
But, lo! the roost is empty, and his humble larder bare.
No friend has he to help him; no one near of whom to claim
The tax, and force its payment in his passion’s sovereign name;
No time to set the pitfalls for the swift and fearful game;
Too late to fly his falcon, which, as if it would assist
Its master’s trouble, perches on his idly proffer’d fist,
With busy, dumb caresses, treading up and down his wrist.
But now a gleam of comfort and a shadow of dismay
Pass o’er the good knight’s features; now it seems he would essay
The fatness of his falcon, while it flaps both wings for play;
Now, lo, the ruthless lover takes it off its trusted stand;
Grasps all its frighten’d body with his hard remorseless hand;
Puts out its faithful life, and plucks and broils it on the brand.
In midst of this her dinner, Mabel gave her wish its word:
‘My wilful child, Sir Hubert, pines from fancy long deferr’d;
And now he raves in fever to possess your famous bird.’
‘Alas!’ he said, ‘behold it there.’ Then nobly did she say:
‘It grieves my heart, Sir Hubert, that I’m much too poor to pay
For this o’er-queenly banquet I am honour’d with to-day;
‘But if, Sir, we two, henceforth, can converse as friends, my board
To you shall be as open as it would were you its Lord.’
And so she bow’d and left him, from his vex’d mind unrestored.
Months pass’d, and Hubert went not, but lived on in his old way;
Until to him, one morning, Mabel sent her Page to say,
That, should it suit his pleasure, she would speak with him that day.
‘Ah, welcome Sir!’ said Mabel, rising courteous, kind and free
‘I hoped, ere this, to have had you for my guest, but now I see
That you are even prouder than they whisper you to be.’
Made grave by her great beauty, but not dazzled, he replied,
With every noble courtesy, to her words; and spoke beside
Such things as are permitted to bare friendship; not in pride,
Or wilful overacting of the right, which often blends
Its sacrificial pathos, bitter-sweet, with lover’s ends,
Or that he now remember’d her command to meet ‘as friends;’
But having not had knowledge that the infant heir was dead,
Whose life made it more loving to preserve his love unsaid,
He waited, calmly wondering to what mark this summons led.
She, puzzled with a strangeness by his actions disavow’d,
Spoke further: ‘Once, Sir Hubert, I was thoughtless, therefore proud;
Your love on me shone sunlike. I, alas, have been your cloud,
‘And, graceless, quench’d the light that made me splendid. I would fain
Pay part of what I owe you, that is, if,—alas, but then
I know not! Things are changed, and you are not as other men.’
She strove to give her meaning, yet blush’d deeply with dismay
Lest he should find it. Hubert fear’d she purpos’d to repay
His love with less than love. Thought he, ‘Sin ’twas my hawk to slay!’
His eyes are dropp’d in sorrow from their worshipping: but, lo!
Upon her sable vesture they are fall’n; with progress slow,
Through dawning apprehension to sweet hope, his features glow;
And all at once are lighted with a light, as when the moon,
Long labouring to the margin of a cloud, still seeming soon
About to swim beyond it, bursts at last as bare as noon.
‘O, Lady, I have loved, and long kept silence; but I see
The time is come for speaking, O, sweet Lady, I should be
The blessedest knight in Christendom, were I beloved by thee!’
One small hand’s weight of whiteness on her bosom did she press;
The other, woo’d with kisses bold, refused not his caress;
Feasting the hungry silence came, sob-clad, her silver ‘Yes.’

Now who would not be Hubert, for his dark-eyed Bride divine,
Her rich, sky-skirted woodlands, valleys flowing oil and wine,
Sir Hubert to whose sunning all the rays of fortune shine!’


– Coventry Patmore