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Whene'er mine eyes do my Amelia greet It is with such emotion As when, in childhood, turning a dim street, I first beheld the ocean. There, where the little, bright, surf-breathing town, That shew'd me first her beauty and the sea, Gathers its skirts against the gorse-lit down And scatters gardens o'er the southern lea, Abides this Maid Within a kind, yet sombre Mother's shade, Who of her daughter's graces seems almost afraid, Viewing them ofttimes with a scared forecast, Caught, haply, from obscure love-peril past. Howe'er that be, She scants me of my right, Is cunning careful evermore to balk Sweet separate talk, And fevers my delight By frets, if, on Amelia's cheek of peach, I touch the notes which music cannot reach, Bidding ‘Good-night!’ Wherefore it came that, till to-day's dear date, I curs'd the weary months which yet I have to wait Ere I find heaven, one-nested with my mate. To-day, the Mother gave, To urgent pleas and promise to behave As she were there, her long-besought consent To trust Amelia with me to the grave Where lay my once-betrothed, Millicent: ‘For,’ said she, hiding ill a moistening eye, ‘Though, Sir, the word sounds hard, God makes as if He least knew how to guard The treasure He loves best, simplicity.’ And there Amelia stood, for fairness shewn Like a young apple-tree, in flush'd array Of white and ruddy flow'r, auroral, gay, With chilly blue the maiden branch between; And yet to look on her moved less the mind To say ‘How beauteous!’ than ‘How good and kind!’ And so we went alone By walls o'er which the lilac's numerous plume Shook down perfume; Trim plots close blown With daisies, in conspicuous myriads seen, Engross'd each one With single ardour for her spouse, the sun; Garths in their glad array Of white and ruddy branch, auroral, gay, With azure chill the maiden flow'r between; Meadows of fervid green, With sometime sudden prospect of untold Cowslips, like chance-found gold; And broadcast buttercups at joyful gaze, Rending the air with praise, Like the six-hundred-thousand-voiced shout Of Jacob camp'd in Midian put to rout; Then through the Park, Where Spring to livelier gloom Quicken'd the cedars dark, And, 'gainst the clear sky cold, Which shone afar Crowded with sunny alps oracular, Great chestnuts raised themselves abroad like cliffs of bloom; And everywhere, Amid the ceaseless rapture of the lark, With wonder new We caught the solemn voice of single air, ‘Cuckoo!’ And when Amelia, 'bolden'd, saw and heard How bravely sang the bird, And all things in God's bounty did rejoice, She who, her Mother by, spake seldom word, Did her charm'd silence doff, And, to my happy marvel, her dear voice Went as a clock does, when the pendulum's off. Ill Monarch of man's heart the Maiden who Does not aspire to be High-Pontiff too! So she repeated soft her Poet's line, ‘By grace divine, Not otherwise, O Nature, are we thine!’ And I, up the bright steep she led me, trod, And the like thought pursued With, ‘What is gladness without gratitude, And where is gratitude without a God?’ And of delight, the guerdon of His laws, She spake, in learned mood; And I, of Him loved reverently, as Cause, Her sweetly, as Occasion of all good. Nor were we shy, For souls in heaven that be May talk of heaven without hypocrisy. And now, when we drew near The low, gray Church, in its sequester'd dell, A shade upon me fell. Dead Millicent indeed had been most sweet, But I how little meet To call such graces in a Maiden mine! A boy's proud passion free affection blunts; His well-meant flatteries oft are blind affronts; And many a tear Was Millicent's before I, manlier, knew That maidens shine As diamonds do, Which, though most clear, Are not to be seen through; And, if she put her virgin self aside And sate her, crownless, at my conquering feet, It should have bred in me humility, not pride. Amelia had more luck than Millicent: Secure she smiled and warm from all mischance Or from my knowledge or my ignorance, And glow'd content With my—some might have thought too much—superior age, Which seem'd the gage Of steady kindness all on her intent. Thus nought forbade us to be fully blent. While, therefore, now Her pensive footstep stirr'd The darnell'd garden of unheedful death, She ask'd what Millicent was like, and heard Of eyes like her's, and honeysuckle breath, And of a wiser than a woman's brow, Yet fill'd with only woman's love, and how An incidental greatness character'd Her unconsider'd ways. But all my praise Amelia thought too slight for Millicent, And on my lovelier-freighted arm she leant, For more attent; And the tea-rose I gave, To deck her breast, she dropp'd upon the grave. ‘And this was her's,’ said I, decoring with a band Of mildest pearls Amelia's milder hand. ‘Nay, I will wear it for her sake,’ she said: For dear to maidens are their rivals dead. And so, She seated on the black yew's tortured root, I on the carpet of sere shreds below, And nigh the little mound where lay that other, I kiss'd her lips three times without dispute, And, with bold worship suddenly aglow, I lifted to my lips a sandall'd foot, And kiss'd it three times thrice without dispute. Upon my head her fingers fell like snow, Her lamb-like hands about my neck she wreathed. Her arms like slumber o'er my shoulders crept, And with her bosom, whence the azalea breathed, She did my face full favourably smother, To hide the heaving secret that she wept! Now would I keep my promise to her Mother; Now I arose, and raised her to her feet, My best Amelia, fresh-born from a kiss, Moth-like, full-blown in birthdew shuddering sweet, With great, kind eyes, in whose brown shade Bright Venus and her Baby play'd! At inmost heart well pleased with one another, What time the slant sun low Through the plough'd field does each clod sharply shew, And softly fills With shade the dimples of our homeward hills, With little said, We left the 'wilder'd garden of the dead, And gain'd the gorse-lit shoulder of the down That keeps the north-wind from the nestling town, And caught, once more, the vision of the wave, Where, on the horizon's dip, A many-sailed ship Pursued alone her distant purpose grave; And, by steep steps rock-hewn, to the dim street I led her sacred feet; And so the Daughter gave, Soft, moth-like, sweet, Showy as damask-rose and shy as musk, Back to her Mother, anxious in the dusk. And now ‘Good-night!’ Me shall the phantom months no more affright For heaven's gates to open well waits he Who keeps himself the key.
Coventry Patmore's other poems:
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