Monday, August 1, 2016

Coventry Patmore

Coventry Patmore (1823—1896) was associated with the Pre-Raphelites including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Alice Meynell. He worked for the British Museum from 1846 to 1865.

His best-known work is the four-volume Angel in the House which presents an ideal of Victorian married life. Because ideas of what feminism should be have been much critiqued ever since, Patmore's popularity was short-lived. Even so, he expressed certain thoughts which should transcend fashion:
-----"Female and male God made the man,
-----His image is the whole not half;
-----And in our love we dimly scan
-----The love which is between himself."

Besides being a poet, he published work as an art critic.

To the Body

Creation’s and Creator’s crowning good;
Wall of infinitude;
Foundation of the sky,
In Heaven forecast
And longed for from eternity,
Though laid the last;
Reverberating dome,
Of music cunningly built home
Against the void and indolent disgrace
Of unresponsive space;
Little, sequestered pleasure-house
For God and for His Spouse;
Elaborately, yea, past conceiving, fair,
Since, from the graced decorum of the hair,
Even to the tingling, sweet
Soles of the simple, earth-confiding feet,
And from the inmost heart
Outwards unto the thin
Silk curtains of the skin,
Every least part
Astonished hears
And sweet replies to some like region of the spheres;
Formed for a dignity prophets but darkly name,
Lest shameless men cry ‘Shame!’
So rich with wealth concealed
That Heaven and Hell fight chiefly for this field;
Clinging to everything that pleases thee
With indefectible fidelity;
Alas, so true
To all thy friendships that no grace
Thee from thy sin can wholly disembrace;
Which thus ’bides with thee as the Jebusite,
That, maugre all God’s promises could do,
The chosen People never conquered quite;
Who therefore lived with them,
And that by formal truce and as of right,
In metropolitan Jerusalem.
For which false fealty
Thou needs must, for a season, lie
In the grave’s arms, foul and unshriven,
Albeit, in Heaven,
Thy crimson-throbbing Glow
Into its old abode aye pants to go,
And does with envy see
Enoch, Elijah, and the Lady, she
Who left the roses in her body’s lieu.
O, if the pleasures I have known in thee
But my poor faith’s poor first-fruits be,
What quintessential, keen, ethereal bliss
Then shall be his
Who has thy birth-time’s consecrating dew
For death’s sweet chrism retained,
Quick, tender, virginal, and unprofaned!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.