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tion. My aunts had the sincerity, sweetness and devotion
of Catholic saints — and such I hope they were — and while
in Edinburgh I had come into personal contact with some
of the chief of the ministers of the Free Kirk, which was
just then in its first fervour. The devotion of these men
was unmistakable ; and my consciousness had no concrete
evidence to counterpoise what I supposed to be the testi-
mony of such characters.

Had I, at this time, been as free from the effect of negative
impressions as I was at the time in which the ideas of God
and of Jesus Christ successively presented themselves to
me, I cannot doubt but that I should have accepted the
claims of the Catholic Church to my belief as no less self-
evident. For self-evident I can now see that they are, and
must be to minds unpoisoned by lies, and hearts not com-
mitted to the adverse interests of sin. The very notion of
a revealed religion which is not self-evident to the open
intellect and unperverted will is contradictory. Christianity
is not an " historical religion," but a revelation which is re-
newed in every receiver of it ; and Jesus Christ " restoring
peace by reconciling the highest things with the lowest,"
and " God manifest in the reality of our flesh," are not
things done and over, but doing daily and hourly in the
souls and bodies of those who shall be saved.

The best proof I can allege of the degrees in which, with-
out knowing it, I had advanced towards the Catholic


religion before I began to discern or even to suspect the
obligation of submitting myself wholly to the Infallible
Teacher, is my poem called the " Angel in the House "
with its sequel, the " Victories of Love," of which, when I
became a Catholic, I found I had not one word to alter in
order to bring it into harmony with Catholic truth and feel-
ing, although the analysis of the truth and feeling belonging
to the subject of marriage is in that poem extensive and
searching. Indeed, it has been with a sense of wonder that
I have since read many passages of that poem, passages in
which, when I was writing them, I fancied I was making
audacious flights into the regions of unknown truth, but in
which I have since found that I have given exact expres-
sion to some of what may be called the more esoteric doc-
trines of the Catholic Faith.

This peculiarity of my writing brought me for the first
time into contact with Catholics; and two eminent Catholics,
one a layman and one a priest, sought my acquaintance,
and undertook with vigour the work of bringing me into
the Church. Their arguments were wholly beyond my
power to answer ; indeed, their position seemed to me to
be so logically perfect that I was long repelled by its
perfection. I felt, half unconsciously, that a living thing
ought not to be so spick and span in its external evidence
for itself, and that what I wanted for conviction was not
sight of a faultless intellectual superficies, but the touch
and pressure of a moral solid. It was probably my own
fault, or rather the fault of my defective sympathies, that
I did not perceive this touch and pressure in the singu-
larly high and pure characters of my two new friends, but
the fact is, and perhaps I ought to confess it with shame,
that intercourse with a Catholic who should have been
nearer to what was then my level, and who above all
would not have been so anxious about my conversion, might
have done much more towards bringing me into the Church
than was effected by these two remarkable men. Their
charitable endeavours were, however, not fruitless. I was
awakened to a questioning of my position, and its thick
cloud of ignorance concerning the doctrines and practice of
the Church, under which nearly all, even educated Protest-
ants, are content to abide was almost completely cleared
from my reason, although my practical mind was so much
oppressed by the blood-poisoning from which all are


sufferers who are born and bred in a Protestant country,
that reason could not act with promptitude. This must
sound very wrong in the ears of a generation which is much
more given to deciding what others ought or ought not to
do than to examining their own actions and motives ; but
if any one of my readers can honestly say that he ever
actively adopted an abstract truth so long as his feelings,
however obviously unreasonable, were in the main against
it, let him cast a stone at me ; or rather let him not accuse
either me or himself, but rather acknowledge that we are
not made to act simply on abstract truth in moral and
spiritual things. Hooker says : " Such perfect friends are
truth and love that neither lives where both are not ; " and
we are fortunately too conscious of the short-comings of
human reason to dare to act in critical matters on truth
until it is warmed and sanctioned by love.

The next circumstance of consequence which occurred in
this history was my acquaintance with Sir John Simeon
and Mr. Monsell, now Lord Emly, in whom I recognized
sincere Catholic gentlemen who trod the same earth with
myself. It seemed clear that I might hold the faith which
they fervently held, without losing my personal identity ;
but the mass of this moral evidence was not great enough
to overcome the repugnance which had accumulated, from
various causes, on the other side, and the natural reluctance
to fling myself into an unknown world, for unknown I knew
it was and must remain to me as long as I remained an

The study of the " Summa " of St. Thomas Aquinas at
this time greatly increased my Catholic sympathies by
shewing me, better than I knew before, that true poetry and
true theological science have to do with one and the same
ideal, and that, much as poetry and theology seem to differ,
they differ only as the Peak of Teneriffe and the table-land
of Central Asia do. Both are high and both of the same
substance ; but poetry is the more piqnante. I also dis-
covered at this time that the transcendently subtle, and to
me attractive psychology of Swedenborg had apparently
been drawn from the great Catholic doctrines with which
he seems to have been well acquainted, and that, indeed,
his whole system, his doctrines of " Correspondence," the
" Grand Man," the symbolism of events and language in
Scripture, the sacred nature and significance of marriage,


etc., etc., were to be found as clearly, though much less
diffusely, enumerated in the writings of Catholic saints and
doctors, and in the services of the Church.

I believe that, when I had reached the age of thirty-five,
what mainly held me back was the steady repugnance of
my wife to the faith which I was gradually approaching.
Her natural judgment was so good and her goodness so
perfect that her opposition was in itself a very weighty

She had been terrified from her cradle with the hideous
phantom which Puritanism conjures up when the Catholic
religion is named. I clearly saw that no one so simply and
humbly good and so sincerely loving God could be in
danger of losing her soul through inability to discern what
I almost surely believed to be the truth. I did not or per-
haps would not see so clearly that I, not having the same
plea of •' invincible ignorance," arising from educational
prejudice, could not count on the same safety ; and my
only excuse for going on for some years longer in my then
state of mind is that my numerous family and my wife's
failing health obliged me to devote all my time and
energies to their support. My wife, during her long last
illness, could not bear to have the subject spoken of with-
out manifest increase of her malady ; and her feeling to
the last was so strong that, only a few days before she
died, she said to me with tears, " When I am gone, they
(the Catholics) will get you ; and then I shall see you no

For many months after her death, I found myself ap-
parently elevated into a higher spiritual region, and the
recipient of moral powers which I had always sought, but
never before abidingly obtained. As far as I could see,
God had suddenly conferred upon me that quiet personal
apprehension and love of Him and entire submission to
His will, which I had so long prayed for in vain ; and the
argument against my change of religion which I had before
drawn from my wife's state I now drew from my own : con-
cluding that this faith could not be wrong which bore such
good fruits. But I discovered, as the sense of her spiritual
presence with me gradually faded, that I was mistaking the
tree which was producing these fruits. It was not that of
supernatural grace in me, but the natural love of the beauty
of supernatural grace as I recalled it in her; and, at the end


of a year, I found myself greatly advanced indeed towards
that inviolable fidelity to God which He requires, but still
unmistakably short of its attainment.

About a year and a half after my wife's death I went to
Rome, and, through the kindness of a friend, for whose
many kindnesses to me I can never be grateful enough,
Mr. Aubrey de Vere, I was admitted into the best Catholic
society of the great centre of Catholic life. Here the con-
crete argument which had hitherto been more or less want-
ing to complete my abstract consent, was rapidly built up ;
and I gave most of my hours — of which for the first time
for many years I had abundance at my disposal — to the
most serious consideration of any remaining doubts; doubts
which had a hundred times been disproved to the under-
standing, but which somehow rose again and again in my

And now that, for the first time, I set myself to get the
question settled, I for the first time found in myself a
strength of opposition which I had not felt before. In fact
I was now in the battle between truth and error, instead of
being merely, as it were, a spectator of it. I placed myself
under the regular instruction of an eminent Jesuit, Father
Cardella, and of another Catholic of great piety and learn-
ing — a layman — whose acquaintance I had made in Rome.
All my intellectual objections, as before, were confuted,
and my will was more and more powerfully attracted, but,
together with the attraction, grew the alternating reluctance
and repulsion. At one part of the same day I saw with
almost perfect clearness that I ought to become a Catholic,
and a few hours later this clearness would vanish and a
sense of repugnance, so strong that it for the time sus-
pended all other argument, would take its place.

This went on for many weeks during which I was in-
fluenced more and more favourably by attractive personal-
ities. Every day was partly spent in the friendly company
of such persons as Cardinal Reisach, Monseigneur, after-
wards Cardinal, Howard, Father Cardella, Mr. and Mrs. de
la Barre Bodenham, Lord and Lady Stafford, Mr. and Mrs.
Monteith, Lord and Lady Denbigh, and others, whose ways
convinced me gradually that I should not be leaping into
any strange gulf of uncongenial life if I became a Catholic;
but no one helped me nearly so much to remove this fear
as a lady whom I now met in this society, and who after-


wards became my wife. I had never before beheld so
beautiful a personality; and this beauty seemed to be the
pure effulgence of Catholic sanctity. After a short acquaint-
ance, which progressed rapidly to intimate friendship, I
asked her to be my wife. Her reply was that she was
under a formal religious promise never to marry, having
placed, by the hands of a priest, her written undertaking to
that effect upon the altar and under the chalice containing
the Blessed Sacrament. I thought this answer final, not
having any idea how easily such undertakings are dispensed
with in the Catholic Church, provided they are not monastic.
I continued, but in much depression of spirits, my hitherto
line of meditation, with the same alternation of periods of
repulsion and attraction, and the same apparent hopeless-
ness of reconciling reason and conscience, till one night, as
I was sitting alone at my hotel, it struck me that nothing
would ever bring about this reconciliation except the act of
submission, and that this act certainly would do so. For
the first time, I felt that I was able and that I ought to take
this leap — not into the dark, indeed, but into light which
obscured no less effectually the future ; and, fearing that
the clearness in which my path now for the first time lay
before me, might become obscured, I set off to the house of
the Jesuits and insisted on being admitted, though it was
long after the hour at which the rule had closed the doors.
Father Cardella refused to receive me as a Catholic there
and then, but I made my general confession to him, and
was received a day or two afterwards.

From that time — now twenty years ago — to this no
shadow of religious doubt has ever crossed my understand-
ing or my conscience, though it was not until the autumn of
the year 1877 that my faith became the controlling power
which for five and thirty years I had longed and prayed to
find in it. In the spring of that year I set myself to recon-
sider the possible causes of my short-coming. It occurred
to me that I might have too lightly availed myself of the
dispensations from fasting obtained on account of my weak
digestion. I accordingly kept the fast of that year fully,
though, not being able to eat eggs or fish, I had to keep
the fast upon vegetables, and, at Easter's approach, was,
as the doctor told me, on the verge of a serious illness.
Easter, however, brought neither the illness I feared, nor
the fullness of health I hoped for. In what had I been


failing, that I had as yet failed of obtaining the whole
promise of supernatural grace ?

Before and ever since my reception into this Church my
feelings had been, as it seemed to me, hopelessly out of
harmony with the feelings and practice of the best Catholics
with regard to the Blessed Virgin. I was in the habit,
indeed, of addressing Her in prayer, and believed that I
had often found such prayers to be successful beyond
others ; but I could not abide the Rosary, and was chilled
and revolted at what seemed to me the excess of many
forms of devotion to Her. Good I hoped might come of
some practical contradiction of this repugnance, some con-
fession in act and will of what my feelings thus refused to
accept. I therefore resolved to do the very last thing in
the world which my natural inclination would have sug-
gested. I resolved to make an external profession of my
acceptance of the Church's mind by a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
This I undertook without any sensible devotion, and merely
in the temper of a business man who does not leave any
stone unturned when a great issue is at stake, though the
prospect of attaining thereby what he seeks may seem ex-
ceedingly small. Accordingly, on the 14th of October,
1877, I knelt at the shrine by the River Gave, and rose
without any emotion or enthusiasm or unusual sense of
devotion, but with a tranquil sense that the prayers of
thirty-five years had been granted. I paid two visits of
thanksgiving to Lourdes in the two succeeding Octobers,
for the gift which was then received, and which has never
since been for a single hour withdrawn.

Epiphany, 1888.



IN accordance with my design of illustrating
Patmore's ideas by his unpublished writings, I
have put together here various passages which
he left in manuscript. Of these the first section is
described by him as "Unpublished Lines" and
"Jottings for Poems"; the second section as
" Thoughts for Poetry and Meditation " ; the third as
" Notes for Prose." In the two earlier sections are
fragments of verse which seem to be complete in
form, others roughly adjusted to metre : some pass
from prose into verse, and a few are merely poetical
thoughts expressed in prose. It is not easy to judge
whether the metrical passages are given in a form
which Patmore would have thought worthy of pub-
lication, and I must therefore warn my readers
against judging of his poetic standard from extracts
which are given here for quite another purpose.

The great majority of these shorter passages are
so pregnant and characteristic that I am surprised
that Patmore never published them. His last book,
" Rod, Root and Flower ", is mainly composed of
such aphorisms as are here given, and as the value
of the unpublished is at least equal to that of the
published sentences, it is difficult to suppose that
the former are mere leavings.

They may have been withheld for two reasons :
Patmore never definitely abandoned the idea of
writing more poetry, and probably reserved all which
are distinctly material of verse for possible future


use. He might also, had he lived, have issued
another series of prose fragments similar to " Rod,
Root and Flower."

The longer extracts in prose which make up
section iv. are taken from letters mostly private —
some few published in newspapers — and from auto-
biographical memoranda. One extract from a review
is printed last.


O World

Rebuked by utter silence of its best.

The modern wise,

That, like the men of Sodom, cannot see

The gate before their eyes.

The Daisy Innocence,

That gazes unconfounded on the Sun.

What is a woman without tears ?

Save by the Old Road none attain the new,

And from the Ancient Hills alone we catch the view.

From the small life that loves with tooth and nail
To the thorn'd brow that makes the heavens pale,

Pain in all love.

Blessed is he
Who explains me.

Compare the sudden change in the religious life at ma-
turity to the sudden autumnal infusion of sweet juices into
the sour and bitter fruit of summer.

Let the response of her delight
Be tender, timely, slight.

Ah, great, sweet Lord, make thou of little me
Only a soft reciprocal of thee.




From sketch for Subject Group by J. S. Sargent, R.A., i{

To face p. 58.


When the soul owns herself sincerely to be nought
The whole of heaven flows in as freely as a thought.

Who speaks the things that Love him shows
Shall say things deeper than he knows.

Society lies crushed
Under the rubbish of its broken thrones.

Pride gives no food unless he can a feast :
The quality of grace is goodness in the least.

A song

Loud with the truth which cannot be expressed.

Glad Nature's upright purpose warps
To riot sad in his abused corpse.

List the forgotten spheres,

Till, like a lute-string that a trumpet hears,

Thy answering soul will magic airs resound.


Softness, sweetness, ineffable variety and mutability,

Perception of each other's inmost bliss,

And no desire or any thought for anything but this.

To lie within His heart without annoy,

And only by believing,

And only by receiving,
Sans question of desert or scruple coy,

To give bliss to the Giver —

O bright, full-flooded river
Of nameless and intelligible joy !

With vision of Thee do Thou my heart so feed
That every word I breathe shall be a deed.

Ah, Jesus, what delight ;
And this the unjoyful, third watch of the night.

Faith is the light of the flame of love.


May I love Him with love and joy like them

So virginal, so wifely, so motherly, so marvellous !

Potency of Joy
To do, resist, or to destroy.

Men oft see God

But never know 'tis He till He has passed.

I am
As one that knows a tune but cannot sing.

" I will lay me altogether down in peace," (Ps. Iv. 8.)
Till my posture is a Sacrament.

O souls for marriage with your Maker made,
Your aim is meanness, misery your joy.

Hours are long but years are short.

With Thee,

A Goddess made of amethystine light :

Without Thee, the most rank

And filthiest clot of carrion that ever stank.

Love that
Burns with desire of burning more and more.

God, in whose image we are made.

Let me not be afraid

To trace Thy likeness in what best we are.

All day for God to work or fight,
And be within His arms all night.

A million crowned Brides, and every queen
As diverse from the rest as red from green.

From me, thine altar, let no strange fire hiss.

Ah heavenly fame,

Aye to do good and be for aye unknown.

Souls of the lost in fiery corpses clad.


Until at last
The bush of knowledge blazes with God's love.

Thou hid'st Thyself from me

Who have lost all and even myself for Thee.

I will not go beyond my door

To hunt for poor.

I am the poorest person that I know

That I should meet, where'er I go.

The eye of innocence renew'd in age.

All I ask for the reward of love
Is but to love thee more.

Dear little Child with child of God.

Shine, shine, and fill thy Flower
With color, honey and perfume.

Wandering with Thee alone among
The mountains of eternity.

What little, laughing Goddess comes this way

Round as an O and simple as Good-day,

Bearing upon the full breast of a Mother

One Cupid whom she does with kisses smother,

And, I should say,

Within her breast another ?

You have already Cupid's twain, I see.

.... Each is very He :

No mortal difference of identity.

Sin, by which Heaven obtained the exquisite edge of

And others

Are blamed for faults they long since left behind.

From the light and pleasant land of self
To leap into the black gulf
Of His love and power.


A keen, sweet, and constant ardour.

The patient man, whate'er his hardships be.
Enjoys already sweet eternity.

Truth made good by life.

I have deserved hell, and my punishment is bliss.

Undated, undejected, centred in its own humility.

When evil is consummated
And runs into its punishment.

The simple and the pure, into whose hearts
Truth falls, like dew into a fleece of wool.

Spiritual conjunction is effected by the mind of one pre-
senting itself to the mind of the other, with all manner of
goodwill towards him.

The honour of the world that waits to crown by name,
I hate thrice worse than shame.

{One good better than another^
The flame that shoots above the fire.

The soul
Sucking its life from the deep breasts of love.

Just war and wedlock, which make right
Nature's twain joys, to kiss and fight.

The great and all too common Truth in speech,
Great, simple, singular, to teach.

Rocket-like his road is fire.

The clearness of whose presence is repose.

It doth come

Of being deaf that men are dumb.

Each favour novel from the store of unexhausted modesty.


Whence joy and sorrow, in divine embrace,
Look down, with pitying face,
Towards the poor, terrestrial peaks of bliss
Where pain and pleasure kiss.

This is the very quivering tip of the flame of love.

Thy neck is iron, and thy brow is brass ;
But not the less shall this be brought to pass.

For I am worse and better than you know.

Better blood-letting War than the foul-blooded ease
That breeds such boils as these.

In the soft arms of happy certitude.

The simple

Take fairer measure of the goods of Earth

To mean, because they should mean, fairer worth.

A bee upon a briar-rose hung
And wild with pleasure suck'd and kiss'd ;
A flesh-fly near, with snout in dung,
Sneer'd, " What a Transcendentalist ! "

" O loving hint answering my longing guess,"
And whispering softly to my wildest wishes, " yes."

{The people.)
Tis but a toss-up whether they cry
Hosanna, or Crucify !

Gladstone's eloquence, like lava, bright
In dark, and dark in light.

The only kindness Wise can show to Fool
Is, firm to hold him on the whipping-stool.

Truth-teaching is a trait he only knows by half
Who does not o'er his labour sing and laugh.

As of old the truth.
Now falsehood has become self-evident.


Of God's love, the many-coloured rays
Grow only visible in the incense of praise.

Love that weakens with its sweet the knee
That drops adoringly to thee.

Ah, Lord,
Thy vine still gives Thee vinegar to drink.

He found me in the desert, and then fell
In love with my exceeding loneliness.

A bee, beloved, is least of fowls with wings,
Yet is her fruit the sweetest of sweet things.

Who search for truth and do not start from God
For a long journey should be shod.

For the foul fume is matter of sweet flame.

Heaven, which is
The eternal agony of God's first kiss.

Not little children, but the man
That was as one of them, is he
Who Heaven's kingdom enter can
By right of his simplicity.

Science, the agile ape, may well

Up in his tree thus grin and grind his teeth

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 36)