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Memoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) online

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At us beneath.

The wearers of the bay and asphodel.

Laughing to be his butts

And gathering up for use his ill-aim'd cocoa-nuts.

How should they win,
Who care not for the prize ?

The darkness that precedes increase of light.

To evolve the sounds of joy and ruth
Out of pure law and hated truth.

The kiss of silence and of light.


This brightest hope is but thick smoke

By the sweet light in which the least saint lives.

As parched Egypt longs for rising Nile,
So I for thee.

A dishonest man who believes is still a man,
But not believing is as rat or skunk.


{Of a poor and holy person^

There was nothing about him to envy but his life and

As a little bone, questioned by the anatomist.
Remembers the whole beast, a million years deceased.

The eight beatitudes detested worse than death.

Thy love is an incessant trouble in my breast, like one
of those little quiet wells where the upheaval of the sand
never ceases.

Like milk from the kind, impatient breast, so willing to
feed that, on the approach of the baby's mouth, it waits not
to be pressed.

As a fountain seeks in air the hidden level of its far-off

Respiration and inspiration correspond to the life of

I desire nothing now but to desire Thee more.

Redemption was but an incident of the Incarnation,,
which did more for those who did not require it than for
those who did. It was tJiese things — i.e., the relations of it
to the Just, especially to B.V. — which the angels desired to
look into.


Idiots that take the prologue for the piece.
And think that all is ended just when it begins.


I love Thy beauty Whom as yet I cannot see ; and Thou
lovest me, although as yet I do not exist.

Modern science goes towards the truth, as, when we walk
towards the sinking sun, the world while we walk rolls the
other way.

To be a Liberal now, when Toryism means nothing but
an honourable but almost desperate endeavour to preserve
our nearly extinguished national life, is to be either a knave
or a fool or both.

If a man thinks he knows anything as he ought, let him
know that he knows nothing.

The body of the Lord. The beauty of this vesture is
only seen on the wearer.

Give me to desire all which thou desirest to give.

The unimaginable freedom, felicity, honour and spirituality
of heaven require unimaginable bonds, anguish, shame and
materiality, as their counterpoise and the conditions of their
reality. In the crucified seraph, St. Francis saw the only
recorded vision of the state of the Blessed in Christ.

Mother is more than and includes Bride.

The Holy Spouse of Christ, can she become the poor
strumpet of the State ?

Good people and religious are the first to say, " He hath
a devil " of any one whose way is widely different from and
maybe greatly higher than their own.

The B. V. is co-redemptrix with Christ. His visit con-
verts the soul to acknowledge the truth and to obey it in
intention, destroying the old Adam. Her visit converts
the body, giving gentle disposition and affection, destroy-
ing the old Eve.

Chastity is so splendid a virtue that in praising it we do
not oppose it to vice — whose name is unknown to it — but
only to lesser degrees of itself; i.e., an ordinarily pure


God has declared to us His mystic rapture in His Marriage
with Humanity in twice saying, " Hie est Filius mens dilec-
tus in quo bene complacui." He expressly and repeatedly
calls this marriage, and pronounces the marriage of Man
and Woman to be its symbol. This is the burning heart of
the Universe.

The love of Son for Mother and Mother for Son is more
than the love of Bride and Bridegroom, and includes it.

B. V. God made thy womb the place of His delight, and
said (ah, happy me !) that every other who did His will
was even as thou His Mother.

" A woman heavy with child denotes the state in which
the formation of good from truth is proceding." " He who
does my will {i.e., forms good by truth) is my Mother," etc.

The Word made flesh . . . " / love yoti " made flesh of
my flesh.

"Open your mouth wide," etc. Subject for great Ode on
impossibility of making desires too extravagantly great or
too minutely sweet.

" The Virgin's womb." The narrowness of that dwelling,
the darkness, the mode of nourishment : He could not hear,
nor see, nor taste, nor move ; He lay at all times fixed and
bound ;

And by that rapture of captivity.

He made us free.

His blissful prisoners likewise to be.

" The good of infancy is the habitation of the Lord with
man," i.e., He is an infant in those who are His. " He who
believes is my Mother."

There is a thing on which I dare not ponder, lest with
Cain and Judas I despair.

Is this great Sodom, saved by its half-score of just whom
it detests ?

None can be eternally united who have not died for each


Making no vows, but obeying each new behest with a
spirit of new love.

Eden. God in creation called all things one by one " very
good," except Man and Woman, whose perfection was sus-
pended till Gabriel said, " Hail, Mary, full of Grace ! " And
God said, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well

" The primitive human form is not in the form of the
body, but in a most perfect form known to the Lord alone,
which conspires and tends to that. . . . The human form is
put on by all angels and men, but the Lord alone is man."

How sweet a rainbow of hope arises when the cloud of
compunction sheds its showers in the sunshine of grace.

" Every affectioft comprises things innumerable, for it in-
volves within itself the whole life of a man from his very

Truth, the air in which Love flies and sings.

Trees which have double blossoms bear no fruit.

The night-brawler, remembering how he once met God
in a daisied field, may feel

" Some saving sorrow of offended love."

Nothingness is capacity, and night the opportunity of

He wipes away her tears of repentance so gently that she
sheds ten times more.

Our state still changing 'twixt too much love and none.

The more we live in communion the more individual shall
God's kiss be.

Thus shalt thou grow :

By little and by little, and most rapidly.

The dull and heavy hate of fools.


Thou'st turned my substance all to honeycomb,
Each atomy a cell of discrete sweet.

Like the charred pole,

Round which was built the festive fire extinct.

When Jesus came

The world was all at peace in utter wickedness.

Bound fast

In marriage strange whose honeymoon comes last.

He ruddy with her love,
She splendid with his light.

The liberties of Heaven administered
By petty parish tyrants.

The song that is the thing it says.

In the eternal peace and tempest of delight.

Ah, turn away thine eyes, for they have made me flee,
And shut them, would'st thou see.


It is not fit that men who hear these songs should not
know that I am no better than themselves. May I so do
my works that men seeing them may praise my Father,
and leave me from them


In the safe shadow of the world's contempt.

The same press applied to the wheel of life causes it to
go ever faster and faster. Dread greatly if to-day you
love only as much as you did yesterday ; for your fall has
already begun.

Mem. Some works (like St. Catherine's treatise on pur-
gatory) though not by any ordained teacher, have been
accepted by the Church as almost canonical. This should
be a final answer to my doubts as to my mission. (S.
Ignatius' " Exercises " also.)


The soul becomes nuptially united with God and im-
pregnated by Him the instant she perfectly submits and
says, " Behold the handmaid of the Lord : be it done to me
according to Thy word."

Peter made those humble protestations of love and repa-
ration for his three denials (Sea of Tiberias) and Our Lord
did not say, " You have formerly denied me thrice, and are
not worthy to feed my sheep," but, " Feed my sheep ; " for
he loved much, having been pardoned much : for love is
the Prophet's secret ; and those who have best fed God's
sheep are those who have learned much love through much

The hot desert and the putrid marsh — of modern thought
and feeling.

The Son gave Himself for Man : the Father gave his
Beloved for him.

The frontiers between sense and spirit are the Devil's

Love not only levels but subjects.

Man can never purify himself in the least degree except
by arriving at the purity of Christ, which is impossible to
the highest Angel.

May I know by love and speak by silence.

That which is unique in the soul is its true self, which is
only expressed in life or art when the false self has been
surrendered wholly. In saints this surrender is continual:
in poets, etc., it is only in inspired moments.

Good and truth only differ as fire and flame.

None can move this world unless he stands upon another.

We must confess our sins in order to obtain pardon ; but
we must see our sins in order to confess. How few of those
who think that they have confessed and been pardoned
have ever seen their sins !


May all my words be like Thine, which have no outward
comeliness or subtilty, but " which enlighten understand-
ings and inflame hearts, and excite to compunction and give
manifold consolations."

Rivers that give to Ocean but its own.

Dear Lord, for forty years I tried to raise in the wilder-
ness a house for Thy abode. I painfully gathered bricks,
and worked a bit of cornice here, and there a capital; but as
I put it together all would suddenly fall, and still I gathered
up material, though the more I gathered the greater seemed
the chaos ; but one day, why none could tell, except per-
haps that I felt more despair than ever I had done before,
I heard a winnowing of unseen wings, and lo, the bricks and
stones all took their place.

And a gay palace fine

Beyond my deepest dreamt design.

May He who built it all

Take care it does not fall.

Saints like soldiers, who, to acquire booty wish for war
(persecution, temptation, etc.).

{^Divine Love?)
As when one dreams of what is at the moment a reality.

The pride of the soul that has God for her spouse should
be greater than that of Lucifer.

Let me love Thee so that the honour, riches and pleasures
of the world may seem unworthy even of hatred, — may be
not even incumbrances.

The cloud that is light to Israel is blackness to Egypt.

I will keep my little house clean for thee : my bed shall be
bright, and the sheets shall smell of lavender. Others come
to their spouses loaded with acceptable wealth. Blessed are
they. But I bring no dowry but a pleasant voice. And I
am content if thou art.


As the Word of God is God's image, so the word of
man is his image, and " a man is known by his speech."

By this you may know vision ; that it is not what you ex-
pected, or even what you could have imagined, and that it is
never repeated.

No love shall live for ever in the Beloved which is not
heartily willing to die for ever for him.

Pardon is not over and done with once for all, but in-
cessant contrition and incessant pardon are the peculiar
dainties of those in heaven who have forfeited the dainties
of first innocence.

My call is that I have seen the truth and can speak the
living words which are born of having seen it.

When God stretches forth His rod over the Egypt of the
heart, what we thought was dust we find is lice.

I thank Thee for refusing so long my prayer, for when
Thou delayest a gift it is always to give it more abundantly.
(Draught of fishes.)

Let me set about this despised work with long animous
charity and a joyful sense of the purity and privacy of my
sole reward, Thy love.

Swedenborg, the Anti-Christ, whose doctrine would de-
ceive the very elect, but for special grace of God ? i.e., de-
ceive them by giving the whole doctrine of the Church and
denying the life of the Church, i.e., its authority.

The internal and external are perfectly distinct from
each other ; but where they are together the internal is in
the external as in its adequate form, which form can only
act from it as an effect from its cause. The external lives
frotn the internal, but it is only by the external that the in-
ternal can act as a cause in this lower sphere, and produce
effects there. " For the man is not of the woman, but the
woman of the man. For the man was not created for the
woman, but the woman for the man. . . . But yet neither is
the man without the woman, nor the woman without the


man in the Lord, For as the woman is of the man, so also
is the man by the woman : but all things of God." . . , The
Son (Word) is the external of the Father, man the external
of the Son, woman the external of man.

He is irrational, however well he may be able to reason,
who does not clearly see that good is good, and truth truth.

Self-doubting hope, sufficient for sure peace.

The life of love includes all the requisite wisdom of that
love. " The wise are above books."

" I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot
bear them now." Not because they are so unlike your
mortal experiences, but because they are so like.

Man against Hell, without the help of God, is as a rabbit
against the Russian empire.

My net, at last, is full of fishes, but I cannot draw it to
land without Thy help.

Long I mistook seeing the end for being in the way.

" Nothing is so easy to men of goodwill as goodwill itself,
and this is all that God requires." Every act of goodwill
permanently and sensibly increases goodwill. Trifling acts
of goodwill are often more efficacious in this way than great
ones. A flower given in kindness and at the right time
profits more, both to giver and receiver, than some vast
material benefit in which the goodwill is hidden by the
magnitude of the act. Some little, sensible, individual touch
from the hand of our Lord may convert the heart more
than the contemplation of His death for us.

Unless the Lord had come into the world and united the
human with the divine, the perceptive faculty of good and
truth would have been utterly lost to man. It is to the
existence of the few that constitute the living Church that
is owing the existence of any perceptive faculty now.

How could I treat Thee as a Wife should her Husband :
how kiss and laugh with Thee: how bear Thee in my bosom


if I saw the least ray of Thy sanctity, which would burn
me up? In Thy unapproachable Saints I must view Thy
Sanctity, where I can safely look on it, as on the Sun in

The soul cannot attain to enjoy God in this life, but she
can attain to know that God is enjoying her ; and this is
the greatest joy of a true wife,

I have an alabaster box, sweet speech full of the praise
of God, left to me from the riches I have left. I come, like
that other sinner, to break it over Thee, and what this
woman hath done shall be told in all the world, not to her
honour, but to His, who by much pardon breeds exceeding

Holy indignation is a proof that we should do the same
thing ourselves, and easy tears are a certain sign of a hard

Do not violate the integrity of the unknown bliss by
forms and apprehensions.

Finding in the Temple. The life of the soul on Earth is
the alternate losing and finding of Jesus. It goes but two
days' journey in its ordinary business and misses God. Has
to return upon its path. Finds Him in the Temple, its
own body.

O, Holy Mother, who wast not afraid to undertake to
utter the Word, but simply answered to Gabriel's invita-
tion, "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord; " so I, invited by
God to speak such a word as has not been uttered since
thou inspiredst the Florentine, will not refuse the vocation
of Him, who has in this regarded the humility of my soul,
His handmaid, who trusts to Him the whole execution of
that which He has put upon her.

Nothing remains with man unless it is insinuated with
some delight.

He who renounces goods, house, wife, etc., shall have a
hundredfold in this life with life eventually ; and he who,
having obtained this hundredfold renounces this also, shall
shine for ever as a sun among stars.


Moses, though excluded by his one sin from the Promised
Land, was afterwards one of those on the Mount of Trans-

Let dust keep down.

The enthusiasm for goodness which shews that it is not
the habit of the mind.

Let peace be peace, war war.

We fly from the barbarian invasion, devastating our own
country as we go, and cry, lo, they prophesied falsely who
said the barbarians would destroy our land.

The God long wandering in search of some maiden whose
chastity was so great that her body would offer no opposi-
tion to permeation by his.

The union perpetually increased by recurrent agonies of
sacrifice on the maiden's part. Her fathomless virginity.

Enough's a surfeit to the soul.

My love not only dares the most searching light of phi-
losophy, but requires it.

The utter forgetfulness of each generation as to the
other's good.

And when I woke, it was as if a bird should wake and
find a flood had risen in the night, and there was no world
but water.

We are indeed already risen from the dead, but we are
still bound with our grave-clothes.

Sins in the regenerate are only the breaking forth of
leaves in the trunk that is felled.

Their death is Easter who make life their Lent.

The strong efforts of man are nothing but the crazy con-
vulsions of extreme weakness.

Life's warp of Heaven and woof of Hell.


Give to my immortality nothing but immortal affections.

Liars though ye be, ye cannot make a thing not to be by
saying that it is.

The mirth of the world is really the grin of despair.

The fine sheets of thin cloud before a storm shining with
untransient lightning. Compare to corporeal joy of love
in a body " full of grace."

Happy the Man who is his Mistress's first love: happy
the woman who is her Lover's second.

Modern Philosophers, that wisely keep to sandy shallows,
like shrimps, for fear of bigger fish.

The mutations of things spiritual and celestial. Life
without such changes would be uniform, consequently noth-
ing ; nor would goodness and truth be known or dis-
tinguished, much less perceived.

Man hates truth, and Our Lord conquered not through
but in spite of being this Truth, in spite of Prophecies,
Miracles, or Prodigies, which only made men hate and dis-
believe Him more.

Secret saints, unstain'd with human honour.

Not only is song the bloom of Science, but the seed is
always in the flower.

When Our Lord died, all Creation, which held its life
from Him, necessarily felt the pangs of death also.

If you wish to be commonly good, the easiest, indeed the
only way, is to be heroically so.

If the Son is the Bride of the Father and the Husband of
the Church, it follows that the male soul may be the Bride
of Christ and the Husband of the female.

In the Lord there was a union of the human essence with
the Divine, but in the case of man with the Lord there is
not union but conjunction.


The Lord has union with Jehovah ; but man has not union
with the Lord, but conjunction. . . . This reciprocal union
is what the Lord means when He attributes to the Father
what belongs to Himself.

The image of this reciprocal union is probably in the
ideal, unfulfilled marriage of man and woman.

An idea of God formed from the human, whatsoever
quality it be, providing only it flows from the good of inno-
cence, is accepted.

{Communion of Saints.)

. . . One life with a million mouths sucking the single
honey of His love.

God usually answers our prayers so [much more] accord-
ing to the measure of His own magnificence than of our
asking, that we do not know His boons to be those for
which we besought Him.

The proper study of mankind is woman.

All life and joy is motion. That of time and vulgar souls
is linear, and so not without change of place ; and good to
them is known only in the coming and the going. With
souls of grace it is not so. They go about a centre, which
planetary motion is their joy. They have also a self-re-
volving motion, which is their peace. Their own regularity
enables them to perceive the order of the universe. Their
ears with inmost delectation catch the sound of the re-
volving spheres. They live in fruition of the eternal novelty.

The union a source of incessant active chastity.

{The four steps.)

Faith in God the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, the
B. V.

May I so speak that the wise of this world, though they
may understand nothing, may still say, " The speaker of
such words can scarcely be quite a fool."


God advancing sHly step by step till at last He lays hand
upon His little bird.

For happy 'tis to live from care exempt
In the safe shadow of the world's contempt.
Blessed are they that have to bear (and can bear) the
persecution of its praise.

He preserves interior silence best who talks most on
indifferent things.

Light words are weighty sins.

Thou wilt not tarry if I wait for Thee.

The Devil pierces our thoughts with the needle of truth
in order that he may draw after it the long thread of lies.

From stocks or stones eliciting delight.

The single apple which has by accident been left in the
leafless orchard.

And Nature is another name for sin.

Virginity. He who bears the flag is most the soldier,
though he does not fight. And he who nobly upholds the
honour for which man is procreated helps as much as any
the conservation of the race.

If there's anything that God hates utterly, it is a clever

^ I do not like to suppress this crude though characteristic
aphorism, but cannot print it without comment. It seems, in its
obvious sense, quite irreconcilable with the fact that Patmore,
throughout his life, associated by choice with women of intellectual
ability. His first wife was undoubtedly gifted, the second far
above the average in intelligence and attainments : his eldest
daughter had, in my opinion, a distinct touch of genius, and he
valued highly the accomplishments of other ladies of his family,
of whom, being still alive, I will say no more. Readers of his
essays too must be aware of the very high position which he was
ready to accord to female writers, both living and dead. The



Say your prayers for me. There is only one thing worth
praying for, and that is that one may be inspired to love
God more. Love to Him includes everything that can be
desired — and that I am sure you know better than I do.

1 will remember you on Good Friday, as I always do.
Do you find it easy and pleasant to say the Rosary every
day ? I have got to be so fond of it that I mostly say it
thrice, and generally with sensible advantage. So far from
taking the thoughts and affections off God, this way of
prayer seems the most natural, and as Nicolas says, the
most delicate way of approaching Him.

What a wonderful hidden world the Catholic Religion is,
and how utterly incomprehensible till one is well in it.
How well it would be if we Catholics could feel towards
Protestants as our Lord did when he said, " Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do." Don't you think
that outsiders would be much more easily attracted if,
instead of slurring over the characteristic points of Catholi-
cism as most proselytizers do, they were to present those
points in their real strangeness and splendour ?

I never saw Dr. Newman but once, when I had a tete-d,
tete conversation with him for about an hour. I was struck
chiefly by his shyness and his extreme care to be exactly
truthful in expression. Weeks after this conversation I re-

solution of the paradox is to be found in the Patmorian use of the
word " clever," which, like some other words, he employed in a
special sense, without condescending to explain it. He means
by it a sort of " sharpness," a desire to shine, which he would
consider unfeminine, an obtrusive self-consciousness of ability, or
an ambition to be the rival or imitator of man. I may note here
that he was at one time opposed to the higher education of women,
but that before he died he recanted his former opinion. He had,
he said, made the acquaintance of some who had passed through
Newnham or Girton, I forget which, and had found that they had
lost nothing in womanliness, while their serious education seemed

Online LibraryBasil ChampneysMemoirs and correspondence of Coventry Patmore (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 36)