Coventry Patmore

(23 July 1823 - 26 November 1896 / Essex, England)

King Cophetua The First


Said Jove within himself one day,
‘I'll make me a mistress out of clay!
These ninefold spheres of chiming quires,
Though little things and therefore sweet,
Too Godlike are for my desires:
My pleasure still is incomplete.
The gust of love is mystery,
Which poorly yet the heavens supply.
Now where may God for mystery seek
Save in the earthly, small, and weak?
My work, then, let me crown and end
With what I ne'er shall comprehend!’
And so the unfathomable Need,
Hell's mock, Heaven's pity, was decreed.
And, with perversity immense
As all his other affluence,
Jove left his wondering Court behind
And Juno's almost equal mind,
On low and little Earth to seek
That vessel infinitely weak,
(The abler for the infinite honour
He hugely long'd to put upon her,)
And, in a melancholy grove,
Found sighing his predestined Love,
A pretty, foolish, pensive maid,
The least of heaven-related things,
Of every boy and beast afraid,
But not of him, the King of Kings.
He look'd so measurelessly mild,
And so he flatter'd her, poor child,
By lifting with respect her hand
To his salute benign and grand,
That, when he spoke, and begged to be
Instructed in her wishes, she,
Having a modest minute tarried,
Lisp'd, ‘I should like, Sire, to be married.’
But, when he smiling ask'd, ‘Whom to?’
She blush'd and said, she scarcely knew.
Then Jove named Shepherds, Lords, and Kings
To her free choice; for all such things
Were his and his to give; but these
She shook her curls at. ‘Hard to please
Is my small Cousin, but my nod
Shall call from heaven some splendid God—’

‘Ah, Maker mine, no God will do
That's not as great a God as you!’
Thereat Jove laugh'd: ‘As least of things
Alone can sate the King of Kings,
So the least thing, it seems, that I
Alone of Gods can satisfy!’
And, fading in her flushing arms,
He blazed for ever from her charms.
Thenceforth the maiden sang and shone,
Admired by all and woo'd by none,
For, though she said she was a sinner,
'Twas clear to all that Jove was in her,
And, but for that deep pagan night,
She would have been a Carmelite.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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