"The .. loss, of his first wife, Emily, became the starting place of his major poetic work, the uneven but often masterful, sometimes sublime, elegiac odes of The Unknown Eros. Its publication history is characteristically complex; the majority of the work was first published in 1868 as Odes and was then revised and republished with additions under its later title in 1877, 1878, 1879, and 1886. In the final version, book I revisits the grief and restages the loss of his wife as a universal in particular, with powerful yet easily comprehensible odes such as ‘The Azalea’ treading close to emotional excess. Book II in the Dantesque/Petrarchan tradition moves from love of God's creation to the higher love of God. Yet in a more specific tradition of Catholic mysticism, Patmore counters the binary produced by this motion by insisting on the sensuous relation of man to God, thus making sexual love not a love which reaches but to dust but a step in a larger sexual relation to deity. Absence thus conjures presence out of its extreme lack. The poems are among the finest odes in English after the Romantics" (Oxford DNB)
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