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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet—






            ’Tis an early spring-time ramble,
            Where the lambs on hillocks gambol,
            And the blackbird in the bramble
                      Tells its dream of brighter skies.

            ’Tis a noontide dusked and stilly,
            And the wind comes low and chilly
            From the northern, wild and hilly,
                      Where the snow in patches lies.

            ’Tis a welkin dark and lowering,
            Demon-pinions spread and soaring,
            Craggy turrets grim and towering,
                      Groaning beams and rafters under;

            Gorgon faces, foam exuding,
            Double-chinned, and black and brooding,
            Hateful serpent-eyes protruding,
                      Languid bosoms ript asunder;

            Foaming seas and forms titanic,
            Moping geryons, scaled, satanic.
            Rabble-hordes in wildest panic,
                      Bannered armies dim revealed.

            Monsters doubling and disjointing,
            Druids eld, white heads anointing,
            Arms upraised and fingers pointing,
                      Eldred figures, half concealed;

            Heads in profile, bold, gigantic,
            Pigmy forms with smirk and antic,
            Ghostly shapes with aspect frantic,
                      Forms on tiptoe upward reaching;

            Gaudy mimes with bow and caper,
            Spiral stairways, statues taper,
            Long dull lakes of moony vapour,
                      Figures knelt, hands clasped, beseeching.

            Here, a splintered column sleeping,
            There, a woman bowed and weeping,
            Close behind, a maiden peeping,
                      There, a poet brooding lorn.

            Snowhills yonder, seamed and drifted,
            Here, a wind-blown garment lifted,
            There, a fortress, shattered, rifted,
                      ’Neath a curtain rent and torn,

            Through the which the sunlight flashes
            Out, in long and milky lashes,
            And the sullen landscape dashes
                      With a hundred burning dots,

            With the clouds, dream-moving, veering,
            Opening, closing, widening, nearing,
            Fading, dying, re-appearing
                      Everywhere in varying spots.

            ’Tis a land-stretch, villa-studded,
            Here and there be-rocked and wooded,
            Vales with April waters flooded;
                      Lofty spires in each direction.

            Torpent hillocks bound the vision,
            Height on height in rude precision,
            Cleft with many a deep incision,
                      Flanked with many a huge projection.

            This the frame: the picture, nearer,
            Lies in outline firmer, clearer,
            Vision-swept and cherished dearer;
                      Memory haunts each feature doting!

            Larch-serrated uplands sleeping,
            Where a windmill watch is keeping;
            Up a gorge, a steam-horse creeping,
                      Clouds a sluice and barges floating.

            Hills ’mid valleys, scalloped, shaded,
            Heath embrowned and hedgerow braided,
            Furze be-ruffled, brook-cascaded,
                      Mottled o’er with ivied dwellings;

            Shaded cots and fat farmhouses,
            Steaming byres where Milcher drowses,
            Pastures brown where Dobbin browses,
                      Brambled hollows, hillock-swellings.

            Nearer still—a sloping valley
            Where the shadows longest dally,
            And the mist-wraiths, still and palely,
                      Linger over dell and gloom;

            Through the which a streamlet, brawling,
            Shrieks when o’er the boulders falling,
            Scrambling, hustling, whimpering, sprawling,
                      Straggleth towards an old mill-flume.

            Deep within—a marshy meadow,
            Where the noonlight faints to shadow;
            Chilly now; at midnight wed to
                      Will-o’-th’-wisp and goblin chases.

            Patrolled round with hedgerow marches,
            Sentinelled with dragoon larches,
            Flanked with oaks, whose branching arches
                      Lift the shade in bridge-like spaces.

            There a flock of rooks are vieing
            With each other; fiercely plying
            For the acorns underlying,
                      Hidden deep in autumn weather.

            Some from far are hasting for them,
            Some are circling, wheeling o’er them,
            Some down-dropping swell the quorum,
                      Swaying, mingling all together.

            Some amid the shadows loiter,
            Some where glows the linting brighter,
            Some on outposts reconnoitre,
                      Till relieved by sable brothers.

            Some among the oaks are sitting,
            Some are coming, some are quitting,
            Ever restless, swaying, flitting—
                      Stealing booty of each others.

            Rubbing beaks with ancient amours,
            Hailing friends with boisterous clamours,
            While the ether titters, stammers,
                      With their ceaseless cawing, cawing.

            But the vision dims before me,
            And a haunting gathers o’er me;
            Comes a presence to restore me
                      To the past—the veil withdrawing.

            In the morning’s glowing, golden,
            Up a pathway, shaded, olden,
            Satchel hung and tippet folden,
                      Two fair sisters and a brother,

            Burnished, ringlet-hung, are tripping,
            Laughing gaily, jumping, skipping,
            Now behind, and now outstripping,
                      In their joyance, one another.

            Suddenly they pause and listen,
            Upward glance with eyes that glisten,
            For a bickering sound has risen
                      Up the dawning red and cool.

            Flocks of rooks are gliding, flowing
            Through the dreaming and the glowing;
            Say the children, “They are going,
                      Just as we are now, to school.”

            Hailing them, they kisses blow them,
            And a low obeisance do them;
            Hope their dame is kindly to them,
                      Bow again and say “good morning.”

            And to those who croak and linger
            Talk they of the truant-stinger,
            Deal with stern and upraised finger
                      Many a grave and solemn warning.

            Passing on, they quiz and wonder
            If their school is where the thunder
            Mutters awfully; or under
                      Forest roofs of leaves a-quiver.

            If on clouds or branches perching,
            Drone they ’neath great goggles, searching
            Luckless trifler for a birching;
                      If they wear the dunce-cap ever.

            And at night when home returning,
            Free from all the quags of learning,
            Glancing upwards toward the burning,
                      Once again they hear and see them.

            Gathering o’er the sunset, swooping,
            Chasing, wheeling, tumbling, whooping ;—
            “Playing at tick,” say they, “while trooping
                      Home from school, rejoiced with freedom.”

            Crows across the valleys skimming,
            Through the molten ether swimming;
            Children chasing—laughter-brimming,
                      Flap their arms, and caw, and leap.

            Ah! the lane, the brook, the swelling
            Upland side, and rustic dwelling!
            But the music bears no telling:
                      Chords of memory throb and weep!

            O ye glories evanescent,
            Sunrise dreamings passing pleasant,
            Nothing had ye of the present:
                      All of life hath changed its meaning.

            Long the bitter tears have started;
            For the sisters, tender-hearted,
            Both have sickened and departed,
                      And I too am earthward leaning!

            Gone for aye the glittering fancies,
            Gone the visions and the chances,
            Gone the weavings, the romances—
                      Not a vestige lingers of them!

            And the anguish lives unspoken,
            Though the heart still beats unbroken—
            Morn had many a promise token—
                      Clods are cold and clouds above them.

            Soon I too shall sleep serenely,
            Where the grass grows wild and greenly,
            And the frost-wind whistles keenly,
                      And the night hath awful wings;

            O’er my grave the rooks will chatter,
            Rain and hail will beat and patter,
            And the gay foot tread—what matter?
                      ’Tis the lot of men and things.

            Peace, my soul! the stars are throbbing,
            And the winds and waves are sobbing,
            Ever robing and disrobing
                      Is the landscape as of yore:

            Trust the good in meek contrition;
            Every shape hath one fixed mission;
            And the calm, serene volition
                      Moves the same for evermore!




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