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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet—





          A maiden in the first warm, tender flush
          Of holy womanhood; a sprightly thing,
          With gaily fashioned robes of choicest hues,
          Rich artificial buds, long ribbon-ends,
          And loops of beads a-tremble in the wind;
          Warm, honey-eyed, and fresh, and country-faced;
          Plump, luscious cherry-lips, apart; a chin
          A-sly with dimples, touching lightly now,
          Now dropping lovingly upon a brooch
          That clasps the shawl around her spotless throat,
          Where smiles always a shy, but sturdy swain.
          A careless thing, with quick and jaunty step,
          A tiny reticule looped on an arm, and in
          One dimpled rosebud hand a parasol.
               A thin and battered woman, who has braved
          The frosts and blasts of many winter-times,
          And borne the heat of many suns; a grey,
          A worn, subdued, and spirit-softened thing,
          Wrapt in a suit of unimpressive black,
          Twitched up before, behind, for fear the dust
          Should fleck its rusty hue beyond redemption,
          And then, where must the next come from?
                                                            A thing
          With features drawn, and mute, and sharp; and brow
          Of many creases, all surrounded by
          A widow’s frill, and bonnet-rim of crape.
          A stooping form, with bent and shrunken neck,
          A limping gait, and short and heavy stride,
          A basket linked upon the long, numbed arm,
          A pair of slippers dangling at the side.
               These meet amid the fields, beneath the noon,
          Upon a footpath, on a market day.
          The light of welcome recognition shines
          Upon the face and in the eyes of each.
          The rosebud hand, the brown and bony hand
          Are clasped a moment closely, while the lips
          Speak quiet words of greeting, and the like.
          At length, the maiden lays her hand upon
          The woman’s arm, and looks into her face,
          And with a sudden tenderness breaks out:

            “How is Celia to day?
                 Is she going as I hear?
            There’s a shadow on your face,
                 Gathering in your eye a tear!
            When I saw her last, I knew
                 Something dark had cross’d her skies,
            By the whiteness of her lips,
                 And the rings around her eyes.
            How is Celia to-day?
                 Is she fading as I hear?
            There’s a pathos on your face,
                 Trembling on each lid, a tear.

            What a girl she was, for sure,
                 In the days I knew her best!
            Gayer, blither, as in sooth,
                 She was fairer than the rest:
            She,—the idol of the lads,
                 Envy of us maidens all.
            Is there then no hope? no hope?
                 Is she sped beyond recall?
            How is Celia to-day?
                 Is it truthful that I hear?
            There’s a sorrow on your face,
                 On your cheek a bitter tear.

            Yester-e’en I watch’d poor Fred
                 Mope an hour and never stir;
            And he sobbed like any child
                 When I spoke to him of her.
            Every topic we discuss’d
                 Brought us round to that at last:
            Never saw I such a blank
                 As the trouble on him cast.
            How’s your Celia to-day?
                 Must we lose her then, poor dear?
            Ah, the anguish on your face!
                 I will weep you tear for tear!”

          The shadow of the older, darker nature,
          Sinks on the brighter for a moment, as
          The shadow of a thin wool-cloud falls on
          The brightness of a May-day upland side.
          They cry together on the lonely path,
          Then part with just a little shake of hands;
          And each goes on her several way, with head
          Bent lower, and wet, and solemn softened eyes.




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