Home   Poetry   Biography Diary  

George Heath


The Moorland Poet

Pictures Miscellanea About this Site

—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet—





            “What happy moments did I count!
                 Blessed was I then, all bliss above!
            Now, for this consecrated fount
                 Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,
            What have I? shall I dare to tell?
                 A comfortless and hidden WELL.”— Wordsworth.


          She came amid the calm of autumn days,
          Came from her distant home among the hills,
          To spend a tiny sheaf of days with us.
          Her parents and our parents, in the days
          When they were young and newly gone to house,
          Had been near neighbours, and the closest friends;
          Had parted later, where their roads diverged,
          In mutual confidence, esteem, regret.
          And now she came with kindly messages
          And warm remembrances from them to us,
          In token that the past was unforgot.
          ’Twas many a day since we had met; and each
          Was changed. We scarce were more than children then,
          And now, well, we were changed: the world was changed.
          We each had grown into another sphere,
          Bounded by other skies, and lit by suns
          Of different hues; and life had changed its shape.
          She had grown beautiful; her woman-form
          Was rounded into perfect symmetry.
          Her face was soft, and fair, and delicate,
          And constantly reminded one of music;
          For ever as the eye gazed, on the heart
          Arose a sense of harmonies; a swell
          Of soft refrains, that thrilled one as they died.
          But oh! her glory was the flood of hair
          That gushing o’er her shoulders, shrouded her.
          No line was on her forehead, and no shade
          Touched with a saddening, sobering influence
          The laughter of her life; so far, indeed,
          As human eye might penetrate the show.
               We liked her from the first, and those to me
          Were blessèd days. The intercourse with true
          And tender womanhood has been the one
          Green grove of palms in all my desert life!
               One other round of hours remained to us
          Yet, ere the confluence of our lives and thoughts
          Should separate and grow distinct again;
          When on an afternoon we sallied out
          Among the browning fields, adown dim lanes,
          Beneath the ragged shade of chastened trees,
          To view the scenery, and drink into
          Our hearts the Nature-spirit felt o’er all:
          For we were kindred in our Nature-love.
          It was a calm; the winds were bridled up.
          A film of mistiness, indefinite,
          Paled the wide azure of the strandless heavens.
          The sun, enthroned amid a cloudless sphere,
          Trailed o’er the western heights his regal robe.
          A valley lay before us, prone and mute,
          Too happy in the luxury of peace
          For voice or breath, or music’s gayer charm:
          A valley fair, with outlets ’mongst the hills,
          Sun-touched, and flushed with amber radiance,
          Caught from the flood of yellow, glamouring
          The blenching sycamores, and tempered with
          The wild black lustreing of Bradshaw Edge.
          Beyond, a solemn wave of shaggy heights,
          Crowned with the tuft of Roches, glimmered red.
               We talked of all the wonder of the world;
          Bewailed the narrowness of human ken;
          Pictured the might-be from the known-to-be;
          Pushed off Conjecture’s shallop on the surge—
          The vast, dumb, unrevealed that round us lies!
          Clomb from the inanimate far up the scale
          To the divine; and felt a lifting up
          To God.
               I spoke of all the undertones
          Of sad humanity; the current-beats
          That underlie the surface, bland and calm.
          I said, “No home arises ’mid these vales,
          No hearth gleams brightly; but around it grow
          Romances strange, that interweave and mix
          Like circles on a pond beneath the rain,
          And yet are separate, and spread distinct,
          And die away, as they had never been:
          In these is much of joy, and much of good,
          An under-shade of wrong, and sin, and blame,
          And much of voiceless sorrow nobly borne.”
               “Ah, painful is the school of discipline!”
          She answered with a sudden change of tone;
          “Yet sorrow is a tutor wonderful!
          Our life is like a tiny shallow stream,
          Until the storm-rack wear it deeper, wider.
          We know not life, nor aught of human nature
          Until the probe has pierced our heart of hearts,
          And then we come to know what living means:
          Our view is circumscribed, until the winds
          Roll off the morning mists that hide the heavens:
          Ah, sorrow is a blessing in disguise!”
               I stared into the chaste, unfurrowed face
          In utter wonderment; and silently
          We sauntered back into the house again.
          But when the light lay swimming, mantling on
          The margins of the hills, and o’er the pond
          The swallow glided with a homeward wing;
          When all the air was quivering with the chant
          Of vesper bells; and the wild melody
          Was dying out serenely towards the west;
          We sat beside the window.
                                                       I had read
          One of Buchanan’s thrilling melodies;
          And while its flood of lofty tenderness,
          Its soul of pitying, sorrowing sympathy,
          Its plaintive cry of human pathos, knit
          Our spirits in a strange affinity,
          I said, “You spoke of sorrow; you, so fresh,
          And erst so buoyant; from whose life, I dreamed,
          No shadow-hand, as yet, had snatched the charm,
          The fond illusive phantasy of youth,
          That fades too soon! Dare you not trust me then?
          Won’t you believe me true, and open up
          That hidden chamber of your heart to me?”
          She paused a moment, and the hot pink blood
          Ran up her temples, dyed her cheeks and neck,
          Then answered meekly, looking down the while:
          “Three years gone by, a cousin came to us.
          His health was shaken by the years of stern,
          Unflinching study he had passed; and he
          Had fled the city world, to search among
          Our Hebe-haunted hills for vigour new.
          He was a noble, manly youth; had all
          The attributes of woman’s hero-dreams.
          His lofty intellect unveiled for me
          The world whose name was wonder, and the sky
          That domed the flight of mind; a realm, to me,
          Of utter glory, dreamed of—never seen.
          We were together much; were friends at first:
          And, last, were more.
                                             Ah! I was very young;
          I should not be, I think, so foolish now.
          Well, it is past and gone!
                                                  He went away,
          To mix again with college life and scenes.
          As time went on, I knew and felt the change.
          I never blamed him once; ’twas all my fault,
          I owned it in my deepest bitterness!
          He was ambitious; full of lofty aims;
          I, but a simple girl; I should have known
          ‘The eagle mates not with the dove.’
                                                       He toiled;
          Came off with honours manifold; is now
          A clergyman. He writes to me, and we
          Are friends, are friends,” she echoed; paused and dropped
          Her hands, that trembled o’er the embroidery
          (Until the needle-point had pierced the skin)
          Upon her lap. Her face sank lower and lower,
          And such a storm of agonizing sobs
          Burst from the heavings of the o’ercharged breast
          As I had never witnessed; have not since,
          Through all the bitter scenes my eyes have met.
          “Ah!” thought I, “never bosom shrined a heart
          More true and tender.”
                                                  Silently I laid
          My two warm hands on hers, and held them there
          Till she had grown more calm; then, bending, said,
          “I, too, have suffered much; I feel for you.”
          She raised her head, and for a moment each
          Looked through the sense of seeing to the heart.
          She went her way, back to the old, brown hills.
          The days went on; but, often as we met,
          There was a something in the clasp of hands,
          A quiver in the cadence of the voice,
          A language in the motion of the lip
          The world could not discern ; a tacit bond
          Our souls could feel, but never comprehend;
          A deeper looking through the upper show
          Into the heart.
                                   We knew not how or why,
          But we were kin for ever after that.




(Next Page - How Is Celia To-day?)



[Home] [Poetry] [Biography] [Diary] [Manuscripts] [Pictures] [Miscellanea] [About this Site]