—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet - 1880 Edition—
ICARUS; OR, THE SINGER’S TALE.
“To-day, our obituary readers will find
A name—Thomas String—not unknown to his kind,
And ’twill be remembered, we doubt not, by those
Who’ve read us through twenty long summers and snows,
That some of his rude, plaintive snatches of rhyme
Appeared, years ago, in our “nook for the muse,”
And excited no little surprise at the time.
As far as we know he was born in the west,
Of poor, toiling folk, in a tenement mean,
Whose shelter he left, in a mood of unrest,
Whilst still very young, for the world he’d not seen.
He wandered afar in most pitiful plight,
And earned a scant living in various ways;
Won food for the raw, hungry stomach by light,
Sought food for the soul from his books in the night,
Gained knowledge of life in its stubbornest phase.
He published, it may be a decade ago,
A volume of scraps, with indifferent success,
Which brought him the semblance of fame—but a show—
Which faded, and left him more bitter and low,
Proportioned to the height of his sudden access.
Not much of his subsequent path can we trace;
But few in the districts he haunted have known him;
He passed like a cloud-shadow o’er the earth’s face;
He had not a friend, at least none that would own him.
A character changeful, erratic as wind,
And strangely anomalous e’en for his kind,
Wild, sensitive, bitter, exulting and grieving.
We think that no person of taste is so blind,
As to read his rough scraps without talent perceiving.
A lover of Nature, akin to her moods;
A power-spirit chained to a spirit that broods;
A wide scope of vision, a child-like simplicity,
E’en such was the man that among us has passed,
So thoroughly human, unnoticed for years;
Gone home to his grave! and the proud world that cast
But hardly a crust to him, reapeth no tears.
Much genius he had, which we deem might have shone—
Chaste powers, which we feel might have raised him to fame—
Had fate been propitious; had fortune but thrown
One ray of her star in the scale of his claim.”
(From the “LYNX” a month afterwards).
“We are glad to inform our subscribers to-day
That Sir Hodge Poyson, Baronet, writes us to say
That seeing our notice, a short time ago,
Of the life of poor String, and his troubles and knell,
Deeply pained and amazed, he determined to go,
To the scene of the conflict, to earth out and know
The deep yearnings and sorrows, and all that befell
The true ‘Bard of the Sad,’ and his merits as well.
The gentleman laudably strives to pourtray
The strange scenes that he witnessed, and goes on to say,
‘In the hole where he crept with his pain and his pride,
Mournful song-scraps were littered on every side;
I read the damp slips till my eyes were tear-blind.
’Neath the couch where he wrestled with hunger, and died,
In a dirty, damp litter, of mouldering straw,
Stood a rude alder box, which, when opened, supplied
Such proofs of a vastly superior mind,
As filled me with anguish and wonder and awe.
And sitting up there, in the fast fading glow,
I thought that there was but one act we might do
For the man who has lived for us, toiled for us, wept for us,
Borne our contumely, caught for us, kept for us,
Fondly embalming their voices and themes,
Star-dawnings of beauty, emotions, and dreams;
Frost-waifs, that i’ th’ living eluded and slipped;
Entwinings, that Time in his transit had stripped from us.
For the man whose heart broke in the effort of giving—
Yet, spurned like a dog from the land of the living,
Too late for our pity—one justice alone
On the long trampled list still remained; and that one
Is to lustre his sky in the set of his sun,
Is to rescue his works from the terrible jaw
Of impatient Decay, and Oblivion’s maw.
Therefore, seeing my role, I determined to bring
Out the works (in two vols.), with a portrait complete;
With an essay prefixed, and a life of poor “String,”
And can promise my readers a marvellous treat.’
We doubt not subscriptions will speedily flow
(See advertisement elsewhere) from those who admire
The conflicts of genius, have pity for woe,
Or tremble and throb with the beat of the lyre.
When ready the vols. will be duly announced,
And a suitable critique, in passing, pronounced.
We scarcely need say that no pains will be spared
To render them ample, success to secure.
The surplus, if any, will go to procure
A suitable mark for the grave of the bard.”
(THE SINGER’S TALE).
Bless thee, my harp, thou wert true to me ever:
Soft while I weep o’er thee, kiss thee, and waken
All the sad, sweet things that murmur and quiver!
True to me still, though of all else forsaken!
No more I strike for the far generations,
Lost to the hope of fame, glory, or pelf;
And the wild songs that I sang for the nations
Now in my sadness I wail to myself.
Still are ye dear, O my only-begotten.
Born in the travail and pulse of my heart,
Sown in my soul, of my being a part.
Ah! but ’tis sad to be quite, quite forgotten,
Sad unto one who has wrestled and striven,
Lived in the life of the world as I have;
Sad unto one who has gotten and given
To the cold world the new voices I gave.
Ah! I am tired of the ebbing and flowing,
The coming and going,
The seeking and seeing,
The trouble of effort, the fever of being.
And what is the wonder? I’m utterly beat.
Soon ’twill be over—
Oblivion will cover—
Rest cometh after the toil and the heat.
Soft—let us raise him, nor yield to the shrinking;
Ah! it is sad to have never a dear one;
Sad to depart in the night to my thinking,
Up in a garret, with nobody near one!
Have we no feelings as women and mothers?
Arn’t we, from Adam, all sisters and brothers?
Have we not, all of us, weans of our own?
True, they have each a true friend and a home, too;
We know they ARE cared for—have been in the gone—
But know not, alas! as yet, what they may come to;
Let us be kind, then; they are where he’s gone to—
Do as we’d wish our own weans to be done to!
Stay, what is this ’neath his hand on his breast?
How stiff the long fingers! ’Tis rumpled and creased!
Long lines all awry, blotted, jumbled, and stark!
Poor fellow! ay, true, it was done in the dark.
“Ah me, for a mother’s fond hand for a little—
That tender retriever!
Oh, love for the soothing of woman to quiet
This burning and fever.
Ah, dying is bitter in darkness and hunger,
When lonely I wish;
I dreamed not in days that have summered and fallen
Of coming to this!
But patience, take courage, my spirit, trust calmly,
Be firm in assurance:
Learn bravely this last and most difficult lesson
Of lofty endurance.
The sin shadows shift and the mist films are breaking,
The vision grows clearer;
New gleams of the beautiful come, and for ever
The wonder draws nearer!
I hate not the world, have no wound nor one memory
Of wrong that I cherish;
I censure no longer; grown wiser, the race that
Have left me to perish
I pity them even, and grieve for the shackles
That earthward have bound them,
While all the wide ocean of Truth throbs in beauty
Undreamed of around them.
I grudge not the labour, the sweat, and excitement,
Since all that I knew
And felt in my heart of the truthful, and trembled,
I find to be true;
Since all the fierce throes of my being, the yearning,
The passion that fed me,
The impulse of beauty, the instincts I followed
Have never misled me,
Since all the misgivings that clogged me, the doubts of
The truth of my mission,
The tauntings and lashings, the ghoul eye of darkness,
Have fled like a vision!
And all the great hem’sphere I dreamed of and fought for
With restless commotion,
From which came but glimpses, as weeds to Columbus,
Along the drear ocean;
And all the grand system of wisdom, the workings,
The goal of my yearnings I groped for in blindness
Grow clear to my seeing.
The soul cannot rise from the base to the noble
By pausing and thinking,
Nor grow to the triumph, and clasp the great mystery
By suddenly drinking
One draught of the pure. It must grow from a point, and
With constant endeavour,
Rise upwards in circles expanding and growing
To Godward for ever.
Ah, well! for my soul, if’t has strung every chord of
The harp that was given;
Ah, well! if each string will respond to my touch mid
The quiring of heaven,
Still shift the dim shadows, and the mist films are breaking,
The vision grows clearer;
New gleams of the beautiful come, and for ever
The wonder draws nearer.”
Others there are that are passing my reading,
Blotted, disfigured, and tangled among;
Something there seems of a sadness—a pleading—
Something of triumph, of rapture, of song.
Hum! It is strange that he should sing at such time
Something we feel to be tender and grand;
Something we read but may not understand:
Ay; and how well it comes in with the rhyme!
“Daft” though they called him, who stooped to despite,
Still he had something we none of us thought of;
Something beyond us, unreached and undreamed of,
Though he was wanting in thews for the toil.
Yet he was not of the vagabond race,
Not of the lazy who sink in disgrace.
Something that held him aloft from the base
Shone in the depths of his far-looking eyes.
Yes, and he ever had kind words to speak,
Ever for children a pat and a smile;
Ever for woman, the suffering, the weak,
Something of tenderness, nothing of guile.
Some of his sayings sound wondrous wise,
Some of his singings brought tears to my eyes;
So let us wipe the white ooze from his lips,
Stretch his long arms by the side of his hips;
Press down the lids o’er the sorrowful eyes,
Staring so vacantly up at the skies,
Through the grim lustre the grey twilight leads him,
Find him a man who will strip him and clean him,
Lay him out decently here where he lies;
No one will lose by ’t, who, pitying, befriends him,
Make him, and swaddle him up in a shroud,
Get him a suit, if our pittance affords,—
Nothing more costly—a box of deal boards.
That’ll be all we can do for him now,
Save that we find him a long home somewhere,
Should there be e’er a wee corner to spare,
Bring him and hide him away from the crowd,
Drop him a tear while the rude heap is piled,
Mourn him a little—he’s somebody’s child!
Excellent Father! benignant Sire!
Calm on Thy throne, high, solemn, and eterne,
What myriads of Thy marvellous works around Thee burn.
My soul, uplifted with a great desire,
Would rise to Thee, be filled, and then expire.
O, the rapt worships trembling on my tongue!
O, the vast yearnings quivering into song!
When shall I lose this sense of prisoned feet?
When shall I rise to Thee and grow complete?
O Font of Wisdom! centre, source, and spring,
Of Being vast! Thou Good of everything!
Thy hand hath strung with luminous films the night.
Our day—the night of Thee, who art the Light of light,
Hath ordered all things, great and small, to be
A gradual ladder leading up to Thee.
The god-like soul—as water, prisoned deep
From sources high, doth heave and pant to leap
To its own level—wrestles with its chain,
Its cell, ribbed clay, until the light it gain—
The level of its own divinity attain.
My life drags o’er me in a great distress;
Earth’s brutal current-tides around me press:
The rage of pride—the froth of littleness—
Hate swells and deepens—hope grows less and less—
Vice spreads her gay enchantments to my view—
Hot passion piles my veins with fiery dew—
Fate conjures dawnings deep that threat to gulph—
Hardships grow monstrous—doth press me hard;
My soul cries out in pain, but none regard.
But ever and anon my thought escapes,
Spurns the cold shackles that would prison it,
Leaps to the light, moves o’er the wondrous shapes
Wherein the marvel of Thy name is writ,
And ever as their music dawns on me,
My spirit trembling gropeth after thee.
And if I from this yearning feel of wings,
Deem Thou hast given the eagle’s majesty,
And so essay to rise and soar and sing—as sing
The morning larks: O not presumptuously,
I am, though frail, thy own begotten: steady me.
Sustain me through the first malignant rush
Of shrivelled natures, scornful, mad to crush;
While from me fades the din of earthly strife,
And the new meanings gather o’er my life;
While o’er the widening circles calm I move,
With brow adoring lifted to Thy love.
Bear me till all created things—earth, air, and seas,
Their workings, powers, and properties
Configured, pass before me; till all images,
The parts revealing, links all agencies,
Together fitting, make one awful whole—
A royal garment, godhead for my soul.
Hold thou my right hand, while around me break
The illuminating radiance all objects take
That unto thee approach; while clouds that scowled
Above me erst, pass ’neath me golden-cowled—
Give me to touch with trembling finger-tips
The minor chords of thy stupendous lyre;
Flow in my soul their harmony and fire,
So all things pass to music on my lips;
Hold me, till the warm skirting hazes, fold
The charmèd in their glow of roseate gold;
Till clothed in robes of Truth and Chastity,
My being wholly moves to melody;
Till from my soul the earth-shade softly goes,
The damp weight drops, sweet dawns the mystery;
The golden portals of the stars unclose,
And my whole being grows absorbed in thee.
When lost in dreams of twilight’s power,
The windings of a vale I trace,
I caught her in a hazy bower,
With birch and willow interlaced.
Around her feet the primrose shone;
The languorous boughs hung low with dews,
She saw me not, but plaited on
A wilding wreath of many hues.
Her robes were looped with garlands fair,
Her shaded eyes were full of dreams;
Around her fell a glow of hair
That stirred like weeds in beds of streams.
Her hand was rosy, fresh, and pure;
Her heart lay on her lips in smiles;
Yet fire and yearning trembled sure
Beneath the bosom heaving whiles.
And bluebells, violets, snowdrops white,
And wild rose, vetch, and lily chaste,
And golden thyme, and daisies bright,
With laurel twined, her forehead graced;
Her sandals green of woven moss,
With strings of berries red were tied;
O, what a strange bright thing she was—
Too wildly fair for mortal bride.
Amazed, I paused; then, smitten, dared
One hasty step: she fled in fright!
I followed; ’passioned, and despaired
Beneath the day, beneath the night.
A grand new radiance took the skies;
A fairer glory wrapt the earth;
I saw all things with other eyes,
And wakened to a wider birth.
I loved the hills she touched with light,
The glowing flowers that thronged her wake;
The stream she strung to wild delight,
I loved all Nature for her sake!
She dropped me here and there a flower,
But would not list my constant prayer;
She coyly fled o’er field and moor;
I followed—followed everywhere.
A SONG SCRAP.—A FRAGMENT.
My soul, like the soul of a desolate woman
In barrenness pining,
Burned aye with the fever and passion of grasping,
Full of hope I pursued the dream-visions so fair,
Till the moment of grasping;
Then to find them but clay of the common world, sank back
Despairing and gasping.
I felt all the fever, the heat, and the stir of
The moulding and sowing,
But came seeking fruit from my toil ere
My bud had done blowing.
I hoped to lift high, like a beacon, a light
O’er humanity’s sea;
To remain while the tide-waves of being rose, sank, and subsided,
And ’twas not to be.
I dreamed that my voice down the chords of the ages
Should sweep some high theme;
I dreamed I would shine like a star fixed in heaven,
And ’twas but a dream.
And what if I grasped not the prize; if my soul grew enlarged,
My vision more wide,
And my being more noble than theirs who disowned me,
And stung me with pride?
Fierce blows the boreal wind, and the breath
Of crazy old Winter comes, harsh and keen.
Fled are wool-laden clouds o’er the distant horizon
Which sleeps in its vapoury caul, like a lazy old Friar.
Old Phoebus has drawn on his night-cap, and gone to his pillow,
And over our heads in the leaden-hued watery welkin,
The laughter-eyed stars are hiding and coyly out—peeping,
And all things are hushed, and the world in its quiet
Turns round to the slumberous night with its myriad toilers.
’Tis a beautiful scene for the eye of a winter sick prisoner.
The fierce winds have folded their wings and are sleeping;
The thrush and the starling are piping away in the bushes,
And aye and anon the red robin joins softly the chorus.
The fowls are departing to roost, and the children
Are joyously lending their laugh to the chant of the songsters.
Away on the patriarch mountains the sunset is burning,
And huge floating cloudlets, begloried with crimson,
Move silently o’er with a sleepy and peace-breathing motion.
It is March, and the battle-god rides in his chariot of tempest.
Keen Euros comes over the hills with his white banner waving,
And over the landscape the sleet and the snow flakes are scattered,
And under the hedges, and out of the sight of meek Phoebus,
The snow lies in long broken patches of glittering whiteness,
And Winter, stretched out on his death-bed, revives for a moment,
And wrestles with virgin-eyed Spring in a deathly encounter,
While newly-roused Nature looks on with a sleepy vication.
How can I describe thee, thou demon-eyed terrible Winter—
A terrible wind, coming furiously down from the mountains.
A frost-knit and snow-whitened earth, sad and shivering;
An ice-bound and icicle clogged murmur of brooklets and rivers,
A host of sad songsters, half starved, mid the brakes and the hedges;
An army of sparrows and tits ’neath the eaves and the gables.
No sound but the turbulent roar of the wind meet the tree-tops.
Ah me! I am sickly and lonely, a weary-souled prisoner.
Give me, dear Hannah, a sister’s love only;
Lavish on others thy maiden regard;
Pass to the death on thy virgin path lonely,
Sooner than love the wild soul of the Bard.
Bard!” said I! “rather the essence of moods,
Trembling, wrestling, loving, and dreaming,
Proving the real while hoping the seeming,
Passionate, pitiful, weeping, and burning,
Grasping and throbbing, and longing and yearning,
Suffering the bitter world’s terrible learning,
Climbing huge mountains in hope of reward,
Finding, instead, the dread hate that broods.
Pardon me, girl, for forgetting one moment
All it has taken so long years to learn me,
If I but dreamed of the poet’s endowment,
Crowned with a love and a life such as thine.
Let it pass; love me not, hate not nor spurn me;
Brief was the dreaming, and quickly the waking
Brought back the terrible phantom of aching.
Ah! ’twere a crime, could I win thee, to linger!
Sad is the lot of the seer and singer!
Sad, for the poet, if true to his mission,
Over rough pathways, thro’ oceans of brine,
Draggeth no tender feet,
Goadeth no bosom’s beat,
Wringeth no woman’s shrine
In the transition.
Calm! with the great and noble upsoaring
All the grand impulse and triumph revealing,
Shadow-hung depths of the fallen exploring,
All the temptations, and tryings unsealing,
All that needs human-eyed pity unveiling,
Aiding the weak when oppressed by the strong,
Backing the right when beleaguered with wrong,
Lifting a champion voice for the low,
Scaling the dim heights of passion and madness,
Groping the dark depths of suffering and sadness,
Running the hard race of panting endeavour,
Echoing each heart throb and pulses sob quiver,
Pointing at tyranny’s stern prophet finger,
Teaching the pure, the heroic, forgiving;
All the wild pathos of striving and living;
Waking each chord on the vast scale of feeling,
Telling each tone that the people may know
All the world’s beauty and piteousness,
All that they feel but can never express.
Such is the lot of the poet—the singer.
Yet would I covet to be to thee, dearest,
Fondest and first, as a friend and a brother,
Twine round thy being the closest and nearest,
Live in the pulse of thy life till that other
Wakes up that highest chord seraph inspired,
Then I would pray in tears, banish me never,
Let me be all that I have been to thee ever;
And when aweary and beaten, and tired,
On to the verge of insanity driven,
Wounded and broken, embittered and riven,
Sick of the winter world’s weakness and vanity,
Fainting I came for a kind word and smile—
Came for the joy of thy healing awhile—
If I but came, as a brother should, purely,
Asking but tenderness—HE would not surely
Drive me away from thy sheltering haven.
Surely not; else ’twere not common humanity.
* * * * * *
Why did they come in their trappings unto me,
Crowding the wake of my fancied success,
Vaunting the many grand turns they would do me,
Stooping to flatter, and pat and caress;
Just for one moment betrayed to surprise,
Waked from the torpor of cold apathy,
From the complaisance of self-satisfaction,
Round to the semblance of living and acting.
Greedily spurring them onward to see
All the surroundings, and bearings, and size
Of the great mushroom-spring,
Why did they dam the rude surge of my life,
Gather the volume and deepen the force,
Only to loose it, to laugh at its strife,
List to its murmurings troubled and hoarse:
Why did they? but for their pleasure and mirth.
Lift me on high but to dash me to earth!
Why did they shine on my twilight estate,
Wrapping me round with a Midsummer fold,
Only to teach me how bitter the cold?
Better have left me alone to my fate.
* * * * *
Impulse is dying; the mirage is parting,
Energy flaggeth, and life glimmers low;
Sick of the struggle, aweary and smarting,
Spurned of the world, and deserted, I go.
Awkward-shaped, country-shod, sensitive, shy,
Open-faced, lustrous-eyed, heavily-browed,
Almost unnoticed, a many-haired boy,
Wanders the country o’er, thoughtful and bowed,
Slipping away from the clamour and noise,
Spurning the countryman’s toils and his joys,
Haunting the hollows, where alders and ashes
Bend over rivulets sparkled with eyes,
Softened with drooping, long pale willow lashes,
Where a wind passeth ’mid shadows and sighs,
Haunting, to watch the light change o’er the skies;
Wandering in lonely unforbidden ways,
Down dim lanes, o’er moorlands, thro’ dimbles and dells,
Peering at all things with questioning gaze,
Lost in the mist of melodious lays
Of ouzle and linnet, and robin and thrush,
The quiverings of treetops; the tingling swell
Of Argent brook warblings; the musical droppings
O’er the water-kissed lippings,
Round lichen-trimmed basins of many a cascade,
The Summer morn’s throb, and the twilight’s grand hush,
The chantings that ran
In wind, wanton wan-lights, ’neath the thick shade
Of forests huge-pillared ; the still murmur made
By knitted-winged insects that dance in the sun,
Bending so reverently over the flowers,
Even to cull one—so tenderly! sighing,
Treading so lightly for fear of destroying;
Watching, a-dream, peckled windows for hours;
By pebble-marged windings of silver frill dimplings,
Up gorges where waters dash storming and stuttering,
Where winds from the mountains rock mourning and muttering,
Prone ’mid the grass while in marvel and might,
Through the cloud temple dome, dusky the night,
Sweepeth on misty wing dripping with dew,
Sparkled with star-streams glimmering through,
While the far westward is shorn of its gold,
And up the east cometh in lustrous fold
Silver-cupped Cynthia, saintly and solemn,
And wait-shadows cluster round buttress and column,
And riseth the weirdness on earth’s sleeping face,
And the flames seek the nymphs and the wood satyrs chase;
Standing entranced on the brow of a hill,
Steeped in the sunset and panting, but still
Tears on the lashes, and all things forgot,
Hands clasped before him, and knowing it not.
Climbing through fog curtains, cold summits, where
Eos first shakes the gold-flakes from her hair;
Pausing till webbed in the tissue of braid
Helios weaves over mountain and glade.
Always some treasure, new found, in his hand—
May be a flower, shell, or crystal of sand,
Things that the world spurned as refuse, were worth
Far more to him than jewels of earth.
Acquaint with all beauty, or lofty or low,
Thirsting for freedom and panting to know,
Marvelling at all that is under the sun,
Tired with the deeds that the mighty have done,
Or shadowed in books:—Now, the hero who fears
Neither foeman nor friend; now the patriot pure;
Now the noble who rights; now the wronged who endure;
Now the lover, the poet, the maiden in tears;
By all impulses swayed; all impressions their light,
Or their shade on him fixed, to all customs his mind
Stirred responsive and various as harp to the wind.
Now stirred with a sudden convulsive delight,
Now languidly lying, now revelling wild;
Now sad as a man; now gay as a child;
Most tender to all things, and feeling, but shy,
Deep-pained o’er the mangling of even a fly.
Most gentle and docile where love holds the reins,
But stubborn and fierce ’gainst the pride that o’er weens;
Touching by accident tremulous keys
That vibrate i’th’ distance, and die by degrees,
Waking strange dawnings of music, that cause
Sudden dream vacancies, tremour and pause.
Finding stray clues into mazes of thought,
That gleam on the spirit and vanish uncaught,
Now dropped in despair, and now taken again,
While the heart goads the blood to the worrying train;
Pressing hot, passionate lips to the dews;
Sending bright eyes after mingling of hues,
Like a bird in the wind, full of awe in the storm,
When the thunder-tongues bellow round lightnings warm.
The song of the lark up the misty March air,
A shimmering of leaves in a sunshiny shower;
A quiver of stars in a water-world deep;
A red streak of cloud line; a flash from the bare
Solemn wails of the night, or a wind sob, had power,
To arouse in him yearnings that prompted to weep
Thoughts vague, dim, and awful as night wheeling birds;
Troubled gulfs far too deep for the plummet of words;
Feeling a strange intuition of tears,
The fire damps that heralded the gathering of years,
A consciousness deep of the conquering despair,
E’en fancy the prospect drew never so fair.
Probably intended for Icarus.
Rolls of light in wide gradations,
Melting upwards rim the sky,
Streams of glory up them sweeping,
Reach the apex, melt and die.
Golden hands about the sunset
Lightly touch a thousand strings;
Sweeps their music through their twilight,
Like the mellow fall of wings;
Splendour upon splendour falling
On the mist emerald woods,
Splendour upon splendour sinking
In the deeps of beauty floods;
Dewy whisperings, westward stealing,
From the flossy wraith of mist;
Crystal shoals of brilliant dawnings
From the purple amethyst.
Dion shakes a sea of tresses
O’er Endymion mountain sweeps;
Hesperus a wrapt Narcissus,
Woos his image in the deeps.
Splendour flooding copious over
Heaving clumps of foliage;
Swimming high the crystal chalice
Of the dreamy saxifrage;
Wrapping fulgent uplands girdled,
With a crystal water plinth;
Winding hedgerows, blossomed, bending—
Flossy banked with hyacinth.
O’er mazy masts of blossoms
Where the myriad toilers hum;
Honied pyramids of chestnuts,
Nectar snows of thorn and plum.
* * * * * *
Twilight spreads her wide pavilion;
Wraps us in her syren realm;
Pipes the blackbird in the thicket,
Trills the throstle in the elm.
Softly slide along the portal
To the caverned calm of night,
Hung with blue and silken auros
Lit with radiant chrysolite.
* * * * * *
Fades the western solemn glorid.
’Neath the red’ning casque of Mars;
Falls the night all palpitating
With the wonder of its stars.
All the great warm under-breathings
Of the drowsy earth upsoars
To the cooler drifts, and scattering,
Drops again in diamond showers.
And the great pulse of existence
Beateth ever on the scene;
Though the heavens in panting splendours,
Reeling out stars and shreds of flame;
Though the air in currents eddying,
And in clouds that brush the hill;
Though the human harp is silent
And the earth lies sleeping still.
* * * * * *
Shreds of wild witch clouds upbreaking
Steep amid the rosy wine;
Elfin locks and draperies sailing
Through the orient hyaline.
Earth in drowsy radiation
On the void her cadence pours,
Move the frequent airs about her,
Soft distilling diamond showers.
(From Geo. Heath’s Diary, January and February, 1869.
Probably intended for Icarus.)
And the nereid willow, coyly
Dips her tresses in the stream,
While the silken sensuous waters
Trembles downward in a dream.
Did I dream that Summer twilight
Was a crisis to my fate,
That the currents thence diverging
Led to issues strange and great,
There are moments when we tremble
When we pause amid the strife;
When we feel our acts will influence
All the tenour of our life.
There are sudden branching currents
In our being’s headlong force,
Which, if entered, bear us softly
To a milder, calmer course;
To the realms where life is fullest,
Where our hope with fruitage teems;
Where our life sweeps grandly onward
’Neath the Summer of our dreams—
Which, if missed, are lost for ever,
Chancing never more, alack!
Prayer, or tear, can bring them back.
Hearts may break that know too late;
One false step may be as fatal
As the deadly hand of fate,
And the “might have been,” add poison
To the sting for ever lost!
O ye reft of love—of manhood,
O ye blinded, vexed and tossed.
* * * * *
Mid the air, the twittering swallows
Touch each other as they pass,
And a million things are kissing
As they sing amid the grass.
And the graceful poplar, bending,
Strokes the birches lady hair;
Lean the glowing flowers together;
There is moving everywhere.
* * * * *
Somewhere in the dusky eastern,
Solemn, silent light’nings fly;
And the misty corruscations
Tremulous leap from sky to sky.
Earth is still and watchful, listening
For the space lost thunder-tongue;
And the star-spots dim and brighten
As the quivers flush along.
“While the silken sensuous waters
Trinkles downward in a dream,”
Winding into tingle tangles,
Gliding lithely in and out;
Over shoals of polished boulders,
Under roots among the trouts;
Shivering into silver-listenings,
Washing groups of islets green;
Filping flowers that flank its margins,
Making lordly sedges seen.
Simpering over gravel hurries,
Skimming into golden braids;
Springing over whirls and rapids,
Spurring hills and making raids;
While the flossy bed-weed, streaming,
Closes now, and now expands,
Like the tresses of a Neriad,
Hidden just a’neath the sand,
Hangs the sun’s last ray upon it,
And the varying shadow shifts,
While the eternal music rises
And the passion water drifts.
* * * * *
Human life’s a harp majestic,
And the chords diversely strong,
Various tensioned chords—we bicker
Loosely as we drift along.
Some—the sinew-proud——rush headlong;
Harshly twang each chord in course,
Pausing not to ’list the discord,
Meeting nought of tone or force.
Some—the frailer, finer natures,
Thrill them with a trembling hand;
Fathom all their depths of meaning—
All ’tis pain to understand.
Should we miss one string by clinging
Unto one we’re drifting from,
Or by straining to the future
For a chord we dream will come?
Then we lose a charm, a colour;
Then we feel a want unknown,
And our lives grow compass narrow,
Circumscribed in range and tone.
Happy he who, vision widened,
Bravely strikes each chord in turn,
Gathers all the music essence,
If it make him joy or mourn
Borrowing neither sheen nor shading
From a future or a past,
Living each in turn completely,
Knowing none in turn will last.
For no single gush of fortune,
And no sudden stroke of ill,
Never circumstance, or sequence,
Never sudden stand of will—
But the life built whole in littles,
But the mighty aggregate,
Forms the basis of our being,
Makes the grand result of fate.
Yet one string there is, whose music
Wildest thrills the human breast,
Hath a fuller lingering cadence,
Harmonises all the rest.
From its height a nobler meaning
Down the vanished strings is cast;
Moves the future, grandly radiant,
In the memory when ’tis past.
Woe for him, who, vaunting prudence,
Calculates—the coward pluck!—
Shifts the grand horizon further,
Leaves the perfect chord unstruck.
Never shall his sordid nature
All the ennobling raptures own;
He shall find, to vex his future,
But a feeble aftertone.
* * * * *
No! there came no shade of all things
That the waiting test years taught;
Nothing of the sturdy knowledge
That the after pleading brought.
Say my gems of truth and wisdom,
Hidden deep in unwrought mines,
Unconceived how vast the struggles
That accomplish young designs.
All untried the field of fury,
Where, ’neath tempest gloom, or sun,
All the spoils of sage experience
Are in deadly combat won.
* * * * *
Bold I stood in perfect manhood,
With a brow made grand by hope;
All existence round me stretching
Wider than my vision scope,—
Lay encalmed in all the splendour
Of my spirit’s light intense.
So the sun his orbit charges
With his own pre-eminence.
Mingled with anticipations,
Conquest glows in planned extremes,
With the fervour of excitement,
And the after hues of dreams.
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