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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet - 1880 Edition—





              Outside the storm swayed
              In the palpable darkness.
                   The lamp quivered faintly
              On the wan and drawn features,
              The white breathing stillness
              On a bosom of pillows:
              Hands clasped in a tremour,
              A fever of waiting,
              While wandering, troubling,
              The prisoned vitality
              Talked down in its silence.
                   “Cease, O my spirit,
              Cease from thy travail,
              Thy deep perturbation;
              The darkness is round thee;
              Thou art come to the silence,
              The winter of nature.
              The land of thy promise,
              The goodly, the pleasant,
              Is slipping and sliding
              From under thy footsteps.
              The strife of endeavour,
              The tumult of peoples,
              Lands, races, and cities,
              In darklings and glowings,
              Turbid forces, mysterious;
              Shard fragments of tempests
              With pale, silent lightnings,
              Are failing and fading,
              Are dropping behind me.
                   A shore, dim and sorrowful,
              Winding hither and thither,
              Disconsolate, solitary,
              Is around and beneath thee.
                   A black fringe of waters,
              Laving ever—for ever
              Mourning utterly, utterly,
              Is nearing and nearing.
                   And the new state of being,
              The future, the unknown
              Eternity of ocean,
              Wrapt in duskings and dawnings,
              Faintly lit by the glimmerings
              Of Faith—the mysterious
              And veiled conductor,
              Is widening before thee.
              The shreds of mortality,
              The mistings and fadings
              Of dreams that were precious
              In life’s day of dreaming,
              Are trailing about thee.
                   And Time, the unwearied,
              Beats solemnly, slowly
              In the distance—receding
              And dying to silence,
              As the faint, solemn sweepings,
              The wonder-pulsations
              Of the harp of Eternity
              Swim soft in the borders
              Of infinite distance,
              And waken the spirit
              To the new inspiration
              Of marvel and motion.
                   Oh, the panting, the panting,
              The quiver of tension!
              Be still and be patient,
              Till the naked tree-stirrings,
              The wailing of waters,
              And the wind-sobbings fail
              On the quick chords of being,
              Till the frost-stars that glimmer
              Through boundless abysses,
              Take on them new meanings;
              Be patient, O spirit,
              Be patient.
                   The calmness
              Grows calmer and calmer!
              The widening æther
              Hath warm palpitations,
              And Life, in suspense
              O’er the cold womb of Death,
              Waits the new parturition—
              In the far-off revealing.
              The profluent surges,
              Sweep inward and onward,
              In a calm preterition,
              Eternally, endlessly.
              And beyond an horizon
              Dimcast and uncertain,
              Pale luminous lashes,
              Like dawnings of sunlight
              In eyes that are blinded,
              Flush up the dead vapours,
              And mystical breathings
              Of an imminent waking
              To a great revelation;
              Float fainter than whispers.
                   Soft! Drifting and drifting,
              The bright skirts of hazes
              Revolving and folding,
              Wrap golden about me.
              While, thrilling, recumbent,
              On ethereal wing-pulsings
              Through thin waves of music,
              ’Neath gathering splendours
              In breathless gradations
              Borne glory-ward, floating,
              For ever—for ever!
                   Lo! death was upon him,
              Till the grey of the morning
              Broke cold on the moorlands,
              And the storm had abated.
              Then his features a moment
              Flushed out a great radiance;
              Then died into blackness,
              The blackness of ashes,
              As the moon of the midnight
              Pours light through a cloud-rift
              And is suddenly darkened.
                   All was done—and they placed him
              In shape for his coffin,
              And turned down the lamplight,
              Let the few glowing embers
              Die down into ashes;
              Drop the blind o’er the window
              And leave him to darkness.





(The last Poem he wrote.)


            Softly float about me, Music,
                 Wrap me up in soothing calms,
            Wile my spirit of its demon,
                 With the magic of thy psalms;
            Wave the meadow’s russet fruitage,
                 Thrill the ivy’s clasping bars,
            Wake the mountain’s bass intonings,
                 Stir the lilac’s bloom of stars;
            Loose the fountain of my being,
                 Rouse my pulses’ languid beat—
            Let me lose the world a little,
                 Find my wings and fold my feet.
            I am tired of all the doing,
                 Tired of all I’ve sung and wrought,
            And my brow is damp with anguish,
                 And my soul is sick with thought:
            And the jar and incompleteness
                 Of the things around oppress,
            And the sense of baffled yearning,
                 And the imploring tenderness,
            And the hauntings of the vanished,
                 And the sin and the regret,
            That upon me lie so heavy,
                 I would fain awhile forget.
            Thrill around me, mystic music,
                 Break in many a slumberous fall,
            Charm me of my spirit’s darkness,
                 As of old the sullen Saul.
            Let me taste Imagination’s
                 Sibyl-cup with Lethe blent;
            Let my soul expand unfettered
                 In her own wide element;
            Let me drift along the twilight
                 On the white aerial streams,
            Starred with Fancy’s constellations,
                 Misted with the balm of dreams;
            Let me feel the dew about me,
                 Sunk on languorous asphodels,
            Palm and laurel shadow-braided,
                 Philter-charmed with opiate spells;
            Let me feel the downy wafting
                 Of innumerable wings;
            Feel the touch, and gain warm glimpses
                 Of the rarest fairy things;
            Till a white Aurora gathers
                 Up my starless arc of sky,
            And a love-winged Iris beckons
                 ’Cross a summer realm of joy.
            Wrap me from myself, O music,
                 On thy surging sea of balms:—
            Quiet—quiet—let me slumber
                 On the lulling after-calms.

            *          *          *          *          *          *

            And thereupon a dreamy dreaming came.
            If I should wake no more?—Oh, hope desired!
            How will this body fare—will it repose,
            Untouched, unseen by one adventurous eye,
            Until the storms have beat it into dust?
            Or will it sleep, in widely scattered dust
            Where the fair winds of heaven excite the storms,
            A fragment in the ambush of the fox;
            One in the sea-haunt of the cormorant;
            Another in the eagle’s eyrie home?
            Where will their ashes sleep? Oh! wearisome
            And long is life—bold, friendless, hopeless, bad!
            How sweet is sleep when one is wearied out!
            How sweet is death when life is gone to aye!
            Methinks that I could sleep upon the crest
            Of any restless wave, as did my Master
            Upon the raging sea of Galilee—
            I am so tired; come to me, gentle sleep!




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