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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet—





            Oh! thou glorious, far-off ocean,
                 Basking in thy realm of pride!
            Matchless, all unrivalled monarch
                 Of an empire vast and wide!

            Oh! I never yet beside thee
                 Stood, enchanted with the sight,
            But the raptured tale has reached me
                 Of thy grandeur and thy might;

            Of the myriad-handed commerce
                 Which thy turbid wave affords,
            Of thy gulphed and buried millions,
                 Of thy glittering, golden hoards!

            And I oft in dreams behold thee,
                 Hear thy voice’s thundering bass,
            See the mad, impassioned fury
                 Of thy storm-distorted face,

            And thy anger-pallid billows
                 Lapsing wildly o’er and o’er,
            And, in calm, thy laughing wavelets
                 Toying with the virgin shore,

            Rimpling, twinkling ’neath the starlight,
                 Shimmering in the moonlight streak;
            Then the noontide glory streaming
                 O’er thy flushed and slumberous cheek,

            And the distant white-robed vessels,
                 Netted o’er with web-like strings;
            And the many sea-birds floating
                 Round and round on wool-white wings.

            And I long, O mighty ocean!
                 Evermore thy face to see,
            As the face of that bright maiden,
                 Dear as is my life to me.

            But I’m bound a weary prisoner,
                 Mid these bleak and wintry hills;
            And a dusky stretch of landscape
                 Evermore my vision fills.

            But should Fate, just once, permit me
                 On thy shore to stand one hour,
            There enwrapt to gaze upon thee
                 In thy wonder and thy power.

            Watch the ever-changing aspect,
                 Of thy bright but treacherous breast,
            In the tempest of its passion,
                 In the glamour of its rest.

            O! a holy satisfaction,
                 And an awed and mystic joy;
            And a higher aspiration,
                 And a loftier reach of eye,

            And a wider range of feeling
                 Will awake to life in me,
            With a grander wonder-worship
                 Of the hand that fashioned thee!






          Thou hast sugar, and water, and seeds
          Sufficient for all thy needs,
                    O birdie! and sweet is thy song,
          And grateful thy music to me;
          Yet I would, O I would thou wert free,
                    And dancing the glad world among;
          For ’tis sad as the seasons go by
          To have never a glimpse of the sky,
                    And never a mate in the woods;
          Ne’er a sweet honey-sip of the flowers,
          Ne’er a fling ’mongst the winds and the flowers,
                    And never a glance o’er the floods.
          ’Tis sad to be circled with bars,
          Though gilded, whose narrowness mars
                    The lustrous spread of the wing.
          I, too, am a captive as thou;
          Pain-prisoned and prison-bound now,
                    And all I can do is to sing.
          Food, clothing, and all I may need
          From the bounty of others proceed;
                    Dependent and useless am I.
          I may not go dance on the hills,
          Or drink the wild gladness that trills
                    The earth as the seasons go by.
          Folk come to me, list to the flow
          Of my carolings, pet me, and go
                    Forgetting their words, and I sigh.
          My life hath no depth and no mirth;
          I have not a place on the earth,
                    And ne’er a love under the sky.






          I recollect one sultry summer’s day
               Reclining ’neath a sycamore to cool,
          And watching listlessly some ducks at play
               Across the road, upon a muddy pool.

          And looking up, beheld the great M.D.
               Of Chillingworth come riding slowly down,
          With pompous air, which shows (at least to me)
               If not a hollow heart, an empty crown.

          His clothes were of that cut that marks the fop:
               A turban hat encased his meagre brains;
          His whiskers hung in style—a wondrous crop;
               And on his neck reclined a cold watch chain.

          A moustache graced his shrewish upper lip;
               His eyes were small; his cheeks were red and fat;
          His burly nose was crimson at the tip;
               His brow, if such he had, was ’neath his hat.

          And there he sat upright in awful state,
               As though the shameless egotist would say
          Earth holds no other man so wise, so great—
               Ye simple, meaner ones, stand back, give way.

          Of course, too proud to notice such as I,
               He passed in silence on his jaded hack;
          The ducks popped up their heads, and, looking sly,
               Bawled after him in chorus, Quack, quack, quack!






          The sun has gone down, and the rose-light fades,
               And the cool night down from the mountain slips,
          And swathes the chill earth in a garment of shades,
               And tenderly kisses the pale, parched lips.

          The moon-lustre falls on a lone, deep lane,
               Bush-screened, bramble-grown, beech-shadowed, and—
          Step silently back in the shadow again,
               I hear a low sound—’tis the lovers’ tryst!

          Entwined like the shapes on an antique cup,
               Wrapt up in each other they come and go;
          Her features are white, for she gazes up;
               And his are as dark, for he bendeth low.

          ’Mid the light and the shade of that rustic dell
               They lingering saunter to and fro;
          They think not that life hath its shades as well,
               It seemeth all sunny—love paints it so.

          He breathes honeyed words that are pure and fair,
               She answers with looks that are sweet as they;
          He buildeth bright fabrics in realms of air,
               She decks them with tendrils and flowers of May.

          He praises her form and her eyes’ soft play,
               The glow of her lips, and her cheeks and brow;
          And much that, though once young and foolish as they,
               You’d pucker your features and sneer at now.

          They pause in the moonlight, with fair heads bowed,
               And vow to be faithful and loving and true;
          The moon hides its face in a small white cloud—
               And if he did kiss her, what is’t to you?

          A feeling of mischief comes o’er the maid;
               Averting her face with a vexed pretence
          She utters one word of a doubtful shade,
               He, lover-like, instantly takes offence;

          And hot words are dealt with the force of prayer,
               Fierce tropes are like sods at each other cast;
          They stand for a moment irresolute there,
               And sullenly part without kissing at last.

          The maiden trips this way, and he strides that
               For the breadth of a field and a half almost;
          Then suddenly turns, and compressing his hat,
               Darts back as if followed by vengeful ghost;

          And panting, and heated, and anxious, he
               Arrives at the wicket where late she bent—
          On the door-step where she has paused to see
               If he really meant it, and wouldn’t repent.

          “I couldn’t go, Nelly, and leave you thus!”
               He bends and looks deep in the sad, blue eyes,
          Then draws to his bosom the sly young puss—
               “Forgive me,” says he, and the maiden cries.

          The penitent head seeks its old soft place,
               While he kisses the long damp lashes dry—
          The moon winks down with a sly old face,
               And the breeze on tip-toe steals tittering by.






              One kindred are we here,
                   And each to each agrees,
              In mutual needs and aids,
                   Supplies dependencies.

              And some are made to bear
                   And some are made to cling;
              As mates the sapling vine
                   With England’s forest king.

              And some are strong and brave,
                   And some are faint and frail;
              The lily maiden weds
                   The warrior ribbed with mail.

              And God to each hath given
                   A something here of good;
              A place for each to fill
                   In human brotherhood.

              The strong to toil and fight,
                   Support, restrain, redress;
              The weak to soothe and twine,
                   To comfort and caress.

              The great of brain to think,
                   The iron of arm to toil,
              The pure of heart to preach,
                   The fair of lip to smile.

              And some are made to rule,
                   And some to serve the State;
              And some to sit and eat,
                   And some to stand and wait.

              Not one, however low,
                   But has a nook assigned
              Within the busy mart
                   By God, the master-mind:

              To ease the clamp of care,
                   And oil the wheels of toil;
              Make anguish easier borne,
                   And pleasure worth the while;

              To smooth the rugged edge
                   Before the plodding feet;
              Make earth more pure and fair,
                   And life more calm and sweet.

              And each has got a charge,
                   Something to cherish, too;
              A little hand to lead,
                   A prop to cling unto.

              He is thy brother-man,
                   However mean he be,
              Who but his duty knows,
                   And does it faithfully.

              We cannot all be kings,
                   Not all be grand and great;
              Why should we grasp and fret
                   For things beyond our state?

              Why not take up our thread
                   And weave it patiently,
              Among the myriad threads
                   That are but threads as we?

              Why should we blindly turn
                   From kindred needs and aims?
              Why selfishly withhold
                   What our own nature claims?

              How blessed the world would be
                   If each would search His will;
              If each his work would do,
                   And each his place would fill!




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