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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet - 1870 Edition—





          Far up in the garret I dream of thee,
          O maiden, who dwell’st by the far-off sea.
          Stretched out on my couch with my limbs at rest,
          And my thin hands folded and still on my breast,
          Shut out from the world and its care and strife,
          I’m lying becalmed on the ocean of life.
          Behind the past with its pain and toil,
          And the present lies still in the soft calm smile
          Of the radiant future that dawns for me,
          O’er the dim-seen hills of eternity.
          The tempest is lulled, and the heavens are clear,
          And the lights glimmer out from an arbour near;
          The fever of sickness burns low in my veins,
          And silently wrestles and surely gains
          A firmer hold on each vital part,
          A surer grasp of the fluttering heart;
          A mightier power and a sterner sway
          O’er this shadowy tenement day by day;
          I know that a work in the churchyard waits,
          And a messenger stands at the golden gates,
          But lovingly pauses a moment, the while
          I take a last look at the dim old stile;
          My boat is half on and half off the shore
          Awaiting the tide that shall float us o’er;
          From the horologue glideth the last few sands,
          And quivers the balance in Time’s worn hands;
          The cable unravelleth coil after coil,
          And the shadows grow long in the sunset smile.
          I bask in the twilight of two dim shores,
          With my head strained back, and my hands on the oars—
          ’Tis a moment ere I brave the dark stream,
          So what can I do but be silent and dream;
          ’Tis the lull that precedes the last burst of the storm,
          Ere the clouds break up and the sun shines warm.






            Long years have trod the wake of years,
                 And scores have wooed and mated,
            And friends and beaux have come and gone,
                 And I have watched and waited,—
            A woman with a woman’s heart
                 Still unappropriated!

            You’ve danced attendance on my suit,
                 You’ve given me smiles and sighing;
            You’ve hinted, “Some folks would not care
                 If other folks were dying.”
            I’ve long discerned the prisoned love
                 Your queerness underlying:

            And yet you never spoke, although
                 You gave me signs sufficient!
            It might be diffidence: perhaps
                 You thought my love deficient;
            You may have deemed your home too mean,
                 Your income inefficient.

            I know not. Yet you might have seen
                 How much I liked and prized you:
            Sometimes I thought you faint of heart,
                 And then I half despised you;
            Then blamed myself and bowed my heart,
                 And—all but idolized you.

            And this is all the reason why,
                 I sometimes vexed and teased you,
            Now slighted, tantalized, perplexed,
                 Now hovered round and pleased you;
            Now touched your pride, and now your heart,
                 First roused and then appeased you.

            The reason why I carried on
                 At times some mad flirtation,
            Was just to draw from helpless love,
                 To force from desperation,
            To win, surprise, extract, or squeeze
                 The longed-for declaration.

            And now the ladies’ turn has come,
                 And, if you will, I’ll take you;
            I’ll quit my airs and frippery,
                 And do my best to make you
            A little, earnest, homely wife,
                 And love, and ne’er forsake you;

            I’ll gladly yield the reins to you,
                 And cease to plague and try you;
            I’ll share your lot, be it weal or woe,
                 And stand unchanging by you:
            Ay, give ye all I am and have,
                 If that will satisfy you!







            Happy meeting, Sister Schoolmate,
                 Let us pause a moment here,
            In this Temple, memory-hallowed,
                 And ’mongst scenes so strangely dear.

            For the time has come for parting,
                 Time to leave the dear old place,
            Each to choose a separate calling,
                 Each to run a separate race.

            We are loosing from our moorings
                 On the calm and golden shore,
            We are drifting toward mid-ocean
                 Where the winds and breakers roar.

            Where are treacherous shoals and quicksands,
                 Beetling cliffs and sunken rocks;
            Where are shadows, glooms, and tempests,
                 Lightning gleams, and thunder-shocks.

            All the past in hues of brightness
                 Lies behind us evermore;
            Like a desert rough and stormy
                 All the future lies before!

            From our lives is slowly melting
                 Girlhood’s happy Spring away,
            And we stand amid the dawning
                 Of a new and dubious day:

            Each to fill a post of action
                 On a stage of passion wide,
            Each to mingle mid the wrestlers
                 In a life we have not tried!

            All the innocent affections,
                 And the dreams of youth must fade,
            And our hearts gain new impressions,
                 And our lives a deeper shade.

            We must form new ties of friendship,
                 Live mid other hopes and dreams,
            Twine our loves round other objects,
                 Draw our lives from other streams.

            And the world is not all sunny,
                 All its anchorings not secure,
            Fair appearance not all truthful,
                 Human nature not all pure;

            Therefore, let us pause a moment
                 In this dear old hallowed pile,
            Let us brace our souls for action
                 Ere we enter on the toil;

            Fondly gather up the fragments
                 Of the sadly vanished joys,
            Safely store them in our memories
                 Mid the treasures which we prize.

            Yes, my schoolmate, let us store them
                 As we would the summer flowers,
            Whose shrunk, withered leaves will yield us
                 Perfume sweet in winter’s hours.

            So that when deceit would lure us,
                 Sin o’ercome or passion rule,
            Like a monitor before us
                 May arise the Sabbath School.

            Let us, hand in hand, a moment
                 Dream that we are girls again,
            In our stiff white frocks and tippets
                 Tripping gaily up the lane;

            With the glorious landscape round us,
                 Mossy hills and woody dells,
            Smiling back the cloudless sunshine,
                 Vocal with the chant of bells.

            And above us the great Spirit
                 Breathing airs of summer balm,
            And the village ’neath us basking
                 In the Sabbath’s holy calm!

            Let us enter through the portal,
                 Sit among the children there,
            Hear the Teacher’s words of counsel,
                 Read the Bible, kneel in prayer.

            Hear the preacher’s exhortations
                 To the eager, listening throng,
            And a note of hearty voices
                 Wafting up the thrill of song.

            Ah! the many scenes and lessons,
                 With the teacher’s prayers and tears,
            Will come back like revelations
                 To our hearts in after years.

            Yes, and well we shall remember,
                 Wheresoe’er our feet may stray,
            All the glory and the triumph
                 Of our annual festal day:

            When we stood in snowy garments
                 On our mimic stage and sang,
            While the glad assemblage listened,
                 And the mellow music rang.

            When our heads were hung with ringlets,
                 And our polished faces shone.
            Ah! those days were days of gladness,
                 Sunny landmarks every one!

            And we oft shall see, when dreaming,
                 Faces that we loved of yore,
            Darling forms, whose light has faded
                 From our school for evermore:

            Some who went in life’s gay morning,
                 Others in its glowing prime,
            And the aged, whose feet grown weary,
                 Stumbled on the path of Time.

            We shall see them as we saw them,
                 Growing day by day more weak;
            With the light of sunset stealing
                 O’er the ever-paling cheek!

            Waiting till a shining angel
                 Came and snatched the light away,
            And their bodies went to mingle
                 With their senseless kindred clay.

            And our buoyant hearts grew saddened,
                 As we saw them mutely borne
            To the place where oft in twilight
                 Came the sad bereaved to mourn.

            Ah! but not beneath the willows,
                 Where repose the dead of years,
            Must we look for those who, drooping,
                 Left us in this vale of tears.

            Far above the silent mountains,
                 Sleeping in the calm moonlight,
            Far above the azure welkin,
                 Where the stars are gleaming bright;

            Far beyond the last dark river
                 Are their raptured spirits gone,
            Fled to join that mighty army
                 With the snow-white raiment on;

            Where their sun no more goes downward,
                 Nor their moon withdraws from sight,
            Where the Lord their God for ever
                 Is their glory and their light.

            Where they dread no more the tempest
                 Feel no more the heat or cold;
            Never droop in life’s fair summer,
                 Never grow infirm or old.

            Where affliction, pain, and anguish,
                 Sorrow, sighing, change, and death,
            Fierce temptation, sin, and Satan,
                 Come no more with blighting breath.

            Where the lights they deem the brightest
                 Are not soonest gloomed with shade;
            Where the forms they love the dearest
                 Are not first to change or fade.

            Where they hear no sound of weeping,
                 Nor the solemn funeral knell;
            Never feel the throes of parting,
                 Never breathe a sad farewell.

            Where all tears are dried for ever,
                 And, each fiery trial o’er,
            Where they sing redemption’s story,
                 Veil their faces and adore.

            Where the buds from earth transplanted
                 Gem with flowers the raptured shore,
            And the tired and weary-hearted
                 Rest in peace for evermore.

            Yes, and these are but the first-fruits
                 Of the harvest that shall rise
            From our Sabbath institutions
                 To that home above the skies.

            But while they are safely landed,
                 We are weakly plodding here,
            Sport of every gale of sorrows,
                 Full of sin and doubt and fear.

            Oh! my heart grows cold within me
                 As I look adown the years
            Looming dimly in the future,
                 Shadows gloomed and wet with tears.

            Many a head may have grown hoary,
                 Wrinkled many a sunny brow,
            Many a footstep weak and feeble
                 That is light and buoyant now;

            Many a voice have lost its cadence,
                 Many an eye its lustrous light,
            Many a hand forgot its cunning,
                 Many a dear one passed from sight.

            Sad we may have grown and weary,
                 Heavy-hearted, spirit-sore,
            Ere again we view this temple,
                 If we ever view it more.

            Well, but let us start undaunted
                 With the Bible in our hand;
            Firmly rooted, surely grounded
                 In the faith by which we stand.

            Ever keep our hearts untarnished,
                 Full of hope and love and truth;
            And preserve through life’s experience
                 All the purity of youth.

            And, alike amid the brightness
                 And the sorrow and despair,
            In the silence of our closets
                 Let us seek the Lord in prayer,

            And commit our way unto him,
                 With a conscience pure and true;
            Look in faith for every blessing,
                 And He’ll bring us safely through.

            And if we no more, my schoolmate,
                 Stand within this sacred fane,
            If we fall amid the battle,
                 Ne’er to meet on earth again—

            Far beyond this scene of conflict,
                 Free from sorrow, oh, how sweet!
            When the angel-hosts shall, singing,
                 Gather home the weary feet

            Of the teachers and the scholars,
                 From the mountain and the glade,
            From the desert and the ocean,
                 Wheresoe’er their feet have strayed—

            We shall meet in joy and wonder,
                 And the song of rapture swell;
            Now, farewell, my gentle schoolmate,
                 Farewell—a long farewell!




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