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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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—Memorials of George Heath, The Moorland Poet - 1880 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 shadowing 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!






          Two sisters, beautiful as twin sunbeams,
               Disported mid my childhood’s realm of flowers,
          The blythe associates of my earliest dreams,
               The winsome sharers of my sunset hours.
          They sleep serenely ’neath the churchyard stone,
               And I am left alone, all, all alone!







            Like the meteor’s transient gleam,
                 Like the stars at dawn of day,
            Like the music of a dream,
                 Came our boy and passed away.
            Gone to swell the snow-white throng,
                 On the bright far-distant shore,
            Where we’ll meet again ere long,
                 Angel-one, to part no more.






          A little while ago these meads were fair
          And fresh, and flashing with a flood of green,
          And infant flowers with windle spray between;
          And gold-winged butterflies and bees were there,
          And lisping winds went o’er them like a prayer,
               And all was gay as though the dearth had been;
               No shadow from the future marred the scene.
          And now those very fields are crisp and bare,
          Their glory severed, scorched, and withered dead,
               And gathered in the dust from whence it came
          In tomb-like heaps, ’neath dusky thatch and shed;
               And all the world around lives on the same;
          The sun shines brightly and the winds are rife;
          But they are faded, shorn. And such is life.






          When twilight walks the earth with dewy feet,
          It steals from memory, haunted long-ago,
          That sweet, sad passion-dream I cherished so;
          A form with every charm and grace replete,
          A tinkling fall of fairy footsteps fleet,
               A radiant face, with dimpling smiles aglow,
               A voice like rippling streamlet’s murmuring flow,
          Low words of hope, and love intensely sweet,
          A whispered interchange of vows, one kiss,
               A crashing blow, of all our hopes the knell.
          One brief half-hour of anguish-haunted bliss,
               One wild embrace, a long, a last farewell,
          Darts like a vision through my brain, and then
          My widowed soul grows calm and sad again.







With feelings of sincere regard, to those who are dear to me at Mow
Cop; in remembrance of a very happy visit there—a few sunny days
spent amongst them.


          The glory of God appears to human eye,—
          Upon yon gold-shot bound of visual quest;
          Yon torrid sunset saddening in the west;
          The glinting cliffs that commune with the sky;
          The glowing clouds that, voiceless, ramble by
               Upon yon tesselated hillock’s crest:
               Amid the stillness, motion, and the rest.
          Upon the shades that in the valleys lie;
          The trees that whisper not but doze in peace;
               The defluous fascination of the stream:
          Where, on the lake, the sunlight’s fond surcease
               Plays, like the last faint promptings of a dream.
          Thy glory, God, is round me, on my heart!—
          Why do we sometimes wonder where Thou art?







          O! glorious day of rest; sublime release
          From rankling care and all-absorbing toil;
          The grinding wheels of commerce pause awhile,
          And tumult, strife, and jarring factions cease,
          And o’er the tired earth the angel Peace
               Spreads her soft wings, and ’neath thy hallowed smile,
               Anoints its festering wounds with holy oil;
          And hearts grow bright again, and hopes increase,
          And from ten thousand thousand tongues and choirs
               The myriad songs of praise commingling, rise
          Above the smoke-black tiles, the domes and spires;
               Above the vapours and the calm blue skies,
          To Him, whose word ordained the thrice-bless’d day
          When Justice sleeps, and Mercy holds the sway.




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