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George Heath


The Moorland Poet

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Heart Strains


From The Staffordshire Sentinel (23 February, 1867 - p.3):


     Heart Strains. By George Heath. Leek, E. Hallowes, Stockwell-street, and London, T. W. Grattan.—This little book contains ten poetic compositions, of which the greatest fault is brevity. The two principal are “The Discarded,” a reverie, and “Awaiting Death.” The first is the musing of a gifted sentimentalist, at the midnight of New Year’s Eve; the second depicts a dying wife with visions of heaven, and of the apparition of her departed child. Mr. Heath is modest and self-distrustful, and has written these little poems under disadvantages, but they contain passages of which even the poets who are best known to fame would not need to be ashamed. The pinions of the young eaglet are well able to venture upon loftier and longer flights.



Memorials of George Heath, the Moorland Poet, 1870 edition


From The Staffordshire Sentinel (30 July, 1870 - p.3):



     Memorials of George Heath, the Moorland Poet, sold by Bemrose and Sons, London, is a well got-up volume, which is certain to have a more than local fame. George Heath was a youth of high moral worth, and of very considerable talents and great promise as a poet. He was the Kirke White of the Staffordshire Moorlands.  While handling the saw, the hammer, and the plane, he felt the kindlings of poesy in his soul, and gave wing to his imagination in day-dreams, which he learned to depict in lines of great beauty. Amidst all the disadvantages encountered by him, in common with all young men of genius who are poor, and amidst the calm and unexciting scenes of rural life, with few books, and with little tuition, he found delight in the acquisition of learning, and turned with ardour to the regions of poetic romance, in which his spirit roved and revelled with intense satisfaction. His poems are not the mere jinglings of rhyme; his verses betray no merely mechanical structure. His imagination was poetical, and invested even commonplace events and things with the beautiful draperies of fancy; but he was timid and modest, and his timid and sensitive nature was not without fear lest his unpretentious writings should be scathed by the stern judgment of literary criticism. The favourable notice which his little volume, Heart Strains, received in the Staffordshire Sentinel, immediately after publication, so greatly encouraged him as to call forth from him a letter of grateful acknowledgment. Our expression of confidence, in that notice, that the author of Heart Strains was capable of much higher efforts than those which he had made, has been amply justified by the poems just published. His early death, at the age of twenty-five years, gives to them a new and melancholy interest. Apart from any such consideration, however, there are intrinsic merits in these poems of no mean order. Some of the compositions are gems. The book, which has been carefully edited by the Rev. James Badnall, B.A., vicar of Endon, contains a well-written memoir of Mr. Heath, by Mr. Francis Redfern, author of the History of Uttoxeter, and a portrait of the deceased poet, together with several lithographic plates.



From The Athenæum (31 December, 1870 - No. 2253, p.886):


      From the memoir of George Heath, which precedes his poems, we learn that he was born at Gratton, “a hamlet in the moorlands,” and, as far as we can gather, in Staffordshire; that he was by trade a carpenter, and that he died last year, at the age of twenty-five, from consumption. His poems, in spite of many marks of immaturity, and faults of form and language, owing, doubtless, to a necessarily imperfect, though wonderfully advanced, education—faults which, had he lived, he would probably have corrected—contain manifest evidences of real and great poetic talent, and deserve more notice than our space allows us to give them. The faults lie chiefly in the direction of too much verbiage, a luxuriance of imagery which is apt at times to run wild, and which, we suspect, is the result of a choice of models faulty in the respect. Nevertheless, we can assure our readers that they will find much of real merit in this volume, independently of the interest which always attaches to the work of a “self-educated” man.



From The Saturday Review (8 April, 1871):


     It is not often that a small farmer’s son, who was taken from the National School of his village to labour in the fields at an age when the children of the rich have scarcely left the nursery, gets even so far on in his education as to learn to read poetry, much less, as poor George Heath did, to write it. His history, as told in the memoir prefixed to his poems, is a touching one. A self-taught country lad, thirsting after knowledge and full of honest strivings, lives long enough to feel that he may become the pride of at all events the country side, and then at an early age falls a prey to consumption. We cannot pretend that in this young peasant, so early cut off, the world has lost a great or even an original poet. All princes who die early would have made great kings, and all poets who, like Kirke White and George Heath, scarcely attain manhood would have made equally great poets. Nevertheless, he writes with an unambitious simplicity of which the following lines are a fair specimen. They are taken from “a fragment” found amongst the poet’s papers after his death:—

          O Fate! I only asked thee for a friend,
          A tender, loving, sympathizing friend;
          I never hoped to win a dearer tie.
          O Fame! I only asked thee for a wreath,
          A simple wreath to please my friend withal.
          O Life! I only asked thee for a moderate lease,
          A simple, quiet lot, ungilded by
          The gloss of wealth and power, but blessed with health.
          O Earth! they have not deign’d to hear my prayer;
          Thou wilt be kinder to me, Mother Earth,
          And give me all I ask of thee, I know—
          A quiet resting-place.

If this is not poetry, it has at all events the merit, somewhat unusual with modern poetry, of being altogether intelligible.






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