Two poems inspired by the life of George Heath
THE MOORLAND POET
They have planted a cross on a church-crowned hill,
That telleth his well-earned praises,
While it showeth the spot, where, peacefully still,
He slumbers beneath the daisies.
And at eve, when the shadows of night are nigh,
The birds gather there for vespers,
And the wandering breezes, lingering, sigh,
And murmur in mournful whispers.
Like a flower, which is blooming at early morn
When brightly the sun is gleaming,
But e’er noon lieth dead in the pitiless storm,
So perished the poet - dreaming.
In his mind, with a swiftly increasing glow,
Was burning that light supernal,
Which guideth the footsteps of man below
To regions of light eternal.
But the marvellous thought, with its meaning deep,
No longer with him doth linger -
At the foot of the cross, in a wakeless sleep,
Low lieth the Moorland singer.
For, bearing a message of peace and love -
Of love beyond human telling -
A messenger sent by the Master above,
Once entered his humble dwelling;
And he lifted for him that mysterious veil
Which hideth death’s silent river -
And he passed from our sight, and his untold tale
Remaineth untold for ever.
(Elisha Walton was born in 1843 in the Potteries' town of Burslem. His work includes Ballads and Miscellaneous Verses (1898) and The Romance of the Hills - Tales of Staffordshire Moorlands. He died in 1914 and is buried in Torquay.)
ON THE LATE GEORGE HEATH.
And art thou dead, my brother, art thou dead?
And is thy young immortal spirit fled?
That thing unseen, that spark of Deity,
Gone to the regions of felicity?
My brother dead! O for a beam of light
To pierce the gloom, and open to my sight
The plains of glory—thine own native air—
To view thee as a spotless spirit there.
Scarce had thy soul its precious worth unfurl’d,
And breath’d its fragrant odours to the world,
Scarce had Eternal Love inspired thy tongue,
When thou wert called to sing a sweeter song.
I’ve viewed the scenes where thou in boyhood walked
By Rudyard’s silent waters; there I’ve talked
With each sweet flower, which meekly bowed its head
To lisp thy name and tell me thou wert dead.
O deign to cast thy mantle down on me,
Youth of bright genius, fame and piety:
For I would gladly write my name like thee,
Upon the pillars of eternity;
I’ll try to get a name by virtue won,
Diffusing fragrance when I’m dead and gone.
I knew thee not as Damon knew his friend,
But as a traveller struggling to ascend
The hill of life, still gasping for the prize
Which crowns the summit of our griefs and joys.
I’ve sat upon thy tomb with heavy brow.
Where art thou gone, I’ve thought, where art thou now?
In accents louder still, where art thou, where?
The evening breeze my voice re-echo’d, where?
Then o’er my ears in whispers soft did creep,
“Thy brother is not dead, he does but sleep.”
Sleep on, then, noble mortal, calmly, sweet,
When all is o’er, immortal spirits meet;
I’ll meet thee ‘mid the bright seraphic glare,
Ah, brother, yes, I’ll meet thee, meet thee there.
(Elijah Cope was born in the village of Ipstones in 1842, the son of a gardener. The family moved to Leek when Elijah was quite young and he lived there until his death in 1917. There are some parallels with the life of George Heath; Elijah Cope was a sickly child, largely self-educated and possessing a passionate interest in poetry. He was helped by a retired Indian army officer, Lieut.-Col. Carruthers, who fostered his artistic interests, and he became both a skilled woodcarver and an expert on the folklore of the Staffordshire Moorlands. His Elegy on the Late George Heath brought him more than local fame and he received a kind letter from Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, expressing his pleasure on reading the lines on George Heath. The Rev. James Badnall of Endon was a good friend to both George Heath and Elijah Cope and in 1875 he published an edition of Cope’s work, Poems by Elijah Cope of Leek, which was dedicated to the memory of the late Lieut.-Col. G. T. S. Carruthers.)