Rudyard. Sunset Musings

George Heath

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Patrick Regan
has kindly shared the material
from his George
Heath site
with readers of the Victorian Web, who may wish to consult the original. Aboout this memoir of Heath, he writes: "I found the following article in Leek Library. It was a photocopy, undated, and with no indication as to the nature of Great Thoughts. I presume that it was a magazine and since the text mentions it was twenty years ago that Robert Buchanan wrote his article on George Heath (1871), I assume that this was published around 1891."

Glorious Rudyard; gorgeous picture,
      How I love to gaze on thee,
Ever fraught wtth sunny memories,
      Ever beautiful to me!

Whether blushing Spring enwrap thee
      In its robe of virgin pride,
Whether golden Summer steep thee
      In its mellow gushing tide;

Whether drooping Autumn flood thee
      With its dreamy chastened light,
Whether chilling Winter drape thee
      In its vest of spotless white;

Whether storms sweep grandly o'er thee,
      Light or gloom their charms impart,
Ever grand, sublime, majestic,
      Ever beautiful thou art.

And I love to roam in twilight,
      From the busy haunts of toil,
From Oppression's galling fetters,
      From Deception's soulless smile,

Here to sit and gaze upon thee,
      As I gaze upon thee now,
With the balmy zephyr playing
      On my hot and aching brow.

How sublimely grand the picture
      Stretching out before my gaze;
Deluged with the glowing splendour
      Of the sun's declining rays,

Lies the lake in tranquil beauty,
      Like a model mimic sea,
Like a brightly polished mirror,
      In a frame of ebony;

Like a flood of molten silver,
      Froth of gold and sapphire dipped,
Flashing back the efflorescence
      Of the summer's blazing light.

And away, far up the valley,
      Rising from the sunlit tide,
Towering hills in stately grandeur,
      Bound the view on either side,

Turning, twisting, undulating,
      Sinking low or peaking high,
Throwing up a jaggy outline,
      Quaintly cut against the sky.

Bulging mounds and blocks of granite
      Rise in beauty all around,
Lichen grown, and moss enamelled,
      Ivy wreathed, and bilberry crowned.

Rugged cliffs of mouldering sandstone
      Break abruptly here and there,
Like a patch of coarsest fustian
      On a robe of beauty rare;

In whose fossil-bedded strata,
      Like an ancient crypt unsealed,
Lies the bloom of bygone ages,
      To the curious eye revealed,

Seeming placed to point this moral
      To the thoughtless and the gay,
All that's fair must fade and perish,
      All that's beautiful, decay.

And above and all around me
      Stalwart trees bedeck the scene,
Tendril-twined and ivy-mantled,
      All enrobed in richest sheen;

Like a mighty host of giants,
      Armed and ready for the fight,
With the lightning's gleaming falchion,
      And the tempest's awful might;

And the sun in haze of beauty,
      Sinks in solemn peace to rest,
'Neath the bright and mystic curtain
      Of the crimson-glowing west.

Fleecy mists of gorgeous splendour,
      Clouds of shapes and forms untold,
Sail like argosies of tinsel,
      O'er a sea of burnished gold;

Softly breaking up and parting,
      Gently gliding to and fro,
Mirrored in the glassy bosom
      Of the peaceful lake below.

And the mason's busy hammer,
      And the mower's tinkling scythe,
And the whistle of the teamster,
      And the song of milk-maid blithe —

All are hushed, and peaceful Silence
      O'er the scene its mantle throws;
Not one sight or sound discordant
      Breaks the spell of sweet repose.

And the stilly, dreamy motion
      Of the vapours gliding o'er,
And the plashing of the wavelets
      As they break upon the shore,

And the calm and saintly murmur
      Of the tall and stately trees,
As they chant their thrilling vespers
      To the music of the breeze —

All combine to soothe my spirit,
      Panting, yearning, sad, and sore;
Waft my thoughts from present sorrows,
      To the happy days of yore:

When I met my noble Mary
      Oft amid this shady bower,
When the flush of day was fading
      In the mystic twilight hour;

When together oft we wandered
      Through the flower-enamelled glade,
Sat in silent contemplation
      In the cool and leafy shade;

Watched the unsuspecting rabbit
      Frisking through the bushy grove,
Heard the rooks in noisy confab
      In the giant trees above;

Went in search of curious flowerets,
      Climbed the rocks for fern and heath,
And together, for her forehead,
      Twined a rainbow-coloured wreath;

Watched the mighty locomotive
      Rushing grandly on its way,
And the snow-white wreath of vapour
      Softly break and die away;

Sought for shells amid the shingle
      On the lakelet's rugged side,
Watched the ever busy swallow
      O'er its shining surface glide;

Launched our skiff upon its bosom,
      When the wind was calm and still,
Gazed enraptured on the picture,
      And of beauty quaffed our fill.

Then when passion or ambition
      Filled my soul with wild unrest,
Or, when sorrow or affliction
      Quelled the demon in my breast,

Standing grandly there before me,
      With her cool hand on my brow,
Gazing fondly, sadly on me —
      Ah! I seem to see her now —

She would breathe the balm of kindness
      O'er my sufferings and my wrongs,
Read me thoughts of grand old authors,
      Sing me sweetly soothing songs;

Speak in strangely thrilling accents
      Of that land beyond the sky,
Where "the weary, heavy laden"
      Find eternal rest and joy —

Till my brooding soul, enraptured,
      Soared on Fancy's glowing wings
Far beyond this realm of turmoil,
      Up to brighter, nobler things.

But those days of halcyon glory
      Like a vision passed away,
Like a fitful gleam of sunshine
      On a dreary winter's day;

Leaving nought behind to cheer me
      Through this world of storm and blight,
But the sweetly soothing memory
      Of their evanescent light;

For the summer waned and deepened,
      Softer grew the twilight's hush,
Meeker grew the morning's dawning,
      More subdued the noontide flush;

And disease, like deadly night-shade,
      O'er my Mary cast its blight,
Paler grew her cheeks of beauty,
      Grew her eyes more large and bright.

Whiter grew her brow of marble,
      Softer grew her hand of snow,
Fainter came her voice's music,
      Feeble fell her steps and slow.

Then we wandered here but seldom,
      For it only seemed to cast
O'er our lives a deeper shadow —
      We were dreaming of the past —

And the tender, chastened aspect
      Of its beauty, seemed to say,
"All that's fair, alas! must wither,
      All that's beautiful decay."

But we never spoke of parting,
      Though we knew that we must part,
Either strove to hide that knowledge,
      From the other's bleeding heart.

But the Summer passed, and Autumn,
      Meek-eyed Autumn, came again,
With its wreath of faded flowerets,
      And its wealth of golden grain.

'Twas the solemn hour of midnight,
      And the moon shone clear and bright,
Silvering o'er the silent landscape,
      With its weird mysterious light,

When I stood among her kindred,
      Gazing on her features fair,
Stroking back the silken tresses
      Of her wavy ebon hair.

And she looked so like an angel,
      In her mute and dreamless sleep —
All the past came flooding o'er me,
      And I turned away to weep.

Came her voice serene and saint-like,
      "Do not leave me yet awhile;"
Then I looked, her eyes were brilliant,
      And her features wore a smile

As she gazed around upon us,
      Pointing with her snow-white hand,
Through the vista of the future,
      To that brighter, better land.

Softly whispering "Loved ones meet me,
      On that far celestial shore,
Where the noble faithful-hearted
      Meet again to part no more."

Then her hand dropped down beside her,
      O'er her features passed a change,
Pallid grew her lips and rigid,
      Glassy grew her eyes and strange.

And I knew, though almost frantic,
      As the dear white hand I pressed,
That the worn and weary spirit,
      Had at last gone home to rest.

Time passed on, and sunny summer
      Came again to deck our bowers,
With its robe of gold and emerald,
      And its wreath of ferns and flowers.

All around was love and beauty,
      All seemed happy as of yore,
But the bliss of vanished moments
      Came to cheer my heart no more.

And a weary, weeping wanderer,
      O'er this wilderness I roam,
Till the summons come — "'Tis finished!
      Leave thy toil and hasten home."

Last modified 3 September 2002