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.
This Poem refers to the illness and death of the Poet's beloved sister, Hannah, who returned home to die; and now rests in Endon churchyard.
'Twas in the waning of a glorious day:
The sun had sunk beyond the mist-swathed hills,
Crowned with an halo of celestial light.
The gauzy clouds, in various attitudes
Of light and shade, and changing constantly,
And moving slow, fringed with a golden blush,
Like festooned curtains draped the rosy west.
'Twas in the dawn of Autumn, and the scene
Was beautiful, but o'er it hung a hush,
That pensive, sad, half-sweet, half-mournful calm,
That quietude which quells Ambition's stride,
And sets the heart a-weeping vanished loves: —
That lull, when Nature in her glowing robe,
With all her charms matured, would seem to pause
Upon the brink of darkness and decay,
And sadly, tearfully in retrospect
Review the radiant but withered past.
'Twas thus when in a quiet room we sat,
A mournful band! for one, a birdling loved,
That long had fled the parent nest, had come
Again; a poor, wan, wasted thing, to die!
We sat beside her couch, and watched, and wept.
Awhile she lay, nor looked, nor moved, and then
The eyes blazed up, she smiled and thus she spoke —
"Oh, come and sit beside me once again,
And lay one cool hand on my burning brow,
And with the other closely, fondly clasp
This wasted, shrivelled hand of mine; no! yours!
All yours, my husband! even more than when
I stood beside you at the sacred shrine,
And vowed to love and honour and obey;
For now the bickering storms and cares of years,
The sunshine and the shadow we have shared;
And more than all, that strongest, tenderest tie,
Sole offspring of our union, beauteous flower!
Our fondest, brightest hope! our angel boy!
By kind and pitying Heaven a moment lent,
To shed a ray of brightness o'er our path,
To teach our hearts that strange deep tenderness,
To unlock that hidden fount — a parent's love;
Then taken, as the shepherd takes the lamb,
To draw the wandering sheep back to the fold.
All these have knit our souls intensely close,
In bonds of kindred suffering, hope, and love!
Come closer, closer, dear one! to my side,
And let me gaze with these fast-dimming orbs
Once more into the fountain of your own,
And watch the liquid tenderness gush out!
And let me hear again that low, deep voice,
Whose tones grown tremulous in days of yore,
Erst woke my virgin soul to ecstasy;
Call me once more your darling one, your own!
The mother of your seraph-boy, your wife!
Soothe me with gentle words, and let me lean
Upon you, downward to the river's brink.
How dark it grows, I scarce can see your face!
Is it the daylight fading, or my sight?
Perchance 'tis both!
How fast my poor heart beats
At times, then almost stops! this burning heat,
This rattling cough, and fever of disease;
This acrid thirst, and constant gasp for breath!
This weary stretch of patience, hope, and faith!
This useless clinging unto earthly love;
The world so beautiful, and worldly dreams
Will soon be o'er; the reign of flesh and sin,
The fightings, struggles, griefs, will soon be o'er,
And I shall be beyond them all; at rest!
Unbroken rest! Oh hasten, happy hour!
* * * * *
"Have I been sleeping? could it be a dream?
So beautiful it was, so real seemed,
A light broke softly round me, and a strain
Of thrilling music crept upon my sense:
A seraph form appeared, enrobed in white,
So radiant! I scarce could look; when, lo — !
The veil was lifted from its face, it smiled
And murmured 'Mother!' 'twas our angel Boy.
I strove to rise and follow him beyond,
When, all at once, in shining robes I stood
Upon an eminence, whose glittering brow
O'erlooked the universe; and far below
Vast worlds, and numberless, and bright, revolved
Through realms of space too vast for human thought;
I saw, but comprehended not, the power
That whirled them on; and heard their low, weird song.
I stood entranced, when came HIS thrilling voice;
'O mother, come!' I turned, and lo! a fount
Of crystal whiteness, and a mansion grand
Rose up beside me.
Trees and flowers and fruits,
Of rarest loveliness, and shady bowers,
And tinkling waterfalls, and shrub-fringed hills,
And landscapes fair rose up before and round;
And through the trees, vibrating softly, sounds
Of far-off music floated to my ear.
He led me on, our Boy! low whispering: Come!
'Oh, come and share this Paradise with me!'
I strove, but could not clasp him to my heart,
I bent to kiss the gorgeous flowers; they fled!
All fled, and night was round me, but a voice
Came from the distance: 'twas his voice, it said;
'Oh, come! and bid my father, too, to come.'
* * * * *
"Draw nearer, nearer, husband, kindred — all,
I am so cold; my heart! O mother! read
That beauteous Psalm you read me yester-e'en.
* * * * *
"How sweet! it falls like balm upon my soul!
Thou art my shepherd, Lord; I shall not want,
Yea, though I walk the valley dark, and though
The shade of death encompass me about;
No evil will I fear, for Thou art there,
Thy rod and staff sustain and comfort me.'
Oh, Saviour, come! dear Lord, I wait for Thee!
My flesh and spirit fail, my heart doth faint;
Be Thou my strength, my joy, and endless hope!
'Tis long to wait! I'm weary, weary, sick!
I languish, panting, on the river's brink,
And wait for Thee, and yearn for Thee; oh, come!
Come now, Lord Jesus, quickly, quickly come!
* * * * *
"Oh, moisten just once more my burning lips,
And raise my head, and wipe my fevered brow;
Then sing to me, with voices soft and low,
That song I love so much: The Better Land!'
* * * * *
"How beautiful! how strangely beautiful!
Your voices, oh, how sweet! and yet methought
I heard deep strains from far, commingling with,
And heightening much, the rapture of your own.
Hush! list! again they come, and rise and swell,
And wrap me up, and melt my soul away:
Soft, tremulous, intensely grand, they rise,
Then fall and die away; see, see, they come!
A vista opens; Angel hosts appear;
Light! Light! a blaze of light! our darling boy!
And far beyond my Saviour beckons me!
I go — farewell — meet me — at home — in Heav — !"
A moment more the white lips faintly moved,
But all was still; the voice had gone for aye;
A moment more the brilliant eyeballs rolled,
But saw not; for the soul had fled to rest!
The muscles strung, relaxed; the pulse grew still;
The eyelids drooped, the death-sweat came and stood
In beads upon that calm and sainted brow.
The pain, the grief, the anguish, all were o'er!
We knelt and wept in silence there awhile;
But half in grief and half in hope and joy:
Then rose and pressed the weary eyelids down,
And stretched the worn, thin limbs, and kissed the brow;
And wrapt her in her pure and snowy robe,
And on a dark, cold day, we bore that form
To where the loved of many kindred sleep!
We laid it there, and o'er it dropped a tear;
"Dust unto kindred dust," and all was o'er!
Last modified 4 September 2002
Last modified 4 September 2002