JOHN HARRIS, CORNISH MINER
A STORY OF CARN BREA.
THE Honest Miner's Walk to the Benevolent Lady—His Appreciation of Nature—God in everything—The precious Name—Soliloquy—Eulogy on the Bible—None but Jesus—Christ All in All—Earth's Changes—The old Man by the Tree—Loss of his Kindred—His Love of the Hills—Kind Greetings—Hayle River—The Rising Tide—Fording the Channel—The drowning Man—Evening—Children at Prayer—Fireside Happiness—My Cornish Cabin—The Mother and her Bible—Her pious Meditations—The solemn Rustle—Midnight Watching-Sad Tidings—Resignation—The pale Messenger—Surprising Discovery—The Funeral—The Honest Miner apostrophized—Cessation of the Storm—Sea-gull—Miner's Child—Thatcher—Riders again—The Corn-gleaner—Furze-glen—Summer—The Fisher—Lizard Lights—Cottage by the Brook—The great Wave—The Forsaken Nest—The parting Lay—Meteor—Exit of the Horsemen—Conclusion.
HE walk'd along, delighted with the world,
Delighted with himself, and all he met;
His eyes beheld, in everything around,
The grandeur of the Highest. In the hills,
Golden with heather, he discover'd God;
In the rude rocks that ribb'd them, and the clouds
That gather'd on their summits, and the light
Which oped their revelations, clearly he
Saw God; and in the valleys' shining, God;
In the dear wayside flowers, and narrow rills,
The trees, and shrubs, mosses, and blades of grass,
And humming bees, and sporting butterflies,
And white sand-grains along the sea-shore, God;
Above, below, and all around him, God.
His mind was full of light, his soul of prayer,
As, climbing hills and threading quiet dales,
He thus soliloquized 'mid ferns and fens:
"What joy to taste the stillness of the moors!
I feel afraid to shake their holiness
By breathing freely. Silence, beating heart,
And let me listen to the feet of God.
He walks among the, mosses, where the flow
Of Nature's anthem murmurs on the ear.
I rush away from man, to pour my thanks
Forth in her temple fill'd up with the Lord.
The rivers are my trumpets, and the trill
Of tongues unnumber'd my sweet choristers.
What bliss to worship here beneath the blue
Of heaven's broad ceiling, without fear of man!
Sweet breeze, O bear upon thy odorous wings
The praises of my Saviour! Hear, it, heaven,
And echo it, O earth, and roll it far,
Thou everlasting ocean. If I die
On some sharp crag, alone and hunger-pierced,
I 'll breathe the name of Jesus. If the sea
Engulph me in its grottoes, struggling hard
To foil the monster, that all-precious Name
Shall bubble from the breakers. If far off,
In some thick forest, where the wild beast roars
And serpents lick the dust, the hovering bird
Behold me pining, watching for my fall,
The name of Jesus from my closing lips
Shall but half-scare him from his quivering prey.
If, in the quiet of our moorland cot,
My spirit breaks its fetters, or within
The workhouse walls life's burden I lay down;
If in the mine I meet my sudden doom,
Or fall on Time's highway o'errun with care;
My latest utterance shall be Jesu's name.
"I turn my face towards those rock-crown'd carns,
Silently solemn, feeling that the law
Of God condemns me, and my trembling soul,
Beclouded, cries, 'Where shall I look for hope?'
And the deep desert rolls the query back,
'Where shall I look for hope?' The towering trees,
Nature's true prophets, ranged along the vale,
Look kindly on me in their green-leaf robes,
Fresh, beautiful, lyre-hung, and wonder-fraught;
And so I ask them, weeping at their roots,
'Where shall I look for hope?' and their firm trunks
Echo aloud, 'Where shall I look for hope?'
Over the brook I bend, the wayside brook,
And kiss its murmuring waters clear as truth,
And as dear songs float to me, borne along
By gentle wavelets to its grassy shore,
I ask the purling poet, loitering through
The dingle, with its idyls on its lips,
'Where shall I look for hope?' and the clear stream
Sobs in the shade, 'Where shall I look for hope?'
I gaze above, below, on either hand,
On steep and stone, on river, reef, and rill,
Asking them all, 'Where shall I look for hope?'
And back returns, 'Where shall I look for hope?
The grim rocks frown upon me,and the flowers
Hang down their heads in silence; bird and beast,
And grass, and grove, the earth, and sea, and sky,
Are silent, and my words wander through space
Like orphan forms, 'Where shall I look for hope?'
O blessed Bible! let me turn to thee,
Full of my Saviour, shining with His love!
Here is the door of mercy, shut to none
Who rest on Jesus, the chief Corner-stone.
Here, here is hope, built on the oath of God.
Shout it, my soul, and let the happy winds
Waft it upon their wings to farthest shores,
Till all mankind rejoice in its embrace.
Shout, God is love; He gave His only Son
To die for sinners, to atone for guilt,
Vast without compass, piled upon a world.
He who was high stoop'd down to lowliness,
To raise us to the riches of the skies.
Glory to Jesus! glory to His name!
The King of kings, the mighty Lord of lords!
Lend your bright wings, ye seraphs, that I may
Soar from earth's sorrows to the shining home
Of my Redeemer. Glory to the Lamb! "
And thus he journey'd on, with pilgrim pace,
As through Elysium, gathering purest joys
From meditation, where the robin sang,
Or through the hawthorns soar'd the shepherd's lay,
Or from the thickets rose the mighty rush
Of the rejoicing rivers. On he stole,
Companion'd with the comforts of the skies,
So soon to be where sin has left no stain .
Joyous was he; his soul was like a well
Of living waters, bubbling o'er its brim,
As thus he pour'd his fervid feeling forth:
"Forbid it, that I e'er should seek for rest
But in my loving Saviour. Do I not
Desire Him more than gold, or precious stones,
Or friends, or fame, or house, or fruitful farm P
Thou knowest, Father, that I dare not build
My hopes on earth's foundations. None but Thee
Do I desire, O precious Prince of Peace;
No, none but Thee, nor less than Thee be given.
But, ah! how slowly do I learn Thy love!
Like infant faltering o'er its mother's name,
Or staggering from the cradle to her arms.
Forgive me, Saviour, and inspire my heart
With grace and strength to serve Thee more and more.
O come, Great Spirit, scatter all the mist
Which hangs about the summit of my hopes,
And fill the' horizon of my faith with light.
Jesus is all, my Comforter, my Friend, "
Refuge and Rock, my Fortress and my Tower,
My First and Last. I drop into His arms."
Ah, world, how changeful art thou! Morning dawns
On hopes in embryo, withering ere the Eve
Draws her grey cloak around her. All things here
Have marks of change upon them, and a sigh
Is ever creeping at the heels of Joy.
He pass'd an old man, sitting by a tree,
Whose hair was white as winter. He had left,
Within the churchyard, by the belfry porch,
Each vestige of his kindred; so that now
He had no child but Nature, whom he loved
With all a poet's fondness. They exchanged
Few words of kindness, greetings of the heart,
And then, as quickly parting, went their way.
He reach'd Hayle River at the rising tide,
And, glad to save three miles of weary road,
Resolved to ford the channel. Be it known,
That in those days no Causeway spann'd the void;
But Art has now another daughter here.
His feet are in the water, which becomes
Deeper at every step, yet deeper still;
Now at his loins, and now above his breast,
And now it reaches even to his chin.
Hope leaves him blinded. A black-chamber'd wave"
Rolls with a roar upon him, the loose sand
Yields underneath, when, thrusting up his arms,
A prayer to Jesus rushes from his lips,
And down the good man sinks to rise no more.
"Come, little ones, and lay your toys aside,"
Said the fond mother; "kiss me once again,
Kneel at your prayers, and creep into your beds. '
The moon is come before your loving sire.
I'll sit and read my Bible." Then they clasp'd
Their little hands; and pray'd that God would bless
Their father and their mother, make all good,
And take them up at last to heaven's bright home,
And, lying on their couches, fell asleep,
With summer landscapes sweeping through their dreams.
How sweet is home when day's hard task is done,
And Labour's forge is silent; when the song
Of village milkmaid warbles from the mead,
And twilight idyls tremble through the trees!
I oft have felt, when sitting in my cot,
After a day of trial; such as those
Who dig in darkness only can conceive,—
I oft have felt, as round me shook the buds
With household music which my Father gave,
To deck my dwelling on the pensive moor,—
I oft have felt, when loving eyes have turn'd
Upon my face, and loving words have dropp'd
Upon my ears, that I would not exchange
My Cornish cabin, fragrant with the breath
Of richest roses, for a gilded court,
Where little children fill not life with love;
And when those gentle song-strains have been hush'd
By sleep's enchantments, and a solemn spell
Has dropp'd upon me, I have snatch'd my harp,
And its wild music, rushing round my hearth, '
Has quite o'erturn'd the wasting wail of care,
And lull'd me in a land of pleasant streams.
She read, re-read, and then read o'er again,
The precious page of promise: "Let your heart
Be free from sorrow; rest upon My word.'
Beyond the stars are mansions, where the sun
Scorches no more, nor pang is felt of pain;
Ana those who love Me shall be where I am,
And see My face for ever;" and the tears
Fell on the page that cheer'd the worshipper.
"O, there are times," she said, and raised her eyes
From the worn Bible, "when my spirit longs
To leave this prison, and go home to rest.
Like a lorn bird confined in cruel cage,
Fluttering its wings, and picking at the bars,
Longing to break the wires, and mount away;
So does my spirit pant for its release.
But soon the silver cord shall be unloosed,
The bird shall leave its cage of closing clay,
And like the lark among the morning clouds,
Whose song is sweeter as he higher soars,
So shall I feel upon my angel-car."
And then a rustle, like a hundred wings,
Seem'd to sweep by her. Starting quickly up,
She hasten'd to the door to look for him,
Her light in darkness, wondering why the stars
Shone clear, and solemn midnight long had past,
And he not come to brighten all below.
She kiss'd her babes again, and knelt in prayer.
The night was spent in watching, and when morn
Call'd up the ploughboy from his bed of sedge,
And robin shook his wings among the leaves,
And sparrow on the housetop, down the lane
Came a pale man, with sorrow in his face,
And words of sadness stealing from his tongue.
Their import, like a dreadful monster, rush'd,
And fell'd her to the floor, and when this flash
Of faintness left her, she was shatter'd so,
They scarcely knew her; yet with feeble voice
She gently murmur'd, "God Hath given me all,
And He hath taken, blessed be His name!
My dear-loved treasure to the land of flowers.
O be my Husband, great eternal King,
And shield my blossoms from the ice of want.
And as I travel through this lonely world,
O let Thy face illuminate my path,
And cheer me with Thy presence, till beyond
The blue of ether I regain my mate,
Where Paradise reveals her living streams."
And then the messenger, with faltering voice,
Told where her husband in a fisher's shed
Lay shrouded in a sail-cloth, dead, and drown'd ,
And she inform'd him, trembling, how he took
Three guineas, purposing with it to pay
Their debt of kindness to good Mrs. Worth.
He hasten'd back and publish'd what he heard.
They search'd his pockets, but no gold was there.
They look'd along the beach, among the shells,
And in the sand; but it could not be found.
Some one observed his right hand firmly clench'd.
'T was open'd, and Surprise brush'd back her hair,
And Wonder stared with silence on his lips,
To see it shining in the dead man's palm.
His promise seem'd to occupy his mind,
When the last life-string crack'd beneath the wave.
"The funeral day came, laden with the mist
Of lazy clouds that cover'd all the heavens.
The mourning train moves down the mossy moor,
Singing a solemn dirge, through hamlets lone,
And meads all mournful, to the churchyard stile.
The coffin was lower'd down, the good man read
The sweetly-solemn service, as great sobs
With heavy utterance labour from her soul.
Strangers were there, and loving relatives,
And neighbours wiped their eyes. His children, too,
Were there, in weeds of mourning, and their feet
Sank in the slimy mould which soon will hide
Their loving parent underneath the ground.
A little robin on a cypress limb
Pour'd forth a dirge for the departed one,
As pensive as the trickle of a stream.
Hail, honest miner! such true worth as thine
Has more of glory than the din of blades.
Thou wert among the dwellers of the earth
Like moonlight on the mountains, guiding feet,
All prone to stumble in the gloom of sin,
To halo'd bowers of rectitude and right.
Life's closing drama, like the blaze of heaven,
Flash'd out in darkness; the black curtain fell,
With thy free thoughts, like sea-beat, missing barks,
Steering towards the harbour they had left,
Where friend was longing to embrace his friend,
And love to weep upon the neck of love,
Fatally foundering even at its mouth.
Hail, honest miner! to thy ashes peace!
Entomb'd in quiet 'neath the blessed flowers,
Where country winds are sighing, and the stars
Look down on tower, and tree, and village spire.
The great Recorder, in the land of leaves
That never wither, shall reveal thy name
Among the noble on Life's mighty page.
And now the rain had ceased, the wind was gone,
The clouds had fled behind the farthest hills;
The thrush came forth, and on the dripping thorn
Sang its last vesper to the peering star;
The swollen rivers through the valleys rush'd
With lofty voices, each a solemn song;
The rustling sea-gull wheel'd along the void;
The old mount, with its altar of grey rocks,
And a few tears upon its shining face,
Rose in the blue of heaven with quiet crown'd.
Beneath the eaves of a thatch'd cottage near,
A miner's child was singing to the moon,
Whose crescent gleam'd above the castle's roof.
Strains softly sweet gush'd from a thousand lyres,
And down the lane beside the lover's well
The thatcher whistled walking to his home.
Up rose the riders, musing to depart,
But not before she told them how her sons
And grown-up daughters left her one by one;
Some for the seas, some for the vale of gold,
Some to seek lands, and some slept in their graves.
But God upheld her alway. His kind care
Was like a cloak around her; food, and rest,
And peace, and hope, were with her evermore;
And still she trusted that the Lord would bring
Her safely through the wilderness, and guide
The weary pilgrim to the home of heaven.
Buttoning their coats, one to the other said:
"You know the poor corn-gleaner, with a hood
Over her bonnet, whom we saw to-day
Crossing a stile, leading her little girl
With paleness on her forehead? Her sad tale
Would move a heart of diamond. O'er yon hill
That sends a gale of odour through the moors
From furze, and fern, and broom with golden bells,
So that the dweller in the city-street,
Treading our turf and breathing the pure air,
Exclaims renew'd, 'What floating fragrance here!'
Over, yon hill trod by the feet of bards,
Who love to walk within its hoary caves,
And trill their sonnets, smiles a cottage-home,
With reedy roof, and honeysuckle porch,
And pretty garden, like an isle of bloom:
And here, a blithe carn-nymph, she sweetly pass'd
Her girlhood, and ten years of marriage life,
As happy as a princess, love-o'erflow'd,
Until the winds of wild adversity
Came howling in their chariots, bearing off
Her summer glory to the land of cloud.
Then earth appear'd a gloomy sepulchre,
And for a season heaven was hung in black.
"'T was summer time, the sun was on his march,
The white clouds drifted to their western homes;
Beauty lay down, and dreamt upon the thyme,
Or carol'd through the thicket; swallows skimm'd
O'er glassy pools, or dash'd athwart the dells;
Breeze follow'd breeze, in amorous pursuit,
Kissing among the, rushes, or on high
Murmuring their loves in the fresh fields of air,
And now descending to the limpid rill,
Brushing its wavelets with their welcome wings,
Stealing into the little lattice low,
Where sickness bound the sufferer, cheering him
With freshness gather'd from the fields and flowers;
Now shaking through the hoary locks of Age,
Resting upon his thorn-staff, thought-o'ercome;
Now kissing the fair child, whose hands were full
Of gather'd flowers, not fairer than herself;
Now murmuring o'er the hamlets, now away
Among the lichen by the great sea shore;
Now in the meadow, now along the mine,
And now beyond the farthest flight of thought.
Songs fill'd the welkin, songs o'erflow'd the dell,
And gush'd from every crevice of the cliff.
The bright sea-waves stole singing to the shore,
With music in their chambers; and the world
Above, below, seem'd one rejoicing note
Of love and thankfulness to the Supreme.
"Her husband was a fisher, and that day,
On a large rock beneath the Lizard Lights,
He sat and chimed his song, as heretofore,
With hook and bait, in patient watchfulness
To capture that which brought his household all.
Nature was grand with wildness; crag, and creek,
And curious carn, and sea-birds perch'd around,
Or riding on the waters like a plume,
All undisturb'd within their tuneful doors,
And scarcely stirring at the approach of man.
The bright blue sky, the ever-moving main,
And fanes of serpentine o'erflowed with song,
While voices roll'd from billow, bank, and brake,
Or crash'd from organs hidden in the heights.
His cottage, up the valley by a brook,
Was plainly seen, and at its rustic door
His wife and children watch'd him on the moss;
She knitting, and they playing, bright with bliss,
When suddenly a great wave, growing still,
And rising higher as it onward roll'd,
Rush'd o'er the rock, and fell in sparkling foam,
Tumbling him in the water quick as thought;
And as they gazed, he struggled with the waves,
Which bore him seaward, onward, outward still,
Until he sank exhausted, and gave up
His ghost beneath the billows. Still they gazed,
And wrung their hands, and wailing tore their hair;
They saw his body rise bereft of life,
It drifted from them still away, away;
Then from the highest, farthest, fullest crag,
A huge sea-bird dropp'd on the floating corse,
And with rapacious beak began to pick
His stiffening scalp. They wail'd and cried to Heaven,
And gazed, and wiped their eyes, and wail'd again,
Until the body and the great sea-bird
Shrunk into haze, and dwindled out of sight.
Nothing on earth but merges into change.
That morning shone on their unsever'd band;
The evening saw them lone and desolate,
Their song a shriek, their light a thick cold gloom,
Their nest forsaken, all its music fled,
The green reed-bruised, the blossoms crush'd and torn;
They fatherless and friendless in the strife,
She entering on her night of widowhood."
Full hastily they sang their parting lay,
Then from their purses cheer'd their hostess' heart"
Mounted their steeds, and turn'd a parting look
On the calm monarch in the evening's gloom,
Marking distinctly just above its base.
A little glow-worm shining in a rift,
Channell'd long since by the wild water-sprite,
And garnish'd over with the god of flowers.
They gazed, yet spoke not, pleased with quiet thought;
When all at once a meteor, like a stream
Of purest silver, shot athwart the heavens,
And on its march it almost seem'd to sweep
The summit of the mountain. This aroused
Them both to action: they exclaim'd, "How grand!"
And onward dash'd the horsemen.