Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HEATH, by CHARLOTTE SMITH



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THE HEATH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Even the wide heath, where the unequal ground
Last Line: Of their hard lot.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Charlotte Turner
Subject(s): Plants; Planting; Planters


Even the wide Heath, where the unequal ground
Has never on its rugged surface felt
The hand of Industry, though wild and rough,
Is not without its beauty; here the furze,
Enrich'd among its spines, with golden flowers
Scents the keen air; while all its thorny groups
Wide scatter'd o'er the waste are full of life;
For 'midst its yellow bloom, the assembled chats
Wave high the tremulous wing, and with shrill notes,
But clear and pleasant, cheer the extensive heath.
Linnets in numerous flocks frequent it too,
And bashful, hiding in these scenes remote
From his congeners, (they who make the woods
And the thick copses echo to their song)
The heath-thrush makes his domicile; and while
His patient mate with downy bosom warms
Their future nestlings, he his love lay sings
Loud to the shaggy wild[.] -- the Erica here,
That o'er the Caledonian hills sublime
Spreads its dark mantle (where the bees delight
To seek their purest honey), flourishes,
Sometimes with bells like Amethysts, and then
Paler, and shaded like the maiden's cheek
With gradual blushes -- Other while, as white
As rime that hangs upon the frozen spray.
Of this, old Scotia's hardy mountaineers
Their rustic couches form; and there enjoy
Sleep, which beneath his velvet canopy
Luxurious idleness implores in vain!
Between the matted heath and ragged gorse
Wind natural walks of turf, as short and fine
As clothe the chalky downs; and there the sheep
Under some thorny bush, or where the fern
Lends a light shadow from the Sun, resort,
And ruminate or feed; and frequent there
Nourish'd by evening mists, the mushroom spreads
From a small ivory bulb, his circular roof[,]
The fairies['] fabled board[.] -- Poor is the soil,
And of the plants that clothe it few possess
Succulent moisture; yet a parasite
Clings even to them; for its entangling stalk
The wire[-]like dodder winds; and nourishes,
Rootless itself, its small white flowers on them.
So to the most unhappy of our race
Those, on whom never prosperous hour has smiled,
Towards whom Nature as a step-dame stern
Has cruelly dealt; and whom the world rejects[,]
To these forlorn ones, ever there adheres
Some self-consoling passion; round their hearts
Some vanity entwines itself; and hides,
And is perhaps in mercy given to hide,
The mortifying sad realities
Of their hard lot.





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