William Andrews.

North country poets : poems and biographies of natives or residents of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire online

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Concealed 'neath a mantle of snow,
Close down by the side of the rustic porch,

Where in summer the daisies grow ;
In the waning light of an afternoon,

A Sabbath not long ago,
We buried her deep in the cold, cold earth,

In that little grave under the snow.

Escaping the cares of the after-life,

The struggles, and sorrows, and tears,
The rumble and din of contending strife,

And the buffets of after years ;
Free from all these in the sheltering earth,

Till the trumpet of summons shall blow,
Free from the trials that follow our birth,

In the little grave under the snow.

True ! there's a father on earth, whose love

Its object and centre will miss ;
But there is a Father who watches above

To guide her through realms of bliss ;
The spirit is with its compassionate God,

And the angelic face is aglow
As a heaven-missioned being sits guard o'er the sod,

O'er that little grave under the snow.

Ah ! doubtless she looks from the land of blue,

And watches her mother in tears,
And the playmates whose hearts to her own beat true

Will she watch through the rolling years ?
Hovering over the home of the dead,

In the toiling world below,
Where the leaves from the churchyard trees are spread

O'er that little grave under the snow.

John Rowell Waller. 141

And the Spring will come with its primrose tints,

And the Summer with its violets sweet,
And the Autumn arrayed in her mellowing light,

Will follow with gold-clad feet ;
Then Winter again with its ghostly throng

O'er the sleeper will rudely blow,
And the robin will twitter his sweet old song,

Near the little grave under the snow.

And the father will sit by the lonely hearth,

And think of his dear dead dove,
Whose soul from the body is parted and gone

To sit 'mong the angels above ;
And the children at times as they wander to church,

A look of mute sorrow will throw
On that mound of earth near the rustic porch

The little grave under the snow.


A hush of other realms it seemed

Keigned down the tessellated aisle,
And through one mullioned window beamed

A shaft of light, that, like a smile,
The grey wall kissed, and softly gleamed
Along the organ-pipes the while ;
And on the key-board's face it kissed
The white hand of the organist.

She sat within the church alone ;
Her holy face, so calm, so fair,
As lit by sweet communion, shone,

Contrasting with her midnight hair,
Low was her voice and soft its tone,
For hopes and dreams of Heaven were there
The playful sunbeam moved, and kissed
The fair arm of the organist.

142 North Country Poets.

And trembling carne each mournful note,

As o'er the keys her fingers went ;
Far down the nave they seemed to float,

Till sadness seemed with gladness blent,
And pathos from the fair white throat
Pealed out, and by the font was spent :
The sunbeam quivered while it kissed
The bosom of the organist.

Deep prayers on mournful notes were flung,

And swept away on trustful wings,
And through the chancel's rest they rung

Sweet pleadings for diviner things,
And from the shrine of heart and tongue
Well'd up to God the secret springs ;
And, rising still, the sunbeam kissed
The pure lips of the organist.

And yet, with cadence deep aod low,

The mingled prayer and praise went forth ;
And heaving breast, and face aglow,

And touch inspired, bespoke their worth,
While thought and yearning seemed to flow
Away from scenes and forms of earth ;

And God's love, through the sunbeam, kissed
The moist eyes of the organist.


Oh ! green lanes of Northumberland ;

What Springs have come, all cowslip-drest,
To strew their gems on earth's green breast ;
What diamonds of the early dew,
In settings of the purest blue,
Have hung upon sweet violet tips,
And tried to kiss her luscious lips ;

John Rowell Waller. 143

And e'en the pale anemone
Her sister violet might not see,
For, lo ! she hung her head close by
The moisture brimmed her lovely eye,
Till Sol shot down an amorous ray,
And sucked the glittering tear away,
Oh ! green lanes of Northumberland.

Oh ! green lanes of Northumberland,

What Summer winds have paused to play
Through white festoons of hawthorn spray,
And woo'd till all her sweets were given
In scents that must have come from heaven ;
But, best to me of all your charms,
The dog-rose in the woodbine's arms,
"Won ere the west wind's love was sung,
Her cheek-hued petals freely flung
Down on the slope where speedwells gleamed
And odorous clover dozed and dreamed ;
Prone in the grass the darnel lay
Too languid to salute the day,

Oh ! green lanes of Northumberland.

Oh ! brown lanes of Northumberland,

What Autumn nights have touched the flow'rs,

And shut them in the sunset hours ;

Have touched the hedgerows green and fair,

And hung the hawthorn berries there ;

The leaves in every shade of brown,

'Ere rude winds brought them swirling down,

Had robed the trees in richest dress

Of chrome and sepia loveliness ;

November chills came down the breeze,

And frosted on the weirdly trees ;

Lo ! dankling in deep guttersjay

The umber flecks of yesterday,
Oh ! brown lanes of Northumberland.

144 North Country Poets.

Oh ! white lanes of Northumberland,

What Winter winds have brought the snows
To drift and fill the long hedgerows ;
The lonely moon's half-ghostly light
Gleamed o'er the slopes of spotless white,
Some nightshade berries, burning red,
Glared on the soft and flaky bed
Half startling with their crimson stain
Like blood-tracks on the Polar plain.
Lo ! deeper beauties, teeming still,
Are born of God's almighty will,
That all my life's rude lines along
Have taught me this sweet art of song,

Oh ! white lanes of Northumberland.

Dora Greenwell.


Dora Greenwell.

Thomas and Dorothy Greenwell, of Greenwell Ford, near
the old lloman station of Lanchester, Durham, was born,
Dec. 6th, 1821, an only daughter, to whom was given the
mother's name, affectionately softened into Dora. Her
home was a commodious ancestral mansion. Her father,
a man of wealth and position, was active and popular asa
magistrate, and Deputy Lieutenant of the county, he and
his little girl numbering the historian Surtees amongst
their many friends. Nine miles from a town, postal service weekly, it may
be imagined that Dora had few playmates but her brothers. She, however,
made a companion of a " brawling brook," the Browny, that leaped and ran
through the estate, and she was given to wander alone by this, following its
picturesque course by path, or no path, resting on out-cropping grey rocks,
learning the secrets of nature, and filling her young mind with poetic images
before the power of expression came to her. By the time that was hers she
was a delicate girl, with but a frail hold on life, needing all care and
tendance. Yet song came to her early. It was not, however, until her
father's easy-going confiding nature, and a lawsuit, brought ruin on his
family, that she gave the out-pouring of her genius to the world. Song is
born of suffering, and when, in 1848, the family had to surrender the
luxurious estate their ancestors had held from the days of Henry VIII.,
the wrench at the unexpected parting affected Dora exceedingly. It was a
blow from which she never wholly recovered, as her correspondence even
twenty years later could testify. She had grown up from shy and gentle
childhood to imaginative soul-searching womanhood, in those " pleasant
places " where she and her family thought they "were as safely planted as the
trees." Sad was the reverse when only the interest of Mrs. Greenwell's
own fortune remained to them. As Dora expressed it, " Money troubles
do away with the pleasant glossy part of life," and her opinion that
" Making both ends meet is such a miserable idea of perfection, I should
like them to tie in a handsome bow," was the playful expression of her
own painful experience.

On the sale of his house and lands, Mr. Greenwell, his wife, and
daughter, went to live for a time at Ovingham Eectory, Northumberland,
with the eldest son William, now Canon Greenwell, of Durham, the noted
antiquary and geologist. It was during her brief residence here, in 1848,
that Miss Greenwell sent her first volume of poems to the press. Pickering
was the publisher. Later we find her with her brother Allan, at Go! bourne
Kectory, in Lancashire ; but in 1854, when she was thirty-two, she settled
dowu with her mother in the quiet ecclesiastical precincts known as " The
Bailey," Durham, where Mrs. Greenwell's early years had been spent. In
the meantime a change had come over the quaint cathedral city, warming

146 North Country Poets.

it into life. That behind-the-time, narrow-minded, exclusive section of its
society, which had pitied " Poor dear Dora" for her poetic gift and the
publication of her first " Poems," had bowed to the dictum of those higher
intelligences who had stamped them as the work of genius ; and her second
volume had a very different reception. The eighteen years spent by Miss
Greenwell under the shadow of the old cathedral, must be named as the
period of highest intellectual development, though pain and exhaustion
prostrated the frail body. That the mind rises above and is independent
of physical weakness is an experience by no means peculiar to Dora
Greenwell, though hers soared to altitudes out of ordinary reach. Yet how
much she suffered of bitter memory, of absolute pain, and how her religious
soul fought against surrender, and imbued earthly things with spiritual
meanings, is evident in all she has written, whether in her learned prose
or her symbolic poetry. She was too mystical for popularity with the
multitude, though she struck her harp with a masterly hand, as the few
poems we have space to quote can but faintly indicate.

She threw herself heart and soul into various philanthropic movements,
writing poems, essays, and booklets, too many for enumeration here, as
moved by the Irish Famine, the sufferings of Gang Children, the Cotton
Famine, and Vivisection, and she especially interested herself for a Home for
Imbecile Children. Her friendships were many and lasting, notably with
the Constable family of Edinburgh, and Professor Knight, with whom she
had a philosophic correspondence. Her conversation was full of point and
originality ; learned or piquant as the case might be.

When " Carmina Crucis " was published in 1869, Miss Greenwell's
newly adopted symbol appeared upon the title-page, a hand grasping a
cross, accompanied by the motto " Et Teneo, et Teneor," and so on all her
successive works. Of these, " The Two Friends," and " Colloquice Crucis,"
a sequel published in 1871, are in prose the arguments of two imaginary
friends on Christianity. "The Soul's Legend," from which we extract
" The Red-breast," appeared in 1873; "Camera Obscura," in 1876, gives
us " The Blade of Grass." In this small book are also two prose-poems,
"The Broken Cither," and " My Little Companions," in which whosoever
runs may read reminiscences of her lost home at Greenwell Ford. Besides
these appeared from time to time her great prose work "Lacordaire " ; two
volumes of essays, one bearing the title "Liber Humanitatis ; " "The
Covenant of Life and Peace ; " " The Patience of Hope " (first published in
America, with an introduction by Whittier) ; an enlarged edition of her
Poems, and " The Songs of Salvation."

On the death of her mother, Miss Greenwell quitted Durham for
Clifton and her brother Allan, her health completely broken by long
watching by the invalid. From Clifton she retired to Great College Street,
Westminster, and after one or two other removes met with an accident and
died at Clifton, March 29th, 1881, mourned by many besides her proverbial
" loose fringe " of dependents.


Dora Greenwell. 147


A sword shall go through thine own heart." Prophecy of ZACHARIAS.

Oh ! little blade of grass,

A little sword thou art,
That in thy haste to pass

Hast pierced thy mother's heart !

Oh ! little blade of grass,

A little tongue thou art
Of cleaving flame, alas !

Thou hast cleft thy mother's heart.

Oh ! little blade, upcurled

Leaf, sword, or fiery dart,
To win thy Father's world

Thou must break thy mother's heart !


Weep not for them who weep
For friend or lover taken hence, for child
That falls 'mid early flowers and grass asleep,

Untempted, undefiled.

Mourn not for them that mourn
For sin's keen arrow with its rankling smart,
God's hand will bind again what He hath torn,

He heals the broken heart.

But weep for him whose eye
Sees in the midnight skies a starry dome
Thick sown with worlds that whirl and hurry by,

And give the heart no home ;

148 North Country Poets.

Who hears amid the dense
Loud trampling crash and outcry of this wild
Thick jungle world of drear magnificence,

No voice which says, my child ;

Who marks through earth and space
A strange dumb pageant pass before a vacant shrine,
And feels within his inmost soul a place

Unfill'd by the Divine ;

Weep, weep, for him, above
That looks for God, and sees unpitying Fate,
That finds within his heart, in place of love,

A dull, unsleeping hate.


" Far, far away, is a land of woe and darkness, spirits of evil and fire.
Day after day a little bird flies there, bearing in his bill a drop of water to
quench the flame. So near to the burning stream does he fly that his
feathers are scorched by it, and hence he is named ' Bron-rhuddyn ' (breast-
burned)." A Carmarthenshire Legend of the Robin.

The souls in bliss to souls in woe

Would fain a message send :
It is not love, above, below,

That loves not to the end ;
This know I, though I little yet

Love's secret apprehend.

But how shall love with love prevail

Its message sweet to take,
What wing that will not droop and fail,

What spirit but will quake,
To bear it through the gloomy vale,

Across the fiery lake ?

Dora Greenwell. 149

In heaven was silence ! sweet to hear

The songs that angels sing,
Yet sweeter then had been the clear

Quick rustle of a wing.
On earth was silence ! to the sun

The eagle soared ; apart
The dove, in grief or love for one

Sate, brooding o'er her heart ;
Wings, wings ! a heaven and earth of wings,

Outspread, unstirred, and free ;
I only heard one little bird

Make answer then, " Send rne."

A little bird, ^unseen, unheard,

When summer woods are gay,
That flits across a darkening path

And haunts a leafless spray ;
Its song is broken, sweet, and wild,

Its eye is bright and clear ;
It singeth best when to the West

The sinking sun draws near :
A bird beloved by man and child,

And to its Maker dear.

It trills not with the nightingale,

It moans not with the dove,
It hath no fond heart-piercing wail

Of passion nor of love ;
It mounts not with the lark on wings

Of rapture and desire,
It hath a heart that does not quail,

A wing that does not tire.

" I do not fear the valley drear,

Nor yet beyond the gate
What lies, though it indeed be vast,

And dim, and desolate.

*In spring the red-breast retires to woods and thickets. Durisg summer
it is rarely to be seen. Bewick's British Birds.

150 North Country Poets.

My breast is scorched with fire, so near
The burning wind I fly ; to fear
Would now for me be late.

" For me the little children spread

Their crumbs upon the snow,
I stay with them, and I am fed

When the swallows flit and go ;
I have eaten of man's daily bread

Too long to shun his woe ;
I have met earth's sleety blast,

I have felt its driving rain :
The time of fear is overpast

For one, the mate of pain ;

" Yea, more ! upon the bitter cross

I saw One hang, who bore
Of all Creation's wrong and loss,

The weight and burden sore ;
And then from out a brow divine,

With anguish pierced and torn,
I strove, with this small beak of mine,

To wrest a single thorn.

" Too slender was my little bill ;

I strove and strove in vain ;
But then, in guerdon of my will,

My bosom met a stain,
Broad, ruddy, deep, that shields from ill,

And marks it unto pain."

Oh, little bird ! these words of thine
Methinks are true and wise !

For he who looks on man who lives,
Who looks on God that dies,

Dora Greenwell. 151

Baptized within the cloud, the sea,
Baptized within the fire, like thee,
May pass along the valley drear,
And through the gateway dim, nor fear

For aught beyond that lies.*
November, 15th, 1870. *1 Cor. x 2.


Two birds within one nest ;
Two hearts within one breast ;
Two spirits in one fair
Firm league of love and prayer,
Together bound for aye, together blest.

An ear that waits to catch
A hand upon the latch ;
A step that hastens its sweet rest to win
A world of care without,
A world of strife shut out,
A world of love shut in.


North Country Poets.

William Weaver Tomlinson.

OET, journalist, and general litterateur ; archaeologist,
linguist, botanist ; an omnivorous reader, a hard student,
and an indefatigable worker, Mr. W. W. Tomlinson, not-
withstanding the multiplicity and diversity of the interests
that have engaged him, has always, with a steady method
and purpose, devoted himself to one thing at a time, and
thus obtained a sound proficiency in many departments.
He was born on the 5th October, 1858, at Driffield, in
Yorkshire ; his early days were spent in the outskirts of Beverley, the
quaint sleepy old minster -town lying in gardens and trees in the richest
agricultural district of Holderness. He was educated under Mr. Dyson,
of Beverley, and on the removal of his family, in 1872, to Newcastle-
on-Tyne, he was sent for a short time to the Koyal Grammar School
there. At present he serves in the accountant's office of the North
Eastern Railway Company, in Newcastle, and resides at Whitley-
by-the Sea. Who does not conquer before thirty will never conquer
I think Schiller said something to this effect. Mr. Tomlinson is now
in his thirtieth year, and a much abridged catalogue of his various
achievements would, I think, give sufficient evidence of the fact that he
need not be abashed by the maxim. His numerous journalistic articles
have always a distinct literary value and finish, which, combined with the
wide knowledge and keen practicality he brings to bear, constitute him a
contributor to the press of no mean importance. At the period of the
Crofter disturbance he was sent by the Newcastle Chronicle, one of the most
influential provincial papers, as special correspondent to Tiree, and his
report was as copious as it was interesting. Of his archaeological
attainments and descriptive powers he gave ample evidence in 1887 in his
" Guide to Newcastle-on-Tyne," a work both concise and exhaustive. Since
then he has compiled an elaborate " Guide to Northumberland," just pub-
lished by Mr. Walter Scott, and by this his reputation as an historian and
archaeologist will be firmly established. Amongst the best-remembered lec-
tures which for some years past Mr. Tomlinson has been in the habit of
giving in the Hall of the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle,
are those on " The Poets of Newcastle," "The Humorous Poets of the
Nineteenth Century," and " De Lamartine." Though Mr. Tomlinson has
printed much verse, the only collection of his poems in book form is
contained in a small volume entitled " First Fruits," published in 1881.
It is distinguished by the mastery it exhibits of poetic technique, which is
one of Mr. Tomlinson's strong points ; he is, in fact, intimately acquainted
with that most occult of mysteries, the technique of French verse, and he
has written on this as well as on the history of French poetry. As a
translator of Clement Marot, of Francois Coppee, of Leconte de Lisle, and

William Weaver Tomlinson. 153

of other foreign poets, his renderings, close in their adherence to the
original, have at the same time a charm of their own. I have allowed
myself but little space for exposition or criticism of Mr. Tomlinson
as a poet, thinking that the quotation given below may well speak for him in
this respect ; and that a brief account of the man, as one of the generation
of men of letters likely to make a considerable mark in the near future,
would be more valuable.



In Hexham Abbey Church there is preserved a curious stone seat called
" The Fridstol," an interesting relic of pre-Reformation times, when the
monks had the privilege of affording sanctuary to those who had shed
human blood or committed some heinous crime. Four boundary-stones
marked the Lcuga, or circuit of the sanctuary, which extended for one mile
round the church. The sites of two are known from the names Maiden
Cross on the west, and White Cross Fields on the east. Near Beverley a
sanctuary-cross is standing in situ in a field by the side of the York Road.
The " Monk's Stone," near Tynemouth, is also believed to have marked the
limit of the leuga round the Priory. Anyone apprehending a fugitive
within the circuit rendered himself liable to a penalty, varying according
to the distance from the centre of the sanctuary. If the avenger of blood
dared to take a fugitive when seated within the Fridstol the offence was
unredeemable by any fine. There probably hung upon the door of the
church, as at Durham, a grotesque iron mask by way of knocker, with
candles kept burning at night-time behind its eyes and mouth, to direct the
fugitive approaching through the darkness. On being admitted, the man-
slayer, or malefactor, was obliged to make a full confession of his crime,
and take an oath to be " true and faithful " to the authorities of the church,
and to refrain from violating the king's peace in any way. Also, he was to
be ready to assist in the defence of the town if needs be. When he had
kissed the book and paid the requisite fees, he was admitted as a grithman
and domiciliated in the town.

" Why luik ye sae, ray ain true love?

What ill sight hae ye seen ? "
" A slayne man, wha has cast on me

The glamour o' his een.

" An' gin I flee not far away,

A deid man I shall be.
Swift is the sword ! My bonnie bairn,

What gars ye rin frae me ?

154 North Country Poets.

" Ain I a ghaist (as he is ane),

Wha bodeth thee nae gude '? "
" feyther, dinna touch me noo,

Yer hands are rede wi' blude."

" Sweet wife o' mine, fare-weel ! This day

May end in dule for thee ;
The bird that sings the sunset's dirge

May sing a dirge for me ! "

He kissed her wan lips, and was gone

Or ere a tear could start ;
His limbs were light, and strong, but oh !

They bore a heavy heart.

By muir and rnoss he took his way,

The dew yet on his feet ;
The larks were lilting as he sped

Adown the Clennell Street.*

From Coquet came an eerie sound

A sound of spates f set free
The while the water-kelpies sang,

And laughed with elfin glee.

Down came the moorland waters, clear

As amber in the sun ;
Not lightly would the dalesmen dare

The ford of Alwinton.

No way but one was left to him,

And that was through the ford ;
For lo ! behind, the morning sun

Flashed on a naked sword.

* Clennell Street a path through Kidland to Clennell. " Street "
here is used in its original Anglo-Saxon signification of a " way spread out
or paved."

t Spates rapid floods that come down a river after a great fall of rain
among the hills.

William Weaver Tomlinson. 155

His feet were on the other bank,

When hark ! a sudden scream !
And oh ! it was a little child

Had fallen in the stream.

He paused a moment, yea, but one,

To crush a base thought dead,
Then plunged to where a gleam of gold

Played round a golden head.

" Whatever ill betide to me,

This chance I may not rue,
Whereby I save, to smile again,

Those tender eyes of blue."

He laid her on the sunny bank,

Among the gowans there ;
Then fled again before the sword

That shimmered through the air.

A shadow from the olden times

Fell on him as he saw
The Draag-stone,* that had still the power

To chill men's hearts with awe.

Beneath the hold of Harbottell,

And through the little town,
He took his way across the moors

Where Yardhope hill looks down.

The curlews, rising warily,

Wheeled round him as he ran,
Then downward swooped ; too wily they

To fear a hunted man.

* Draag-Stone a huge mass of rock, thirty feet high, perched on Har-
bottle Crags. It is believed to have had some connection with Druidical
worship. A custom which prevailed till the beginning of the century, of
passing sick children over the Draag-Stone to promote their recovery,

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Online LibraryWilliam AndrewsNorth country poets : poems and biographies of natives or residents of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire → online text (page 10 of 19)