More poems

More Poems by John Harris

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No words have power to utter half the feeling

Which through my being flows,

While moorland music is around me stealing,

To hail the summer rose.

How love I silence and the rush of waters,

The brooklet’s gentle tone,

And solitude with her dear twilight daughters,

Musing o’er bypaths lone!

And when the sunset cleaves the waves asunder,

I read their crests of red,

Or steal enraptured through the moon’s white wonder

With star-shafts over-head.

Still hear I psalms where wells their treasures render,

And rush and rock abound,

As sorrow healing and as sweetly tender

As when my harp I found.

And so ‘twill be till life’s last lay is written,

And twilight’s portals close:

When tottering time with death’s sharp scythe is smitten,

My heart is with the rose.

John Harris, 

‘Tales and Poems’


O’er-shadowed, still retreat, track trod by tuneful feet,

Haunt of the swallow, robin’s rich domain

The freehold of the wren, the fairies chamber when

The moon is fullest! Welcome, village lane.

Beneath some ancient trees, shook by the sighing breeze,

A few roods past the last house and the mill,

Bubbles the village well where lads and lasses tell

The hamlet’s wonders when the day is still.

Yes, here true lovers stray, when comes the cool of day

Whispering their loves beneath the hawthorn tree,

Forgetful how the night steals o’er the darkening height

And living each that each might happier be.

And who? though earthy poor, Begrimed with care all o’er,

And sadly sad as ever sad can be

Would not forget his pain when wandering down the lane,

Where robin builds within the hollow tree!

How sweet to wander here, when vespers murmur clear,

Tuning my harp betwixt the day and night!

Then pictures, fairer far than sky or peering star,

Throng on my vision o’er the dusky height.

At such a quiet hour there comes a soothing power,

Found only in the path of solitude;

And voices in the breeze, and voices in the trees,

 Are richly laden with the spirit’s food.

Why crowd the sickly street, with noisy, feverish heat,

Where not a bud or living leaf is seen,

But hills of brick and stone, where weary wretches groan,

When you may wander where the walls are green?

Come to the village lane, enjoy it’s calm again,

As Eve steals forth to bead her favourite flower;

Beneath the woodbine sit, where bats in silence flit

And muse on life beyond earth’s little hour.

John Harris,

‘A Story of Carn Brea, Essays and Poems’

The Mining Scene

Hast ever seen a mine? Hast ever been

Down in its fabled grottoes, wali’d with gems,

And canopied with torrid mineral-belts,

That blaze within the fiery orifice?

Hast ever, by the glimmer of the lamp,

Or the fast-waning taper, gone down, down,

Towards the earth’s dread centre, where wise men

Have told us that the earthquake is conceived,

And great Vesuvius hath his lava-house,

Which burns and burns for ever, shooting forth

As from a fountain of eternal fire?

Hast ever heard, within this prison-house,

The startling hoof of Fear? the eternal flow

Of some dread meaning whispering to thy soul?

Hast ever seen the miner at his toil,

Following his obscure work below, below,

Where not a single sun-ray visits him,

But all is darkness and perpetual night?

Here the dull god of gloom unrivall’d reigns,

And wraps himself in palls of pitchy dark!

Hast ever breathed its sickening atmosphere?

Heard its dread throbbings, when the rock has burst?

Leap’d at its sneezings in the powder-blast?

And trembled when the groaning, splitting earth,

Mass after mass, fell down with deadliest crash?

What sayest thou? - hast thou not? Come with me;

Or if thou hast, no matter, come again

Don’t fear to trust me; for I have been there

From morn till night, from night till dewy morn,

Gasping within its burning sulphur-cloud,

Straining mine eyes along its ragged walls,

And wondering at the uncouth passages

Dash’d in the sparry cells by Fancy’s wand;

And oft have paused, and paused again, to hear

The eternal echo of its emptiness.

John Harris

‘Git up and Go’

Old Stamps, Wheal Grenville, Troon c 1904

Christian Heroism

A mine spread out its vast machinery

Here engines, with their huts and smoky stacks,

Cranks, wheels, and rods, boilers and hissing steam,

Press’d up the water from the depths below.

Here fire-whims ran till almost out of breath,

And chains cried sharply, strain’d with fiery force,

Here blacksmith's hammer’d by the sooty forge,

And there a crusher crash’d the copper ore.

Here girls were cobbing under roofs of straw,

And there were giggers at the oaken hutch.

Here a man-engine glided up and down,

A blessing and a boon to mining men:

And near the spot where, many years before,

Turn’d round and round the rude old water-wheel,

A huge fire-stamp was working evermore,

And slimy boys were swarming at the trunks.

The noisy lander by the trap-door bawi’d

With pincers in his hand; and troops of maids

With heavy hammers brake the mineral stones,

The cart-man cried, and shook his broken whip;

And on the steps of the account-house stood

The active agent, with his eye on all.

Below were caverns grim with greedy gloom,

And levels drunk with darkness; chambers huge

Where Fear sat silent, and the mineral-sprite

For ever chanted his bewitching song;

Shafts deep and dreadful, looking darkest things

And seeming almost running down to doom;

Rock under foot, rock standing on each side;

Rock cold and gloomy, frowning overhead;

Before, behind, at every angle, rock.

Here blazed a vein of precious copper ore,

Where lean men labour’d with a zeal for fame,

With face and hands and vesture black as night,

And down their sides the perspiration ran

In steaming eddies, sickening to behold.

But they complain’d not, digging day and night,

And morn and eve, with lays upon their lips.

Here yawn’d a tin-cell like a cliff of crags,

And Danger lurk’d among the groaning rocks,

And oft times moan’d in darkness. All the air

Was black with sulphur, burning up the blood.

A nameless mystery seem’d to fill the void ,

And wings all pitchy flapp’d among the flints,

And eyes that saw not sparkled mid the spars.

Yet here men work’d, on stages hung on ropes,

With drills and hammers blasting the rude earth,

Which fell with such a crash that he who heard

Cried, ‘Jesus, save the miner!’ Here were ends

Cut through hard marble by the miners’ skill,

And winzes, slopes, and rises: pitches here,

Where work’d the heroic, princely tributer,

This month for nothing, next for fifty pounds.

Here lodes ran wide, and there so very small

That scarce a pick-point could be press’d between;

Here making walls as smooth as polish’d steel,

And there as craggy as a rended hill:

And out of sparry vugues the water oozed,

Staining the rock with mineral, so that oft

It led the labourer to a house of gems.

Across the mine a hollow cross-course ran

From north to south, an omen of much good;

And tin lay heap’d on stulls and level-plots;

And in each nook a tallow taper flared,

Where pale men wasted with exhaustion huge.

Here holes exploded, and there mallets rang,

And rocks fell crashing, lifting the stiff hair

From time-worn brows, and noisy buckets roar’d

In echoing shafts; and through this gulf of gloom

A hollow murmur rush’d for evermore.

John Harris

‘Git up and Go’


He was a tributer; a man who work’d

On speculation, digging through the ground

In search of ore, the sweetener of his toil.

If found, he flourish’d; if not found, he fell;

Nor fell alone, fell wife and family.

John Harris

‘Git up and Go’

A Story of Carn Brea

Copper has colours different in the ores,

As various as the rainbow, black and blue

And green and red and yellow as a flower;

Gold-coloured here, there dimly visible,

Though rich the same in measure and in meed.

‘Tis found alike where glittering granite gloams,

Where killas darkens, and where gossans shroud,

And oft where wise ones write it cannot be,

Thus wisely scattered by the Hand Divine.

Tin is more secret far, with duller eye

Oft hiding in the river’s shingly bed,

Or the flint’s bosom, near the central fires,

In chambers wide, or veins like silken lace;

So that the labourer, stumbling on a start,

Wipes his hot brow, and cries, ‘Lo, here is tin.’

John Harris

‘Git up and Go’

Copper from Wheal Druid, Carn Brea.
Cassiterite (tin) from Dolcoath Mine, Cornwall.


Old Winter is come , spreading ice on the moor,

And wailing like woe at the cottager’s door.

He has blighted the heather that bloomed on the hill,

Stalked down in the valley and glassed o’er the rill,

Sipped up the clear pools with their moss–cover’d brim,

And placed his cold hand on the daisy’s white rim.

Old Winter, old Winter, come, hie thee away,

And let the soft breeze with the daffodils play.

O look on the trees! They are leafless and bare;

Not a bud, not a blossom, of beauty is there,

Hoarse wails through the branches eternally go,

And the cot in the valley is covered in snow;

While down from the eaves, hang the icicles cold,

And cock robin mourns on the sleety threshold,

Old Winter, old Winter, come, hie thee away

And let the sunbeams with the gossamer play.

But, ha! It is vain to invoke him to go;

For the crest of the hill is a cold wreath of snow,

Wherever I look, ‘tis the same to my sight,

Mede, mountain, and moorland are mantled in white;

In his palace of ice, at the back of the rock,

He moans that the crag heaps seem rent with the shock

Old Winter, old winter, O leave our dear land,

And revel where ice-hills eternally stand

The grey-headed man, clad in rags as he goes,

And the water-cress girl, with the frost in her toes,

I saw them today creeping down the dark lane,

And they trembled with cold, and were weeping with pain

Thou hast but a season, old Winter to roar,

And then I know surely thy reign will be o’er,

And thou must be off to the frost-bitten zone,

And beautiful Spring have thy sceptre and throne.

John Harris  

‘The Story of Carn Brea, Essays and Poems’


Flower of the moor, to nature dear,

And sweet as thou art free,

I turn aside from crowded paths,

To muse in  peace with thee.

Thou fillest with thy pleasant smell

The down in mosses dress’d

The gentle breeze flows freshly by,

And fans thy yellow vest.

The housewife loves thee, treasuring up

Thy fragrant form with care,

Should sickness come, or wounds, or sprains

For thou hast virtues rare.

How oft, when hands and head were tired,

I’ve paced the common brown,

Or stretched me by your scented banks,

As the great sun went down;

And heard mysterious murmurs sound

Along the solemn sod,

The whispers of omnipotence,

The silent speech of God!

Dear child of Autumn, sweetest when

The robin pipes his quill,

Among the early harvest sheaves,

 Delicious camomile!

John Harris, 

‘The story of Carn Brea, Essays and poems’


The Violets again! The violets again!

Their blue faces smile in the lea-hedge and lane,

By the well in the village, and down by the mere

Where the queen-fays are playing when moonlight is clear,

And up mid the bracken where crags catch the rain:

‘Tis spring-time, ‘tis spring-time—the violets again!

They gladden the schoolboy and quicken the sage;

They fling their sweet smells over childhood and age:

The sick one is cheered with glances so dear,

And the ploughman sings louder to know they are near,

And whistles the driver beside the wide wain:

‘Tis spring-time, ‘tis spring-time—the violets again!

In forest and fallow they shine in their beds

As blue as the firmament over our heads;

And sounds from their moss-homes are murmuring all day,

That man should be grateful and evermore pray:

For the God of the flowers has made nothing in vain:

‘Tis spring-time, ‘tis spring-time—the violets again!

Then let us not murmur, but honour his hand

Whose blossoms of beauty are filling the land.

How they gleam in the dingles, and wave ‘neath the trees,

For evermore wafting His name on the breeze!

Though changes o’ertake us, we will not complain:

‘Tis spring-time, ‘tis spring-time—the violets again!

John Harris

‘Tales and Poems’


               The Cornish Chough 

          WHERE not a sound is heard

          But the white waves, 0 bird,

          And slippery rocks fling back the vanquish'd sea, 

          Thou soarest in thy pride,

          Not heeding storm or tide;

          In Freedom's temple nothing is more free. 

          'T is pleasant by this stone,

          Sea-wash'd and weed-o'ergrown,

          With Solitude and Silence at my side,

          To list the solemn roar

          Of ocean on the shore,

          And up the beetling cliff to see thee glide. 

          Though harsh thy earnest cry.

          On crag, or shooting high

          Above the tumult of this dusty sphere

          Thou tellest of the steep

          Where Peace and Quiet sleep,

          And noisy man but rarely visits here. 

          For this I love thee, bird.

          And feel my pulses stirr'd

          To see thee grandly on the high air ride,

          Or float along the land,

          Or drop upon the sand,

          Or perch within the gully's frowning side. 

          Thou bringest the sweet thought

          Of some straw-cover'd cot,

          On the lone moor beside the bubbling well,

          Where cluster wife and child,

          And bees hum o'er the wild:

          In this seclusion it were joy to dwell. 

          Will such a quiet bower

          Be ever more my dower

          In this rough region of perpetual strife?

          I like a bird from home

          Forward and backward roam;

          But there is rest beneath the Tree of Life. 

          In this dark world of din,

          Of selfishness and sin,

          Help me, dear Saviour, on Thy love to rest;

          That, having cross'd life's sea,

          My shatter'd bark may be

          Moor'd safely in the haven of the blest. 

          The Muse at this sweet hour

          Hies with me to my bower

          Among the heather of my native hill;

          The rude rock-hedges here

          And mossy turf, how dear!

         What gushing song! how fresh the moors and still! 

          No spot of earth like thee,

          So full of heaven to me,

          O hill of rock, piled to the passing cloud!

          Good spirits in their flight

          Upon thy crags alight,

          And leave a glory where they brightly bow'd. 

          I well remember now,

          In boy-days on thy brow,

          When first my lyre among thy larks I found,

          Stealing from mother's side

          Out on the common wide,

          Strange Druid footfalls seem'd to echo round. 

          Dark Cornish chough, for thee

          My shred of minstrelsy

          I carol at this meditative hour,

          Linking thee with my reed,

          Grey moor and grassy mead,

          Dear carn and cottage, heathy bank and bower. 

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