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"THE HOMESTEAD", by Ammon Wrigley

 
Upon a hill where winds are wild and breeding Peewits cry, Where lonely fields are thick with Bent and moorlands climb the sky; Where stricken thorns brood mournful o'er, the cold and empty lane, There stands a dark and ruined home that clouds the hill with pain.

I climb the path by quiet farms, by hedge and stunted tree, And far across the dreary years, life's sunny dawn I see; When winding stream and flowered field were steeped in romance fair, But Death hath breathed across the hill, and blighted all things there.

With oaken beams and moorstone walls, is knit its homely frame, Its rude doorhead is graven with a bygone yeoman's name; The mullioned window's, splayed and deep, attest the craftman's skill, And voice the rugged folk who reared, that homestead on the hill.

The great ash tree that flung its leaves, far o'er the gable high, Now lifts its bare and withered arms, appealing to the sky; The lilacs dead will hear no more, the voice of Spring-time call, And ne'er again will summer wake the rose's by the wall.

No coo-ing pigeons light the roof, with spots of dancing sheen, Nor proudly struts, before his dames, the gamecock on the green; No hound-dog lies besides the door and greets the passer-by Nor leaps for joy, when rings at morn, the huntsmans rousing cry.

The weathered door, the rusted latch, the kitchen rafter-spanned, The flagged house-floor, now damp and green, once strewn with yellow sand; With moistening eyes again I see that home of olden time, Each joy that went like music through the hand-loom weaver's prime.

There stood the chest that polished shone, with years of elbow grease, The cover with the Bible on, and ne'er a spot or crease; The brass drop-handles on the drawers, that caught the fire's blaze, How well they showed a mother's care and all her cleanly ways.

The old oak-couch, with panelled back, and neat print cushion hung, The breadfleck where the brown oat cake's and ropes of onions clung; A sampler's picture on the wall, and in the corner high- A long-cased clock with Moon that rose, upon its dial sky.

The press, where hung a hunting coat, with silver buttons gay, And mothers pride - the Paisley shawl, She wore on her wedding day; And here and there rush seated chairs with straight and spindled backs, A pot-shelf, by the kitchen door, with pitcher-hooks and racks.

A corner cupboard in the nook, above my mother's chair, Its shelves well filled with dainty stores of fragrant spices rare; And on the beam hung Mint and Sage, in drying bunches tied, An old horn lantern, seen at night along the dark hillside.

The mantle shelf with nicknacks rare, in quaint and bright array,- A tallying iron and china dogs, Brass candlesticks and tray; And slung in straps, against the beam, the ramrod and the gun, A row of kettles by the stairs, a famous hound had won.

A castle grand with open doors, the walls of tinted shell, Where Jock and Jenny, in and out, the weather used to tell; Old Jock was donned in breeches white, with a smock of deep snuff brown While Jenny, wore a scarlet shawl and lilac-coloured gown.

The long, dark hole where boggarts lived, behind the kitchen speer, Where once the great, brown bottles stood, that held the home-brewed beer; The hillside neighbours, old and "foace," in weaving aprons blue, Of ‘t sat at night, when hearts were trumps and swiped the hearty brew.

There stood upstairs an old hand loom, close by my parent's bed. A cuckoo clock with flowerd face, and heavy weights of lead; The fifty-jenny - my mother span, the skips and slubbing creel, The "chovin dish," the sizing pan, the twelve-staved bobbin wheel.

My father's song went with his loom, his right hand swinging free, When warp and weft were strong and thick, a lightsome heart had he; Then all day long with lusty voice, that shook the raftered oak, He sang the songs of hare and hound, and red-faced hunting folk.

In winter, when the hams were dry, and sides of bacon hung, The fiddle, round the festive hearth, its spells of gladness flung; The "brewis" hot,! in blue-rimmed bowls, the ale in creamy quarts, That made the lusty weavers shine and warmed their homely hearts.

The boggart tales they used to tell, that struck me cold with dread, On wild, dark nights, with noiseless feet, I trembling crept to bed; To lie awake and frightened hear, the northern tempest roar, The ghostly rustle of the blind, the sounding great barn door.

Three horse-shoes on the shippon door, to keep the hag away, That witched the cows and spoiled the milk, in my grandfather's day; The queer old signs, the holy cross, above each boose and stall, The whispering voices, low and weird, along the dark barn wall.

They seek no more the hearthstone now, those kindly folk are gone, Their songs are sung, their tales are told, their long day's work is done; Their graves are green upon the hill, where we someday, must lie, For Saddleworth, they sleepeth best, beneath their own dear sky.

Those days are gone, and round us now a world of sham prevails, The wheel of time keeps rolling on with changes in our dales; We're homesteads are all veneer and show, with make-believe and pride, But give to me the simple heart that loves an old hearth-side.

Ammon Wrigley. 1861-1946
 
     

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