Farley Heath

Martin Farquhar Tupper

Near Albury

MANY a day have I whiled away
Upon hopeful Farley heath,
In its antique soil digging for spoil
Of possible treasure beneath;
For Celts, and querns, and funeral urns,
‘And rich red Samian ware,
And sculptured stones, and centurion’s bones
May all lie buried there!

How calmly serene, and glad have I been
From morn till eve to stay,
My Surrey serfs turning the turfs
The happy live-long day;
With eye still bright, and hope yet alight,
Wistfully watching the mould
As the spade brings up fragments of things
Fifteen centuries old!

Pleasant and rare it was to be there
On a joyous day of June,
With the circling scene all gay and green
Steep‘d in the silent noon;
When beauty distils from the calm glad hills,-
From the downs and dimpling vales;
And every grove, lazy with love,
Whis'pereth tenderest tales!

O then to look back upon Time’s old track,
And dream of the days long past,
When Rome leant here on his sentinel spear
And loud was the clarion’s blast—
As wild and shrill from Martyr’s hill
Echoed the patriot shout,
Or rushed pell-mell with a midnight yell
The rude barbarian rout!

Yes; every stone has a tale of its own—
A volume of old lore;
And this white sand from many a brand
Has polished gouts of gore:
When Holmbury-height had its beacon light,
And Cantii held old Leith,
And Rome stood then with his iron men
On Ancient Farley-heath!

How many a group of that exiled troop
Have here sung songs of home,
Chanting aloud to a wondering crowd
The glories of old Rome!
Or lying at length have bask’d their strength
Amid this heather and gorse,
Or down by the well in the larch-grown dell
Watered the black war-horse!

Look, look! my day-dream right ready would seem
The past with the present to join,—
For see! I have found in this rare ground
An eloquent green old coin,
With turquoise rust on its Emperor’s bust-—
Some Caesar, august Lord,
And the legend terse, and the classic reverse,
“Victory, valor’s reward!—-”

Victory,—yes! and happiness,
Kind comrade to me and to you,
When such rich spoil has crowned our toil
And proved the day-dream true;
With hearty acclaim how we hail’d by his name
The Caesar of that coin,
And told with a shout ‘his titles out
And drank his health in wine!

And then how blest the noon-day rest
Reclined on a grassy bank,
With hungry cheer and the brave o1d beer
Better than Odin drank;
And the secret balm of the spirit at calm,
And poetry, hope, and health,—
Aye, have I not found in that rare ground
A mine of more than wealth!

Martin Farquhar Tupper excavated the site of the Roman Villa on Farley Heath in Surrey. The traces of the villa can still be visited today.