Ammon Wrigley - "An Old Shepherd"

The following is a transcription of a work by Saddleworth poet Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946).

An Old Shepherd

In the ingle nook to-night,
Shepherd, though thy hair is white,
Though the years have done thee wrong,
Thou art seeming hale and strong.
As the oak tree in the clough,
Thou art rugged, gnarled, and tough.
Clear and plainly I can scan
What has built thee up a man:
All the wild grouse moors can give
To the men that on them live.
In thy honest weathered face
I can see the mountain race:
Strong of chin and blue of eye,
Broad of back and long of thigh,
That through ages on this steep
Watched their little moorland sheep.
Out of thee there seems to blow
The good life that few men know.
Clean and sweet about thee lies
The rolling moors and open skies.
Sea-grey mist on far-off peak,
Sheep track over knowe top bleak.
Worn old cart road, grass, and rut,
Fold and barn and shepherd’s hut.
Nesting grouse among the ling,
Brown splashed egg and speckled wing.
Many chunks of bread and cheese
Thou hast eaten from thy knees.
With the cool, fresh noonday air
Blowing o’er thy frugal fare.
Thou hast carried many loads
Up the windy mountain roads,
With thy old green shepherd’s coat
Buttoned close up to thy throat.
Many short cuts thou hast ta’en
Striding homewards in the rain,
Over fields and through the gaps,
Swinging wide thy great coat laps.
Many streams thy feet have crossed
When the sheep were strayed and lost.
Many young dogs prone to wheel
Thou hast whistled to thy heel.
Many winds have round thee howled
Through the draughty gullies cold,
With thy face against the sleet
And thy shoon in sodden peat.
Many neighbours thou hast known
At the farms and homesteads lone,
Who helped thee in many ways
In lambing time and shearing days.
And made with sods and oaken beams
“Washing holes” in mountain streams.
There is no glory earth can show
Thou hast not seen or does not know.
All the witchery morning flings
Through the dreams of waking things.
All the mystery evening spills
O’er the dim and lonely hills.
Light and shadow, bird and song,
Go with thee the whole day long.
What a wonder-life is thine,
Worth a thousand years of mine.
Work thou hast in field and fold,
But thou’rt paid with Heaven’s gold.
The night is coming to an end,
Put thy hand in mine, old friend;
Let me feel the grip “agen”
Of one who is the best of men.
Clean and homely, loving right;
Good night to thee, again, good night.