|Collection||Irish Emigration Database|
|Origin||poem about emigration|
|Source||The Belfast News-Letter, 10 to 13 Jan. 1792.|
|Archive||The Central Library, Belfast.|
|Log||Document added by LT, 21:02:1995.|
|Transcript||T H E E M I G R A N T.|
BY THE HON. H. ERSKINE.
"Nos patriae fines, et dulcia linquimus arva,
"Nos patriam fugimus---"
FAST by the margin of a mossy rill,
That wandered, gurgling, down a heath clad hill,
An ancient shepherd stood, oppress'd with woe,
And eyed the ocean's flood that foam'd below;
Where, gently rocking on the rising tide,
A ship's unwonted form was seen to ride.
Unwonted, well I ween; for ne'er before,
Had touch'd one keel, the solitary shore;
Nor had the swain's rude footsteps ever stray'd,
Beyond the shelter of his native shade.
His few remaining hairs were silver grey,
And his rough face had seen a better day.
Around him, bleating, stray'd a scanty flock,
And a few goats o'erhung the neighbouring rock.
One faithful dog his forrows seem'd to share,
And strove, with many a trick to ease his care.
While o'er his furrow'd cheeks, the salt drops ran,
He tun'd his rustic reed, and thus began;
" Farewel! farewel! dear Caledonia's strand,
Rough though thou be, yet still my native land,
Exil'd from thee, I seek a foreign shore,
Friends, kindred country, to behold no more:
By hard oppression driv'n my helpless age,
That should e'er now have left life's bustling stage,
Is forc'd the ocean's boist'rous breast to brave,
In a far, foreign, land to seek a grave.
And must I leave thee then, my little cot!
Mine and my father's poor, but happy, lot,
Where I have pass'd in innocence away,
Year after year, till age has turn'd me grey?
Thou, dear companion of my happier life,
Now to the grave gone down, my virtuous wife,
'Twas here you rear'd with fond maternal pride,
Five comely sons: three for their country died!
Two still remain, sad remnant of the wars,
Without one mark of honour but their scars;
They live to see their sire denied a grave.
In lands, his much-lov'd children died to save:
Yet still in peace and safety did we live,
In peace and safety more than wealth can give.
My two remaining boys with sturdy hands,
Rear'd the scant produce of our niggard lands,
Scant as it was, no more our hearts desir'd,
No more from us our gen'rous lord requir'd.
But ah, sad change! those blessed days are o'er,
And peace, content, and safety charm no more.
Another lord now rules those wide domains,
The avaricious tyrant of the plains,
Far far from hence he revels life away,
In guilty pleasures, our poor means must pay.
The mossy plains, the mountains, barren brow,
Must now be tortur'd by the tearing plow,
And spite of nature, crops be taught to rise
Which to these northern climes wise Heav'n denies.
In vain, with sweating brow and weary hands,
We strive to earn the gold our lord demands,
While cold and hunger, and the dungeon's gloom,
Await our failure as its certain doom.
To shun these ills that threat my hoary head,
I seek in foreign lands precarious bread;
Forc'd, tho' my helpless age from guilt be pure,
The pangs of banish'd felons to endure;
And all because these hands have vainly try'd,
To force from art what nature has deny'd;
Because my little all will not suffice,
To pay th'insatiate claims of avarice.
In vain, of richer climates I am told,
Whose hills are rich in gems, whose streams are gold,
I am contented here, I ne'er have seen
A vale more fertile, nor a hill more green,
Nor would I leave this sweet, though humble cot,
To share the richest monarch's envied lot.
O! would to heaven th' alternative were mine,
Abroad to thrive, or here in want to pine,
Soon would I chuse: but e'er to morrow's fun,
Has o'er my head his radiant journey run,
I shall be robb'd, by what they JUSTICE call.
By legal ruffians, of my little all:
Driv'n out to hunger, nakedness and grief,
Without one pitying hand to bring relief.
Then come, oh! sad alternative to shuse,
Come, banishment, I will no more refuse,
Go where I may, nor billows, rocks, nor wind,
Can add of horror to my tortur'd mind,
On whatever coast I may be thrown;
No lord can use me harder than my own;
Even they who tear the limbs and drink the gore
Of helpless strangers, what they do more?
For thee, insatiate chief! whose ruthless land,
For ever drives me from my native land,
For thee I leave no greater curse behind,
Than a fell bodings of a guilty mind,
Or what were harder to a soul like thine,
To find from avarice thy wealth decline.
For you, my friends, and neighbours of the vale,
Who now with kindly tears my fate bewail,
soon may our king, whose breast paternal glows,
with tenderest feelings, for his people's woes,
soon may the rulers of this mighty land,
To ease your sorrows stretch the helping hand,
Else soon, too soon, your hapless fate shall be
Like me to suffer, to depart like me.
On you dear native land from whence I part,
Rest the best blessings of a broken heart,
If in some future hour, the foe shall land
His hostile legions on Britannia's strand,
May she, not then, th'alarum found in vain,
Nor miss her banish'd thousands on the plain.
Feed on my sheep, for though depriv'd of me,
My cruel foes shall your protectors be,
For their own sakes, shall pen your straggling flocks,
And save your lambkins from the rav'ning fox.
Feed on my goats, another now shall drain,
Your streams that heal disease and soften pain;
No streams alas! can ever ever flow,
To heal your master's heart or soothe his woe.
Feed on my flocks, ye harmless people feed,
The worst that ye can suffer is to bleed.
O! that the murderer's steel were all my fear!
How fondly would I stay to perish here--
But hark! my sons loud call me from the vale,
And lo! the vessel spreads her swelling sail.
Farewel! Farewel!"---A while his hands he wrung,
And o'er his crook in speechless sorrow hung,
Then casting many a ling'ring look behind,
Down the steep mountain's brow did slowly wind.