Song of an Exile

By James Orr, Bard of Ballycarry

From The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Volume 2, edited by Charles A. Read

In Ireland 'tis evening—from toil my friends hie all,
And weary walk home o'er the dew-spangled lea;
The shepherd in love tunes his grief-soothing viol,
Or visits the maid that his partner will be;
The blithe milk-maid trips to the herd that stands lowing;
The west richly smiles, and the landscape is glowing;
The sad-sounding curlew, and torrent fast-flowing,
Are heard by my fancy, though far, far at sea!

What has my eye seen since I left the green valleys,
But ships as remote as the prospect could be?
Unwieldy, huge monsters, as ugly as malice,
And floats of some wreck, which with sorrow I see?
What's seen but the fowl, that its lonely flight urges,
The lightning, that darts through the sky-meeting surges,
And the sad-scowling sky, that with bitter rain scourges
This cheek care sits drooping on, far, far at sea?

How hideous the hold is!—Here, children are screaming—
There, dames faint through thirst, with their babes on their knee!
Here, down every hatch the big breakers are streaming,
And there, with a crash, half the fixtures break free!
Some court, some contend, some sit dull stories telling;
The mate's mad and drunk, and the tars tasked and yelling;
What sickness and sorrow pervade my rude dwelling!—
A huge floating lazar-house, far, far at sea!

How changed all may be when I seek the sweet village:
A hedge-row may bloom where its street used to be;
The floors of my friends may be tortured by tillage,
And the upstart be served by the fallen grandee;
The axe may have humbled the grove that I haunted,
And shades be my shield that as yet are implanted,
Nor one comrade live who repined when he wanted
The sociable sufferer that's far, far at sea!

In Ireland 'tis night—on the flowers of my setting
A parent may kneel, fondly praying for me;—
The village is smokeless—the red moon is getting
That hill for a throne which I hope yet to see.
If innocence thrive, many more have to grieve for;
Success, slow but sure, I'll contentedly live for:
Yes, Sylvia, we'll meet, and your sigh cease to heave for
The swain your fine image haunts, far, far at sea!

Related articles:—

James Orr, Bard of Ballycarry

Other poems by James Orr:—

The Irishman
Death and Burial of an Irish Cottier