The Forlorn Hope (Hall)/Poems/The Emigrant

2040676The Forlorn Hope — The Emigrant1836Samuel Carter Hall



He stood alone—and yet amid the crowd,
The noisy crowd that thronged the vessel's deck
Hailing with blessings, fervent, long, and loud,
The far off land, now dwindled to a speck.
Still, as it faded, and a cheer went round,
He stood alone—from all aloof—apart;
And, if his ear had caught the joyous sound,
There came no throb in echo from his heart.

Beside the helm he stood, still gazing back
To the red west, where the glad sun had set,
Yet more intently watching the foam-track
Of parted waters, mingling as they met:
Bare-headed there he stood—alone—alone—
Arms folded, eyes half closed, and lips compressed—
A tattered cloak around his limbs was thrown,
The fierce wind beating his half-naked breast.

Yet rich was he, rich in the world's true wealth,
—As there he stood, above the toning sea—
In the strong summer of his years and health,
Willing to labour, formed for labour, he,
As one who in his vigour might rejoice;
Yet, as the swift breeze bore the ship along,
A manly, but a sad and tremulous, voice,
Was heard to breathe these bitter thoughts in song.

Away!—the wind is from the shore—
O'er the chill waves, away, away!—
Even here we feel and dread once more
The power all weaker things obey,
And vainly strive to answer "Nay!"
Yet winds and waves will not deceive—
Nor gently speak the sounds that wrong;
If falsehood rests with those we leave,
To them let evil thoughts belong.

Away—away!—My native land!
The ocean hides thee from my sight;
Sad memories come, a fearful band
Of dreams that scare the moral night;
In vain I struggle with their might;
They speak in tones I once believed,
Of falsehood in the garb of truth—
Of trust betrayed, of hope deceived,
A breaking heart—grey hairs in youth.

Away!—a better land is near;
And, yet, I cannot say farewell
Without a sigh, without a tear,
For those—the few—that with thee dwell,
And bind me to thee as a spell:—
Away! for them we must not grieve,
Away, good ship, before the wind!
Alas! for one true heart we leave—
A thousand base remain behind!

Old England! wretched in thy age—
Art thou the England famed in song?
That, like a lion in thy rage,
Roused at the very sound of wrong—
Sheltered the weak, subdued the strong;
Aiding, protecting, far and near—
Sending, along the land and sea,
A name that despots heard with fear,
For 'twas the watchword of the free.

Alas! and are we English born,
That lone and outcast forth must go,
To seek some land less tempest-torn,
Where toil may reap what toil may sow!—
The master will not be the foe!
But man may earn and keep his own,
And chase the tax-wolf from his door!—
Where crimes like ours are all unknown—
The crimes of being young and poor!

Take, England, then, my parting lay!—
My native England—it must be
The last that I shall ever pay;
'Tis sad, and therefore meet for thee,
And comes a fitting gift from me.
If thou art blighted, I am banned—
Seared as dead leaves no longer green—
My heart is like my native land,
And is not what it once hath been!


He stood alone—beneath the deep, dark shade
Of a Canadian forest, where the trees,
A century old the youngest of them, made
Hollow and mournful music in the breeze;
The pale moon shone upon a little nook
Long toil had cleared, where grew the grass and corn,
But thin and poor, and wearing not the look
Of ruddy health, of hope and labour born.

He wore the skins of wolves his shot had killed—
Tens of the thousands that, by night and day,
Devoured his kine, and trampled where be tilled,
Till fear and want had worn his strength away.
Even the low hut—poor shelter!—while he slept,
Shook in the earthquake, or the storm, or rain;
Thus—sick at heart—the exile stood and wept,
O'er thought, and care, and hope, and toil, in vain.

Where were his fellows?—why stood he alone?—
None communed with him in that twilight dim;
Famine had made them selfish, or had thrown
The withering curse upon them as on him.
Why marvel if his sad soul Eastward ream,
While memories of the past around him throng,
And, as his aching heart goes yearning home,
He breathe again his saddened thoughts in song!

Again thy beauty brightens o'er
The earth beneath, the skies above;
Fair Moon, I welcome thee once more,
And still thy pensive hour I love.
And still to thine ethereal throne
I turn, my wonted vows to pay—
To gaze on thee alone—alone—
My home! my friends!—where now are they?

Perchance, they too may gaze, and feel
The sacred influence of thy power,
Through evening's sober silence, steal
O'er them—and bless the shadowy hour.
Pass on, pass on, thou cloudless Moon—
The world's untarnished diadem;
Thy blessed light will leave me soon,
But leave me to be nearer them!

Even now thy gentle rays may gleam
On those I love, for whom I sigh;
And they may hail thy tranquil beam,
Lone maiden of the cloudless sky!
Remembering, as thou glidest on
To visit brighter worlds than ours,
Thy smiles, in other times, have shone
O'er happier scenes, in happier hours.

Outcast and hopeless, here I dwell;
A dreary desert where I roam;
No blessed one to love me well,
And wait and watch my coming home;
No long-loved voice to join my prayer;
No rill to sing beside my door;
No sweet 'good night,' to banish care;
No sabbath-hymn, when toil is o'er.

My far-off friends!—whose memories fill
My throbbing bosom—do they speak
Of him, whose heart is with them still,
Though joy hath ceased to light his cheek?
If fancy now no longer gives
Her foolish dreams of future bliss,
There is a hope on which he lives—
'Tis of a happier world than this.

Thou, Moon, that walk'st the silent night,
Alone in thy own realm, the sky;
Calling the distant clouds to light
And gladness as they draw more nigh;
Wilt emblem to my friends and me
That home where never comes regret—
Where, from the chain of darkness free,
Unmingled joy may wait us yet.

Friend of the lonely! if this lay
Be sad—say, how shall I rejoice?
How can my wearied soul be gay,
When Nature's deep and solemn voice—
Heard, by unnumbered echoes borne,
Above, below—in heaven and earth—
Tells me that man was made to mourn
The hour that gave him woe—and birth!


He stood alone upon the vessel's prow,
That swept aside the billows, and passed on;
A night of storm and darkness o'er—and now
The sun awoke, scattered the clouds, and shone.
Was it an aged man who stood alone?—
White hair, and wrinkled brow, and bending frame,
Are signs that age, but only age, may own;
Few years have vanished since—yet 'tis the same!

What is it lights the dark and sunken eye,
And calls a red flush to the pallid cheek?
Mark the unclosing lips, the deep drawn sigh,
One foot advanced, both hands outstretehed,—they speak!—
Ten seconds pass, and lo! the gladdened crew
Send up a cheerful sound to heaven—"Land!—land!"—
Like guardian spirits o'er the waters blue
The cliffs of old and happy England stand!

On, on they sail; and now there come in sight
Small cottages among the autumn trees,
Looking so happy in the morning light,
Their smoke up-curling to the fresh sea-breeze;—
They might have almost heard the reaper's tone
Of joy, as merrily he paced along;
Yet there the Exile stood, alone—alone—
And once again he breathed his thoughts in song.

Oh, England!—oh, my English home!
I see thee through the white sea-foam,
And feel my strength awhile return,
My heart-pulse boat, my temples burn
With joy,—although I come to lay
My bones beside my fathers' clay,
And sleep the long unbroken sleep
From which we cannot wake to weep.
Land of pure women and brave men!
Proud mistress of the earth and sea!—
I hail thy blessed shores again,
Home of the great, the good, the free!

Where feudal rights are history's themes,
And thraldom-woes forgotten dreams;—
Where man may sleep beneath the shade
Of equal laws himself has made—
May look within himself and find
The dignity of human kind,
And proudly walk his chosen path,
Lord of himself and all he hath;
Free as the winds, none dare upbraid,
Safe as the stars that o'er him shine,
He sits, "none making him afraid,
Beneath his fig-tree and his vine."—

Where knowledge—boundless as the wind,
As pure, as free, as unconfined—
Asks entrance at the meanest door;
Where Plenty clothes and feeds the poor;
Where banned by law is no man's creed—
Where heavenward many pathways lead;
Where all, by six days' toil oppressed,
Upon the seventh day find rest;
Where sober judgment daily grows
With gradual, yet with sure, increase;
Where Reason lifts the veil, and shows
Religion hand in hand with Peace.

Where labour knows reward is sure,
And thought and care make coin secure;
Where water springs to gladden land,
And breezes wave the cheering hand;
Where gentle sun and genial shower,
Alternate, call forth fruit and flower—
The golden ore his garden yields—
Blessing his green and yellow fields,
That hostile footsteps never fear,
Save of small birds that flit among
The corn, when harvest-time is near:—
Small debtors they, who pay in song.

Where honest Trade, in all her streets,
Fears not a single face he meets,
But fairly barters, freely tells
To all, of all he buys or sells;
Where, at the loom, the artizan
Feels that his skill is worthy man;
And craftsmen call from gloomy stones
The metal Science proudly owns;
Where Commerce, with ten thousand sails,
Fills all her ports with wealth and fame,
And every stranger-merchant hails
The British merchant's spotless name.

The sun that saw the Exile tread again
His native land, sent down at eve a light
To cheer his bed of death, but not of pain—
The Exile was at home, asleep, ere night.
And gentle tones of blessing he had heard—
Ere life went forth from worn and wearied clay—
Telling of Faiththat long-forgotten word—
Teaching his heart and lips once more to pray!

Oh! ye who dream of fruitful hills and vales
Where fabled milk and fabled honey flow,
And hear the wicked or the idle tales
Of men who lead the way to misery—know
The meaning of the humble song I sing—
The moral of my mournful tale: 'Tis said
In the prophetic words of Israel's king,—
Dwell in the land, and there thou shalt be fed!