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The Emigrant Ship

The Emigrant Ship
Thou semblance of the Angel Death,
With thy dark dismal shrouding wings,
Whose fluttering seems to catch the breath,
The very latest breath that wrings
The soul from body, thou art there
Like Hope, half soothing wild Despair!

In thee is promise that thou’ll bring
A change of season to the mind
Of those who chance a distant spring
For the dull wintry waste behind!
Yet – what’s the wintry waste they leave?
Alas! all hearts with theirs must grieve!

They quit their Native Land for life,
A land they’ll weep for when away,
Sister and Brother- Husband – Wife
May never meet another day!
The living Death of absence, quite
Obscures the gloom of endless night!

Perchance to some hope will be true
And lead them on to riches – fame –
But all they loved, and all they knew
In early days, just like a name
Upon a tombstone will appear,
And memory, vainly, wish them near.

Some may return with power to bless
The weeping wretches left behind –
And see that home all loneliness,
Where they expected them to find!
The son for mother look in vain,
Then seek the wide-wide world again!

The signal’s given – away to shore –
Break ties of every dearest kind! –
One parting kiss – one look – one more
Farewell to those now left behind!
Divorcer Ocean! Thou dost make
Many a gentle heart to ache!

Oh! Emigration! Thou’rt the curse
Of our once happy nation’s race!
Cannot our Fatherland still nurse
Its offspring without taking place
Of dislocated men to make
More cause for thy disturbing sake?

Thou art an enemy to peace,
Thy restless hope but ends in grief –
When comforts in the mother cease
How can we hope step-dame’s relief?*
“Better to bear the ills we have”
Than seek in foreign climes a grave!


* “Dulcior mater quam noverea!” is a maxim which it ought to be our native land’s endeavour to instil into the minds of those discontented with home.

This poem appears in the Illustrated London News, April 13, 1844, and in The Emigrant Ship – Tales of shipwrecks and adventures at sea (1846), pp. 787 – 788.