Lament of The Irish Emigrant


read by Peter Yearsley for

I’m sittin’ on the stile, Mary,
Where we sat side by side
On a bright May mornin’ long ago,
When first you were my bride;
The corn was springin’ fresh and green,
And the lark sang loud and high–
And the red was on your lip, Mary,
And the love-light in your eye.

The place is little changed, Mary,
The day is bright as then,
The lark’s loud song is in my ear,
And the corn is green again;
But I miss the soft clasp of your hand,
And your breath warm on my cheek,
And I still keep list’ning for the words
You never more will speak.

‘Tis but a step down yonder lane,
And the little church stands near,
The church where we were wed, Mary,
I see the spire from here.
But the graveyard lies between, Mary,
And my step might break your rest–
For I’ve laid you, darling! down to sleep,
With your baby on your breast.

I’m very lonely now, Mary,
For the poor make no new friends,
But, O, they love the better still,
The few our Father sends!
And you were all I had, Mary,
My blessin’ and my pride:
There ‘s nothin’ left to care for now,
Since my poor Mary died.

Yours was the good, brave heart, Mary,
That still kept hoping on,
When the trust in God had left my soul,
And my arm’s young strength was gone:
There was comfort ever on your lip,
And the kind look on your brow–
I bless you, Mary, for that same,
Though you cannot hear me now.

I thank you for the patient smile
When your heart was fit to break,
When the hunger pain was gnawin’ there,
And you hid it, for my sake!
I bless you for the pleasant word,
When your heart was sad and sore–
O, I’m thankful you are gone, Mary,
Where grief can’t reach you more!

I’m biddin’ you a long farewell,
My Mary–kind and true!
But I’ll not forget you, darling!
In the land I’m goin’ to;
They say there ‘s bread and work for all,
And the sun shines always there–
But I’ll not forget old Ireland,
Were it fifty times as fair!

And often in those grand old woods
I’ll sit, and shut my eyes,
And my heart will travel back again
To the place where Mary lies;
And I’ll think I see the little stile
Where we sat side by side:
And the springin’ corn, and the bright May morn,
When first you were my bride.

The Irish Emigrant was one of Lady Dufferin’s most popular ballads and was published in New York and Boston as well as in London. Nonetheless, the critics were not exactly kind. One wrote that she showed some comprehension of impact the Great Irish Famine had “on love and the family” despite being removed from such catastrophes by what was called her “social distance.” Another critic said this was a “ballad for the English middle class” and found her description of the suffering the Irish endured inadequate.

Lady Dufferin Contemporaries
Caroline Norton
Eliza Cook
Sarah Helen Whitman
Letitia E. Landon

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