Emigrant’s Farewell

Farewell to every hawthorn hedge, from Killeen to Belleeks
And every pool of sticklebacks and every shady creek
To sloping fields, the lofty rocks where ash and willow grew
Killeavey Old Church yew tree, to friends of youth I knew. 

Though forty years since last I saw, I see them shining still
The Lough that cuts us North from South, the view from Fathom Hill
Adieu to Camlough’s crooked lake, to ‘Cross and ‘Blaney fair
To Gullion’s Ring, to everything of childhood days we shared.

From Carlingford beneath Slieve Foye and dark Mournes’ brooding slopes
I sailed away to foreign shore with pockets full of hope
In Durham Town where I’m bed-bound, each day is long and drear
The doctors offer little time, some weeks, a month, a year…

But I can fly on fairies’ wings to fields of dry-stone walls
To flax-holes in the meadow where the lonely corncrake calls
I stroll past Jack the Farrier’s place, to ringing metal blows
Of hammers struck on anvil’s plate to forge the Shire horse shoes.

When neighbours call to ask a hand to save the summer’s hay
I volunteer like e’er before and labour all the day
We ceili of an evening, or at the crossroads dance
To the fiddle and the squeeze-box, on rough boards wheel and prance.

In mind’s eye still I wander, in lanes of twisted thorn
And stray with my first sweetheart through fields of golden corn
The Mummers call at Christmastide, with many a loaded rhyme
In thatch, and mask, and costume dressed, in couplets fair they chime.

They wonder why I rant and rave, and where on earth I go
I know they’ll never understand, for how could strangers know?
When they ask me where my place is, I tell them Dorsey Brae
In the heart of God’s own country, where angels sport and play.

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