Returned Emigrant

Paler and thinner the morning moon grew

Colder and sterner the rising wind blew;

The pole-star had ser in a forest of cloud,

And the icicles crackled on spar and on shroud,

When a voice from below we heard feebly cry:

‘Let me see. I shall see my own land ere I die.


Ah dear sailor, say, have we sighted Cape Clear?

Can you see any sign? Is the morning light near?

You are young, my brave boy; thanks; thanks for your hand –

Help me up till I get a last glimpse of the land.

Thank God, ’tis the sun that now reddens the sky;

I shall see, I shall see my own land ere I die.


Let me lean on your strength, I am feeble and old

And one half of my heart is already stone-cold.

Forty years work a change! When I first crossed the sea

There were few on the deck that could grapple with me;

But my youth and my prime in Ohio went by

And I’ve come back to see the old spot ere I die.’


”Twas a feeble old man, and he stood on the deck

His arm round a kindly young mariner’s neck,

His ghastly gaze fixed on the tints of the east

As a starveling might stare at the sight of a feast.

The morn quickly rose and revealed to his eye

The land he had prayed to behold, and then die!


Green, green was the shore, though the year was near done;

High and haughty the capes the winter surf dashed upon;

A grey ruined convent was down by the strand

And the sheep fed afar on the hills of the land!

‘God be with you, dear Ireland!’ he gasped with a sigh;

‘I have lived to behold you! I am ready to die!’


He sank by the hour and his pulse ‘gan to fail,

As we swept by the headland of storied Kinsale;

Off Ardigna Bay it came slower and slower

And his corpse was clay-cold as we sighted Tramore.

At Passage we waked him, and now he doth lie

In the lap of the land he beheld but to die.’

Thomas D’Arcy McGee (1825-1868) : Carlingford Poet

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