What are emigrant’s thinking as they leave their home? Are they excited? Do they despair? What will they miss from home? Is there anything they are looking forward to on their journey or upon arrival in a new land. Sometimes these thoughts are recorded in letters or diaries. Sometimes authors publish them in memoirs on novels. Journalists try to capture them in interviews. And, sometimes they are captured in song.
One example is The Emigrant’s Farewell, a 19th-century song written from the perspective of an Irish emigrant on their way to the United States. For more more on 19th century Irish migration to the U.S. explore our online resource Thousands are Sailing.
The lyrics are below as well as an image of the song sheet from the U.S. Library of Congress.
THE EMIGRANT’S FAREWELL.
AIR.—The emigrant’s Lament.
I’m leaving you at last, Mary, and all I love behind,
But sure ’tis for your sake I go, a better land to find;
I got to that young isle, Mary, where anger is unknown,
And the children of our widowed land are cherished as her own.
Perhaps in after years I’ll come, unchanged to you again,
And if I win a golden store, I’ll not forget you then.
The peasants lowly lot, Mary, I would not have you share,
Altho’ Im sure youd bear with me lifes sorrows anywhere.
How happy I’d been, Mary, in all that nature willed,
My cabin by the mountain side, and the ground my father till’d.
But the landlord with the bailiff came, the poor man’s bitter foe,
And he cast me out to live or die, as God should will it so.
I would not live in Ireland now, for she’s a fallen land,
And the tyrant’s heels is on her neck, with her reeking blood-stained hand.
There’s not a foot of Irish ground, buts trodden down by slaves,
Who die unwept, and then are flung, like dogs, into their graves.
My troubles make me grieve, Mary, and I often wish to die,
And I long to find the green churchyard where all my kindred lie.
‘Tis pleasant when the heart is broke, to sleep beneath the dust,
But I still hope on for better days, and place in God my trust.
I’m leaving you, my Mary dear, they are painful words to speak,
My last embrace I’m taking now, and my lips are on your cheek.
The parting hour is drawing near, and the sails wave in the wind,
Oh, fold me closer to your breast, I’ll leave you soon behind.
J. Andrews, Printer, 38 Chatham St., N. Y.
The emigrant’s farewell. Air: The emigrant’s lament. J. Andrews, Publishers, 38 Chatham Street, N. Y. Monographic. Online Text. https://www.loc.gov/item/amss.sb10109b/.