Friday, February 11, 2011

The Plains of Emu

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Farewell to my country, my kindred, and my lover
Each morning and evening is sacred to you.
While I toil the long day, without shelter or cover,
And fell the tall gum, the black-butted and blue
Full often I think of and talk of thee, Erin:
Thy heath-covered mountains are fresh in my view.
Thy glens, lakes and rivers, Loch Conn and Kilkerran
While chained to the soil on the Plains of Emu

The iron-bark, wattles, and gum trees extending their shade,
Under which rests the shy kangaroo
Shall be felled by the blest, who have hope o'er them bending
To ease their rude toil, though far exiled from you
But alas, I've not hope, peace or honour to grace me
For each feeling was crushed in the bud as it grew
While "never" is stamped on the chains that embrace me
And ceaseless my thrall on the Plains of Emu

Dearest mother, thy love from my bossom shall never depart
But shall flourish, untainted and true.
For hard was my fate, far from thee to be driven
But force gained the day, and now I suffer for you
Oh, spare her the tear, and no charge lay upon her
And weep not, my Nora, her tears to renew
But cherish her age, until night closes on her
And think of the swain who still thinks but of you.

Our names shall still live, though like writing in water
Confined to the call of the wild cockatoo
As each wattle-scrub echo repeats to the other our names,
Then each breeze will hear me sighing anew.
But dumbed be my tongue if my heart should cease its motion
Or if the isle I forget where my first breath I drew
Each affection is warmed with sincerest devotion
And the tie it is unbroken on the Plains of Emu.

Also know as the Exile's Lament, this recording is from the cloudstreet album, The Fiddleship, recorded by Graham Bradshaw in Coventry in 2004.

The following notes come from the Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics site. The tune I use is my own variation.

These words were published in the Sydney Gazette, 26 May 1829 and
apparently attributed to "M" of Anambaba. The setting is Emu Plains, an
agricultural establishment and convict settlement 57 kilometres west of
Sydney. The apparent author would,be an Irish political convict, perhaps a
rebel of 1798, on lifetime sentence, felling the native timber to clear the
land for farming.

1 comment:

  1. The stand-out phrase for me here was 'like writing in water' - that's extremely poetic, isn't it, and does suggest the song was written by somebody with both an education and a great sensitivity - such as a political prisoner, as suggested.

    The line I don't understand, though, is 'spare her the tear and no charge lay upon her'. Has he perhaps been betrayed by somebody close to him?