Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CONVICTS OF NEW SOUTH WALES: ELINOR, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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THE CONVICTS OF NEW SOUTH WALES: ELINOR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Once more to daily toil, once more to wear
Last Line: And fit the faithful penitent for heaven.
Subject(s): Australia; England; Exiles; New South Wales, Australia; Prisons & Prisoners; Repentance; English; Penitence


ONCE more to daily toil, once more to wear
The livery of shame, once more to search
With miserable task this savage shore!
Oh Thou, who mountest so triumphantly
In yonder heaven, beginning thy career
Of glory, Oh thou blessed Sun! thy beams
Fall on me with the same benignant light
Here, at the furthest limits of the world,
And blasted as I am with infamy,
As when in better years poor Elinor
Gazed on thy glad uprise with eye undimmed
By guilt and sorrow, and the opening morn
Woke her from quiet sleep to days of peace.
In other occupation then I trod
The beach at eve; and then, when I beheld
The billows as they rolled before the storm
Burst on the rock and rage, my timid soul
Shrunk at the perils of the boundless deep,
And heaved a sigh for suffering mariners.
Ah! little thinking I myself was doomed
To tempt the perils of the boundless deep,
An outcast, unbeloved and unbewailed.

Still will thou haunt me, memory! still present
The fields of England to my exiled eyes,
The joys which once were mine! Even now I see
The lowly lovely dwelling! even now
Behold the woodbine clasping its white walls,
Where fearlessly the red-breasts chirp around
To ask their morning meal: and where at eve
I loved to sit and watch the rook sail by,
And hear his hollow croak, what time he sought
The church-yard elm, that with its ancient boughs
Full-foliaged, half concealed the house of God:
That holy house, where I so oft have heard
My father's voice explain the wondrous works
Of heaven to sinful man. Ah! little deemed
His virtuous bosom that his shameless child
So soon should spurn the lesson! sink, the slave
Of vice and infamy! the hireling prey
Of brutal appetite! At length, worn out
With famine, and the avenging scourge of guilt,
Should dare dishonesty—yet dread to die!

Welcome, ye savage lands, ye barbarous climes,
Where angry England sends her outcast sons,
I hail your joyless shores! My weary bark,
Long tempest-tost on life's inclement sea,
Here hails her haven! welcomes the drear scene,
The marshy plain, the brier-entangled wood,
And all the perils of a world unknown,—
For Elinor has nothing new to fear
From fickle fortune! All her rankling shafts
Barbed with disgrace, and venomed with disease,
Have pierced my bosom, and the dart of death
Has lost its terrors to a wretch like me.

Welcome, ye marshy heaths! ye pathless woods,
Where the rude native rests his wearied frame,
Beneath the sheltering shade; where, when the storm,
As rough and bleak it rolls along the sky,
Benumbs his naked limbs, he flies to seek
The dripping shelter. Welcome, ye wild plains
Unbroken by the plough, undelved by hand
Of patient rustic; where, for lowing herds,
And for the music of the bleating flocks,
Alone is heard the kangaroo's sad note
Deepening in distance. Welcome, ye rude climes,
The realm of Nature! For—as yet unknown
The crimes and comforts of luxurious life—
Nature benignly gives to all enough,
Denies to all a superfluity.
What though the garb of infamy I wear,
Though day by day along the echoing beach
I cull the wave-worn shells; yet day by day
I earn in honesty my frugal food,
And lay me down at night to calm repose,
No more condemned the mercenary tool
Of brutal lust, while heaves the indignant heart
With virtue's stifled sigh, to fold my arms
Round the rank felon, and for daily bread
To hug contagion to my poisoned breast;
On these wild shores repentance' saviour hand
Shall probe my secret soul; shall cleanse its wounds,
And fit the faithful penitent for heaven.





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