The song appeared in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser on Tuesday 26 May 1829. Rev John McGarvie, the first Presbyterian Minister of the Ebenezer Church at Portland Head, was the author of The Exile of Erin. He wrote under various initials (M, A.B, C.D) and from what appear to be fictional places (Warrambamba, Marramatta, Anambaba).
O! farewell my country – my kindred – my lover
Each morning and evening is sacred to you,
While I toil the long day without shelter or cover,
And fell the tall gums 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-Con and Kilkerran,
While chained to the soil on the Plains of Emu.
The iron-bark, wattle and gum-trees extending
Their shades under which rests the shy kangaroo,
May be felled by the bless’d who have hope o’er them bending,
To cheer their rude toil tho’ far exiled from you.
But, alas! without hope, peace, or honour to grace me,
Each feeling was crushed in the bud as it grew,
Whilst “never” is stamped on the chains that embrace me,
And endless my thrall on the Plains of Emu.
Hard hard was my fate far from thee to be driven,
Unstained, unconvicted, as sure was my due;
I loved to dispense of the freedom of Heaven,
But force gained the day and I suffer for you.
For this hand never broke what by promise was plighted,
Deep treason this tongue to my country ne’er knew,
No base-earned coin in my coffer e’er lighted,
Yet enchained I remain on the Plains of Emu.
Dear mother thy love from my bosom shall never,
Depart, but shall flourish untainted and true ;
Nor grieve that the base in their malice should ever
Upbraid thee, and none to give malice her due.
Spare, spare her the tear and no charge lay upon her,
And weep not my Norah her griefs to renew,
But cherish her age till night closes on her,
And think of the swain who still thinks but of you.
But your names shall still live though like writing in water
When confined to the notes of the tame cockatoo,
Each wattle scrub echo repeats to the other
Your names and each breeze hears me sighing anew.
For dumb be my tongue, may my heart cease her motion,
If the Isle I forget where my first breath I drew !
Each affection is warmed with sincerest devotion,
For the tie is unbroken on the Plains of Emu.
Anambaba, May, 1829.
Read more about Rev John McGarvie and The Exile of Erin by Jim Low