The Winding Banks of Erne

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The Winding Banks of Erne (c. 1850)
by William Allingham
3078266The Winding Banks of Ernec/1850William Allingham

Or the Emigrant's Adieu to Ballyshannon.

Adieu to Ballyshannon! where I was bred and born;
Go where I may, I'll think of you, as sure as night and morn,
The kindly spot, the friendly town, where every one is known,
And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own;
There's not a house or window, there's not a field or hill,
But, east or west, in foreign lands, I'll recollect them still,
I leave my warm heart with you, though my back I'm forced to turn—
So adieu to Ballyshannon, and the winding banks of Erne!

No more on pleasant evenings we'll saunter down the Mall,
Where the trout is rising to the fly, the salmon to the fall,
The boat comes straining on her net, and heavily she creeps,
Cast off, cast off!—she feels the oars, and to her berth she sweeps;
Now stem and stern keep hauling, and gathering up the clue,
Till a silver wave of salmon rolls in among the crew,
Then they may sit, and have their joke, and set their pipes to burn;—
Adieu to Ballyshannon, and the winding banks of Erne!

The music of the waterfall, the mirror of the tide,
When all the green-hill'd harbour is full from side to side—
From Portnasun to Bulliebawns, and round the Abbey Bay,
From the little rocky island to Coolnargit sandhills grey;
While far upon the southern line, to guard it like a wall,
The Leitrim mountains, clothed in blue, gaze calmly over all,
And watch the ship sail up or down, the red flag at her stern;—
Adieu to these, adieu to all the winding banks of Erne!

Farewell to you, Kildoney lads, and them that pull an oar,
A lug-sail set, or haul a net, from the Point to Mullaghmore;
From Killybegs to Carrigan, with its ocean-mountain steep,
Six hundred yards in air aloft, six hundred in the deep;
From Dooran to the Fairy Bridge, and round by Tullen strand,
Level and long, and white with waves, where gull and curlew stand;—
Head out to sea when on your lee the breakers you discern;—
Adieu to all the billowy coast, and winding banks of Erne!

Farewell Coolmore,—Bundoran! and your summer crowds that run,
From inland homes to see with joy th' Atlantic setting sun;
To breathe the buoyant salted air, and sport among the waves;
To gather shells on sandy beach, and tempt the gloomy caves;
To watch the flowing, ebbing tide, the boats, the crabs, the fish;
Young men and maids to meet and smile, and form a tender wish;
The sick and old in search of health, for all things have their turn—
And I must quit my native shore and the winding banks of Erne!

Farewell to every white cascade from the Harbour to Belleck,
And every pool where fins may rest, and ivy-shaded creek;
The sloping fields, the lofty rocks, where ash and holly grow;
The one split yew tree gazing on the curving flood below;
The Lough that winds through islands under Shean mountain green;
The Castle Caldwell's stretching woods, with tranquil bays between:
And Breesie Hill, and many a pond among the heath and fern,—
For I must say adieu—adieu to the winding banks of Erne!

The thrush will call through Camlin groves the livelong summer day;
The water run by mossy cliff, and bank with wild flowers gay;
The girls will bring their work and sing beneath a twisted thorn,
Or stray with sweethearts down the path among the growing corn;
Along the river-side they go, where I have often been,—
Oh, never shall I see again the days that I have seen,
A thousand chances are to one I never may return,—
Adieu to Ballyshannon, and the winding banks of Erne!

Adieu to evening dances, when merry neighbours meet,
And the fiddle says to boys and girls "get up and shake your feet,"
To "shanachus" and wise old talk of Erin's days gone by—
Who trenched the rath on such a hill, and where the bones may lie,
Of saint, or king, or warrior chief; with tales of fairy power,
And tender ditties sweetly sung to pass the twilight hour,
The mournful song of exile is now for me to learn—
Adieu, my dear companions on the winding banks of Erne!

Now measure from the Commons down to each end of the Purt,
From the Red Barn to the Abbey, I wish no one any hurt;
Search through the streets, and down the Mall and out to Portnasun,
If any foes of mine be there, I pardon every one:
I hope that man and womankind will do the same by me,
For my heart is sore and heavy at voyaging the sea.
My loving friends I'll bear in mind, and often fondly turn,
To think of Ballyshannon, and the winding banks of Erne.

If ever I'm a money'd man, I mean, please God, to cast,
My golden anchor in the place where youthful years were pass'd;
Though heads that now are black and brown must meanwhile gather grey,
New faces rise by every hearth, and old ones drop away—
Yet dearer still that Irish hill than all the world beside;
It's home, sweet home, where'er I roam, through lands and waters wide,
And if the Lord allows me, I surely will return
To my native Ballyshannon, and the winding banks of Erne.

William Allingham.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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