1775
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edwin: or the Emigrant. An Eclogue.

Edwin: or the Emigrant. An Eclogue. To which are added three other Poetical Sketches. By the Rev. Mr. Coombe.

Rev. Thomas Coombe


Thomas Coombe's emigration eclogue is written as a sequel to Oliver Goldsmith's The Deserted Village, describing the misfortunes an emigrant family on the voyage and in America. Goldsmith's poem was regarded as a pastoral by several readers (notably George Crabbe in The Village) and apparently also by Coombe, who adds a variable refrain: "Bleak was the surge, and fatal was the morn, | When first from England's shores I sail'd forlorn."

Coombe was a graduate of William Smith's College of Philadelphia, where he imbibed the Tory views of the master. Though a friend of Benjamin Franklin, Coombe was an outspoken Loyalist who in 1779 became an emigrant himself, leaving Philadelphia to pursue a successful clerical career Ireland and England; in later life he befriended Johnson, Goldsmith, and Beattie, and was active in the movement to abolish the slave trade. An expanded version of Coombe's poem was published as The Peasant of Auburn (1783).

The preface to Coombe's volume is addressed to James Beattie: "Dear Sir, If the following little Poems were what their Author could wish them to be, he should be happy in offering them as a tribute of gratitude, for the information and pleasure he hath derived from your writings and conversation. But as these lines are simply no more than the amusements of an hour from severer studies, he is contented that they indulge him with an opportunity of publickly expressing his love for your person, and of thus subscribing himself, Sir, your affectionate humble servant and friend, T. Coombe" pp. 3-4.

Beattie had described an Indian massacre in his poem "On reading the Declaration of War" in 1756, published in the second volume of A Collection of Original Poems by Scottish Gentlemen (1762) 167-70.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Thomas Coombe, D.D., a native of Philadelphia, banished at the time of the Revolution; afterwards became Prebendary of Canterbury" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:423.



Fast fell the rains, and cheerless was the morn,
When first from Auburn's vale I roam'd forlorn;
The neighbouring swains came pensive o'er the lea,
And parting, breath'd their last kind pray'rs for me.
Ah! gentle souls! your pray'rs from me how vain,
The man of sorrow, penury, and pain—
Thus EDWIN mourn'd, pale, melancholy, slow,
Where broad ONTARIO'S sounding waters flow;
The sun sate frowning on the plaints he made,
And savage howlings doubly gloom'd the shade.

Oh Thou, the gentlest of the Muses' train,
To whom no Mourner ever sigh'd in vain,
GOLDSMITH, sweet Bard, forgive the Druid lay,
That blends this leaf of cypress with thy bay;
Hear what big woes the Village groupe befel,
Thy own prophetic song foretold too well.

Once I was blest beyond the Peasant's lot,
In humble neatness rose my little cot,
I saw my whitening fleece the heath adorn,
I saw my vallies wave with golden corn;
I saw my duteous children round me rise,
And e'en proud Grandeur with unenvying eyes.
Pleas'd with what heaven had lent, and far from strife,
Calm, unreprov'd, I walk'd the vale of life.
But vain the humblest hope which man can form,
When fierce OPPRESSION pours the blasting storm.
Nor peace, nor love, nor pity's plaintive woe,
Can, or avert, or mitigate the blow;
Alike it rends the young, the hoary head,
And tears the Peasant from his lowly shed.

Fast fell the rains, and fatal was the morn,
When first from Auburn's vale I roam'd forlorn.

Yet witness heaven, tho' such thy chang'd decrees,
Ne'er did I waste my hours in loitering ease;
Ne'er did thy blessings prompt the wish to stray,
Health nerv'd my limbs, and labour clos'd my day.
Soon as the glimmering dawn its slumbers broke,
The hills resounded with my hardy stroke.
Dear native hills! along whose verdant brow,
Full many a day I drove the toilsome plough,
And oft the hamlet train, as leisure sway'd,
In harmless mirth, spread o'er the evening shade:
Still memory casts one longing, lingering view,
Recalls past happy scenes, and bleeds anew.

Bleak was the surge, and fatal was the morn,
When first from England's shores I sail'd forlorn.

Ah me! what anguish tore this boding heart,
When the shrill boatswain blew the sign — to part.
Rais'd on mine arm, connubial mildness hung,
Fond filial duty round my bosom clung.
Firm for their sakes, along the surf-beat strand,
And whispering peace, I led the weeping band,
Deceiv'd their thoughts from Auburn's much-lov'd plain,
And talk'd of happier bowers beyond the main.
Poor aged man! from that eventful day,
The mourner sorrow mark'd thee for her prey,
War, sickness, famine hence thy years annoy,
Mock thy vain toil, and blast the promis'd joy.

Dark was the hour, and fatal was the morn,
When first from England's shores I sail'd forlorn.

Twelve tedious weeks we plough'd the wintry main,
Torn by the tempest, batter'd by the rain.
Now left of heaven, and wanting daily bread,
Each gaz'd at each, and hung the sickly head.
My little sons, my hope, my humble pride,
Too weak for combat, sicken'd, wail'd, and died;
Stretch'd on the deck, the breathless cherubs lay,
As buds put forth in April's stormy day.
Nor long my tender Partner liv'd to cheer,
Borne with her babes upon a watery bier.
Five days she languish'd with the fever's fire,
The sixth sad morn beheld my saint expire:
Meek as when angels weep, if weep they do,
Some human tears she dropp'd, and groan'd adieu.
These trembling lips her lips convulsive prest,
These trembling hands sustain'd her bursting breast,
These trembling hands discharg'd each mournful rite,
Sooth'd her last pang, and seal'd her dying sight.
To the same deep their dear remains were given,
Their mingled spirits wing'd their flight to heaven.

Oblivious veil in shades the fatal morn,
When first from Auburn's vale I roam'd forlorn.

But where, O where, shall ship-wreck'd Age repose,
Where shall this wounded bosom balm its woes!
Here as I urge my melancholy way,
The prowling INDIAN snuffs his wonted prey.
Hah — should I meet him in his dusky round,
Late in the woods I heard his murderous sound—
But whence that start! — I'll answer to the yell—
And chase the Murderer to his gory cell.
Savage — but oh! I rave — o'er younder wild,
E'en at this hour, he drives my captive child.
Ah my poor EMMA, in whose face, whose breast,
My other EMMA liv'd again confest,
Now robb'd of both, and every comfort fled,
Soon shall the turf infold this wearied head;
Soon shall my spirit reach that peaceful shore,
Where bleeding friends unite, to part no more.

And then I'll cease to rue the fatal morn,
When first from Auburn's vale I roam'd forlorn.

Thus droop'd the SEER till night's surrounding hour,
The famish'd raven shrieking from his bower;
Dim rose the moon, the winds began to roar,
And the wild lake unconcious lash'd his shore.

[pp. 5-12]