Shall I Ever - Sligo Poets

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Sligo Times 24 August 1912


(By Robert J. Milne in the “Boston Globe.”)

Shall I ever see thee, Erin,
    Land of love and land of song?
Where my infant eyes first opened
    And my heart and soul belong;
Where the daisies deck the valleys
    And the sweet wild roses blow—
Shall I ever see thee, Erin?
    Ah, my heart would like to know.

Shall I ever see thee, Erin?
    Just to feast my eyes again,
Where the little shamrock bloometh
    On each smiling, verdant plain.
Just to see the skylark soaring
    In the calm and sunny blue;
It would give my soul contentment,
    And my heart its pleasure true.

Shall I ever see thee, Erin,
    And the friends I used to know
In the days that now have vanished?
    Ah they seem so long ago—
True hearts all that bade you welcome
    With the clasp of friendship’s hand,
And the sweet cead mile failthe,
    In that dear old Irish land.

Shall I ever see thee, Erin,
    Or those dear old friends again?
Ah! the doubts that fill my bosom
    Cause my heart sincerest pain.
Yet my heart is always yearning
    For the heath and shamrock green,
Though I know ’tis vain this longing,
    As the ocean lies between.

Shall I ever see thee, Erin?
    Or will death my eyelids close,
Far away from that old Abbey,
    Where my kindred all repose;
Where the stately, ivied ruin
    Tells in language proud and bold
Of the glorious days of Tara,
    And the flag of Green and Gold?

Shall I ever see thee, Erin,
    Yet my heart shall aye be true,
And my spirit float above thee
    In the calm, ethereal blue,
On its long, last faithful journey,
    As it speeds in course along,
I shall see thee, Mother Erin,
    Land of love and land of song!

Robert J. Milne was a Sligo native. In the 1911 Census Robert Joseph Milne, a civil engineer and farmer, lived with his wife Jane and their four children in Knocknarea, County Sligo. He was 43 years of age.

He had been elected a District Councillor for the Knocknarea division but resigned this position in May 1912. It was stated that he had emigrated.

Tadhg Kilgannon includes extracts from a poem of Milne's on Knocknarea in Sligo and its Surroundings (1926) with the information that the author had died young and was buried in the United States. He also included his photograph in a section entitled Occasional Pilgrims to Parnassus.

This poem, first published in the Boston Globe, is a standard Irish emigrant's lament with no local references except the mention of the ivy-clad ruin of Sligo Abbey.

Milne had a similar poem of exile, Ballintogher, published in the Sligo Champion in 1916.

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