Life From 1835 to 1851
And, now, a vacancy occurs,
For very nearly sixteen years,
In which I'd not the least desire,
To strike the harp or tune the lyre.
But having left the good old 'Medway:
I tried on shore to make some headway.
I first a situation got,
And not amiss I found my lot:-
My wages good, my work was various;
My living far above precarious.
I then began to look around,
And thought ere long to settle down:
And then a letter I wrote home,
And ask'd my love if she would come;
Offering at once to pay her passage:-
And in due time received this message:-
'I'll wait till many years are past,
If you'll say you'll come home at last;-
But can't consent to such removal,
Without my fathers full approval:
Which I'm afraid he'll never give;
But come home dear, we'll happy live.'
And, then I thought if home I went,
I could not feel the same content,
As if I'd never come away,
But work'd for half a crown a day:-
While here, I thought I'd every chance
My future prospects to advance.
And after some more serious thought:
Another letter home I wrote;-
Which now I cannot give verbatim,
Though it contain'd my ultimatium.
From her engagement I relieved her,
And I've no doubt it sorely grieved her:-
Then, married in due time I got:-
Though not my first love, still my lot.
We had our sorrows and our joys,
And in due time we had four boys;
But on the day our fifth was born,
My heart was with sad anguish torn:-
A fearful illness seiz'd my wife,
Which nearly drain'd away her life:
It was so sudden and severe;
It fill'd me with a dreadful fear.
We lost the babe; and my poor wife
Show'd very little sign of life,
For thirteen hours; then, I went near her;
And what I could, I did to cheer her:-
And in due time again she rallied:
But oh! she look'd so deathly pallid.
Her illness shook her system so;
I felt my heart o'erwhelm'd with woe.
With tender unremitting care,
Good nourishment and change of air;
Health seem'd regain'd in eleven months:-
She then relaps'd, and sunk at once.
I, and my boys were now alone:-
My wife, their mother dead and gone:-
I felt bereft of my best friend,
And almost wish'd my life would end.
But having made to God my prayer
My all committed to his care;
I begg'd He would my mind direct,
My boys to support and protect.
My God afforded me relief,
And caus'd me to assuage my grief;
And thus he gently clear'd my way;
And gave me strength to suit each day,
but as I'd other ills sustain'd;
I thought if longer I remain'd;
They might increase and break me down,
And all my future prospects drown,
For I'd borne wrongs of every quality,
Many from sanctified rascality.
So I, within a little while,
Resolv'd to quit Tasmania's Isle
And in due time I made a start,
With Drew, 'Old Hoppy' and spring-cart.
Melbourne I reach'd on that day week,
And stroll'd about some work to seek:
Though very much a job I needed;
'Twas full twelve days ere I succeeded.
Work then in Melbourne was precarious;
The jobs I got were short and various:
So when five months had just roll'd over:
Portland I reach'd in the 'Red Rover'
So here I made a five months jump
And from old deck planks made a pump.
Thus near five years of sorrow past;
I and my boys were snug at last:-
I in the shop 'mong wheels and carts;
At school and home they did their parts.
Now all this while by some mischance,
My muse on me ne'er cast a glance:
But in nine months at the election
She took me under her protection.
I really felt like one inspired.
Could spin off verse when I desired;
Which made some cynics on me frown;
And then for fun I wrote them down.
Now I've gone over sixteen years
Through joys and sorrows, smiles and tears
And as I end this tale at last,
You'll guess the future by the past.
William Gay's Other Poems
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