Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Poem of the Week:*
Orphan Hand
by Maria Dunn

Home Boys (or Bernardo's Boys) were sent from UK streets to work as farm hands around Peterborough and across Canada. Most had dismal lives, little short of slave labour.

My name it might as well be John
For all you care from where I've come,
They sent me here to your homestead
To earn my daily bread.

From London Streets they boarded me
The gutter children put to sea,
At eight years old you took me in
But you never called me kin.

Is there no one in this dreary land
With a kind word for an orphan hand
I work like hell and pay my share
Where's the Christian look in your hardened stare
That Blackened ship that carried me
I wish had tossed me to the sea
My trouble would have reaped at least
A long embrace and a moment's peace

Your hardship in this cold, cold land
Left you a tired bitter man.
Your own you still allow small joy
But you're blind to a fatherless boy.

My filthy hands and matted hair,
My feet in rags in winter's air.
Worked like a dog, kept like a pig
Where's the life I am to live?

This land of opportunity
Is no place for a lad like me,
Cast from the old world on the new,
My worth to ever prove.

I'd have better been a tinker's son
Than a homeboy from the London slums,
Sent to this barren farm alone
And worked to skin and bones.

*This is actually a song, written by Maria Dunn, though I am familiar with a version by Aengus Finnan, who is an alumni of NipU's BEd program. I chose this song as a poem of the month because my maternal great-grandfather was one of the Barnardo children, who arrived in Canada in 1880.

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