Credit note: The name of this poem is actually “For the picture, ‘The Last of England'”. Ford Madox Brown wrote it in 1855 to accompany his famous painting. It exists in a couple of versions; this version hangs in the Birmingham (UK) Museum and Art Gallery.
Tim says: Ford Madox Brown began work on this painting in 1852, when emigration from the UK was at its height – according to Wikipedia, over 350,000 people emigrated that year, from a country whose population is much smaller than it is now.
I have this painting as a black and white illustration in a book, and had always imagined that the couple in the foreground (modelled by Ford Madox Ford and his wife Emma; their children also appear in the picture) were staring back at England. In fact, the white cliffs of Dover are in the top right of the picture, and the couple are looking resolutely away. When my family and I sailed out of the English channel in 1961 on our way to New Zealand with a boatload of assisted immigrants, I imagine the emotions felt by the adults on board may have been somewhat similar.
The Tuesday Poem: Moves between cultures.