Pity the Poor Immigrant

In Birmingham, that, tourist-neglected, wonderful city in England which we visited last year, (see my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/burne-jones-in-brum/) we saw this touching picture in the city’s marvellous art museum.


It’s called ‘The Last of England’ and was painted in 1855 by Ford Maddox Brown (1821 –1893).  The painting shows two emigrants leave England to start a new life in Australia with their baby. These verses are by the artist:

…She grips his listless hand and clasps her child,
Through rainbow tears she sees a sunnier gleam,
She cannot see a void where he will be.

In Livorno’s civic museum, which we visited this week, we saw this painting which also depicts emigrants, this time leaving Italy. It’s by Raffaello Gambogi (Livorno 1874-1943) and dates from 1894. Again, there’s an atmosphere of separation and solitude with the family as the focus in the centre of the painting. The man has a little girl in his arms and is kissing her and another girl is holding onto his jacket. He will be the lonely emigrant in the country he is heading for. Who are the two women whose faces are hidden from view? Another woman is sitting on a trunk. Behind them there’s an extensive view of busy maritime Livorno at the end of the nineteenth century.


Presumably, if you’ve been to Lucca, you may have visited the emigration museum which is just to the right of the ducal palace dominating piazza Napoleone. It’s run by the Fondazione Paolo Cresci and is well worth a visit, also because part of it is sited within the charming chapel of Saint Mary.

There’s also an emigrant section in Coreglia Antelminelli’s ‘figurinai’ museum.

My wife’s parents were emigrants and so was my mother – all from Italy.

(In Knole Park, last century: my mum and I)

Last night’s TV news had this to show us from the ‘grave of the Mediterranean’: yet another sinking rubber boat filled with desperation. Italy is alone in this life-saving exercise. No other country in Europe seems to care, according to Prime Minister Renzi.


Both Sandra and I were brought up in somewhat straightened circumstances but we were still happy!


Little did we know then that we would eventually meet and finally become an item…

As Bob Dylan has (finally!) received the Nobel Prize for literature it may be worth quoting his ambiguous song about immigration:

I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home

Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone
That man whom with his fingers cheats
And who lies with every breath
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise, fears his death

I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain
Whose heaven is like ironsides
Whose tears are like rain
Who eats but is not satisfied

Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me

I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass



2 thoughts on “Pity the Poor Immigrant

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