Yellow Gals (Girls) or Irish Girl?

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Same text for two sea shanties that differ in the choir
one is:
Hey-ro, me yellow gals,
a-do-a let me go

other one goes:
Heave away my bully boys,
We’re all bound to go. (see in  second part)


Julien Vallou de Villeneuve (1795-1866), Petit blanc que j’aime

Yellow Gals (Girls) are not girls dressed in yellow or with blond hair and not even oriental ones, they are rather mulatto girls (creole) of the West Indies, according to the nineteenth-century seafaring jargon.

The term “Creole” can be understood in two exceptions: from the Spanish “crillo”, which originally referred to the first generation born in the “New World”, sons of settlers from Europe (Spain or France) and slaves. They could identify the urban population of New Orleans with light skin descended from black slaves, or all the French-speaking blacks of southwestern Louisiana, whose skin color changes from brown to black-blue, which are usually more people humble social condition.
The Spaniards in particular gave imaginative and specific names to the different gradations of the “pure” blood of hidalgo, mixed with the Amerindians (they even distinguished the Spanish born in America from those in the Land of Spain !!!) .

Hey-ro, me yellow gals, a-do-a let me go

An overwhelming irish version for the  Doodle Let Me Go!
“A.L. Lloyd sang the shanty Doodle Let Me Go (Yaller Girls) live at the Top Lock Folk Club, Runcorn, on November 5, 1972. This concert was published in 2010 on the Fellside CD An Evening with A.L. Lloyd. Paul Adams commented in the sleeve notes: “Bert’s version seems to be based on that communicated to R.R. Terry by Harding ‘The Barbarian’—a black seaman from Barbados noted as “a fine shanty-man and first-rate seaman”. (from here)
The first part is similar to the so-called “pirate song” version in which the virtues of the girls of Madama Gashee, the famous brothel of Callao, are praised; while the second part is an emigration song that shares with the Yellow Meal the story of a young and unfortunate Irish girl landed in New York.

The Irish Rovers from Emigrate, Emigrate! 1975
A version similar to that recorded by A.L. Lloyd, the first song is an instrumental entitled The Passing of the Gale


Johnny was a rover and he’s bound for Calley-o (3)
Hey-ro, me yellow gals,
a-do-a let me go

Johnny was a rover and to sea he’s bound to go
Hey-ro, me yellow gals,
a-do-a let me go
Do-a let me go (1)  me gals,
Do-a let me go
Hey-ro me yellow (2) gals
a-do-a let me go


As I walked down the landing stage all on a summer morn
I met an immagrant Irish girl all lookin’ all forlorn
“Good mornin’ Mr. Captain, sir!” “Good mornin’ you,” says he
“Oh have ya got a packin’ ship all for Americ-kay?”
“I’ve got the Jimmy Walker (4),
and she’s bound around the Horn (5),
With five-and-twenty imagrants and a thousand sacks of corn”
“Bad luck to Irish sailor boys, bad luck to them I say
They all got drunk, broke in me trunk (6), and stole me clothes away!”

1) it might mean “girl” (from the French dou-dou or a word spread in the Caribbean as “in love”) as a term of endearment or for Do-a-me-go, or Don ‘let me go or Do let my go.. As noted the sailors had the custom to add a “d” before the letter “l” so the word “do let” becomes phonetically “do -d- let” and then doodle. Or again it could be a nonsense word (see discussion herei)
2) yella, yallow was used by British-American sailors to indicate the skin color of a mulatta (Creole). More rarely to indicate an Asian girl. “Yellow Gal” is a typical expression of the vaudeville songs mostly en-travestì (black-face minstrel songs)
3) Callao port of Peru renowned for the brothel of Madam Gashee
4) this name of a ship is recurring in the many variations of the sea shanty themed emigration song
5) the infamous Cape Horn
6) I do not think it refers only to the theft of clothes, the crossing at sea was dangerous for the young ladies not accompanied by servants or an adult male. Too often they were considered to be some prostitutes instead of victims of rape!

DOODLE LET ME GO (Yaller girls)
The Irish Girl of Mr Tapscott (John Short)


Shamrock shore

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Two texts in search of an author, with the same title “Shamrock shore” we distinguish two different songs, both as text and as melody, the first reported by PW Joyce at the end of the nineteenth century is an irish emigration song, the second ever traditional is also an emigration song, but above all a protest song, the social and political denunciation of the Irish question.


Already at the end of the 1800s P. W. Joyce reported it in his  “Ancient Irish Music” to then republish it in 1909, so he writes “This air, and one verse of the song, was published for the first time by me in my Ancient Irish Music, from which it is reprinted here. It was a favourite in my young days, and I have several copies of the words printed on ballad-sheets“. Again P. W. Joyce in Old Irish Folk Music (1909) reports further text
“Ye muses mine, with me combine and grant me your relief,
While here alone I sigh and moan, I’m overwhelmed with grief:
While here alone I sigh and moan far from my friends and home;
My troubled mind no rest can find since I left the Shamrock shore.”

The Irish emigrant arrives in London, the tune is that generally known with the title of”Erin Shore” (see)

Horslips from Happy to meet, sorry to part, 1972

PW Joyce, 1890
In early spring when small birds sing and lambkins sport and play,
My way I took, my friends forsook, and came to Dublin quay;
I enter’d as a passenger, and to England I sailed o’er;
I bade farewell to all my friends,
and I left the shamrock shore.
To London fair, I did repair some pleasure there to find
I found it was a lovely place,
and pleasant to mine eye
The ladies to where fair to view,
and rich the furs they wore
But none I saw, that could compare to the maids of the shamrock shore

PARTY SONG: You brave young sons of Erin’s Isle

More than a song, a political rant about the need for the independence of Ireland and the evils of landlordism.
Matt Molloy, Tommy Peoples, Paul Brady (1978)

You brave young sons of Erin’s Isle
I hope you will attend awhile
‘Tis the wrongs of dear old Ireland I am going to relate
‘Twas black and cursed was the day
When our parliament was taken away
And all of our griefs and sufferings commences from that day (1)
For our hardy sons and daughters fair
To other countries must repair
And leave their native land behind in sorrow to deplore
For seek employment they must roam
Far, far away from the native home
From that sore, oppressed island that they call the shamrock shore
Now Ireland is with plenty blessed
But the people, we are sore oppressed
All by those cursed tyrants we are forced for to obey
Some haughty landlords for to please
Our houses and our lands they’ll seize
To put fifty farms into one (2) and take us all away
Regardless of the widow’s sighs
The mother’s tears and orphan’s cries
In thousands we were driven from home which grieves my heart full sore
We were forced by famine and disease (3) To emigrate across the seas
From that sore, opressed island that they called the shamrock shore
Our sustenance all taken away
The tithes and taxes for to pay
To support that law-protected church to which they do adhere (4)
And our Irish gentry, well you know
To other countries they do go
And the money from old Ireland they squandered here and there
For if our squires  would stay at home
And not to other countries roam
But to build mills and factories (5) here to employ the laboring poor
For if we had trade and commerce here
To me no nation could compare
To that sore, oppressed island that they call the shamrock shore
John Bull (6), he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish the tyrants from our land
And in harmony like sisters stand
To demand the rights of Ireland,
let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all around the shamrock shore

1) The song is obviously post-Union (1800), because it refers to the dissolved Irish Parliament
2) the plague of landlordism
3)  in 1846 the entire crop of potatoes (basic diet of the Irish) was all destroyed due to a fungus, the peronospera; the “great famine” occurred (1845-1849 which some historians prolonged until 1852) which lasted for several years and almost halved the population; those who did not die of hunger were lucky if the
y could leave for England or Scotland, but more massive was the migration to America
4) ‘tithes and taxes’ paid in support of the Irish Church, so the song pre-dates the Act of Disestablishment in 1869
5) the years of large-scale industrial expansion (with relative upgrading of infrastructure) began in Britain starting from 1840-50
6) John Bull is the national personification of the Kingdom of Great Britain

Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore


Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

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“Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore ” is a traditional Irish song originally from Donegal, of which several textual versions have been written for a single melody.

TUNE: Erin Shore

A typically Irish tune spread among travellers already at the end of 1700, today it is known with different titles: Shamrock shore, Erin Shore (LISTEN instrumental version of the Irish group The Corrs from Forgiven, Not Forgotten 1995), Lough Erin Shore (LISTEN to the version always instrumental of the Corrs from Unpluggesd 1999), Gleanntáin Ghlas’ Ghaoth Dobhair, Gleanntan Glas Gaoith Dobhair or The Green Glens Of Gweedor (with text written by Francie Mooney)

Standard version: Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

The common Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore was first sung on an EFDSS LP(1969) by Packie Manus Byrne, now over 80 and living in Ardara Co Donegal*. He was born at Corkermore between there and Killybegs. It was taken up by Paul Brady and subsequently. However, there are longer and more local (to north Derry, Donegal) versions in Sam Henry’s Songs of the People and in Jimmy McBride’s The Flower of Dunaff Hill.” (in Mudcats ) and Sam Henry writes “Another version has been received from the Articlave district, where the song was first sung in 1827 by an Inishowen ploughman.”
The recording made by Sean Davies at Cecil Sharp House dates back to 1969 and again in the sound archives of the ITMA we find the recording sung by Corney McDaid at McFeeley’s Bar, Clonmany, Co. Donegal in 1987 (see) and also Paul Brady recorded it many times.
Kevin Conneff recorded it with the Chieftains in 1992, “Another Country” (I, II, IV, V, II)

Amelia Hogan from “Transplants: From the Old World to the New.”

Liam Ó Maonlai & Donal Lunny ( I, IV, V, II)

Dolores Keane & Paul Brady live 1988 (I, II, IV, V)

Come Irishmen all, who hear my song, your fate is a mournful tale
When your rents are behind and you’re being taxed blind and your crops have grown sickly and failed
You’ll abandon your lands,
and you’ll wash your hands of all that has come before and you’ll take to the sea to a new count-a-ree, far from the green Shamrock shore.
From Derry quay we sailed away
On the twenty-third of May
We were boarded by a pleasant crew
Bound for Amerikay
Fresh water then we did take on
Five thousand gallons or more
In case we’d run short going to New York
Far away from the shamrock shore
II (Chorus)
Then fare thee well, sweet Liza dear
And likewise to Derry town
And twice farewell to my comrades bold (boys)
That dwell on that sainted ground
If fame or fortune shall favour me
And I to have money in store
I’ll come back and I’ll wed the wee lassie I left
On Paddy’s green shamrock shore
At twelve o’clock we came in sight
Of famous Mullin Head
And Innistrochlin to the right stood out On the ocean’s bed
A grander sight ne’er met my eyes
Than e’er I saw before
Than the sun going down ‘twixt sea and sky
Far away from the shamrock shore
We sailed three days (weeks), we were all seasick
Not a man on board was free
We were all confined unto our bunks
And no-one to pity poor me
No mother dear nor father kind
To lift (hold) up my head, which was sore
Which made me think more on the lassie I left
On Paddy’s green shamrock shore
Well we safely reached the other side
in three (fifteen) and twenty days
We were taken as passengers by a man(1)
and led round in six different ways,
We each of us drank a parting glass
in case we might never meet more,
And we drank a health to Old Ireland
and Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

*additional first verse by Garrison White
1) It refers to the reception of immigrants who were inspected and held for bureaucratic formalities, but the sentence is not very clear. Ellis Island was used as an entry point for immigrants only in 1892. Prior to that, for approximately 35 years, New York State had 8 million immigrants transit through the Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Lower Manhattan.


This text was written by Patrick Brian Warfield, singer and multi-instrumentalist of the Irish group The Wolfe Tones. In his version the point of landing is not New York but Baltimore.
Young Dubliners

The Wolfe Tones from Across the Broad Atlantic 2005 

Lyrics: Patrick Brian Warfield 
Oh, fare thee well to Ireland
My own dear native land
It’s breaking my heart to see friends part
For it’s then that the tears do fall
I’m on my way to Americae
Will I e’er see home once more
For now I leave my own true love
And Paddy’s green shamrock shore
Our ship she lies at anchor
She’s standing by the quay
May fortune bright shine down each night
As we sail across the sea
Many ships have been lost, many lives it cost
On this journey that lies before
With a tear in my eye I’ll say goodbye
To Paddy’s green shamrock shore
So fare thee well my own true love
I’ll think of you night and day
And a place in my mind you surely will find
Although we’ll be far, far away
Though I’ll be alone far away from home
I’ll think of the good times once more
Until the day I can make my way
Back home to the shamrock shore
And now our ship is on the way
May heaven protect us all
With the winds and the sail we surely can’t fail
On this voyage to Baltimore
But my parents and friends did wave to the end
‘Til I could see them no more
I then took a chance with one last glance
At Paddy’s green shamrock shore

This version takes up the 3rd stanza of the previous version as a chorus
The High Kings

So fare thee well, my own true love
I’ll think of you night and day
Farewell to old Ireland
Good-bye to you, Bannastrant(1)
No time to look back
Facing the wind, fighting the waves
May heaven protect us all
From cold, hunger and angry squalls
Pray I won’t be lost
Wind in the sails, carry me safe
So fare thee well, my own true love
I’ll think of you night and day
A place in my mind you will surely find
Although I am so far away
And when I’m alone far away from home
I’ll think of the good times once more
Until I can make it back someday here
To Paddy’s green shamrock shore.
Out now on the ocean deep
Ship’s noise makes it hard to sleep
Tears fill up my eyes
The image of you won’t go away
New York is in sight at last
My heart, it is pounding fast
Trying to be brave
Wishing you near
By my side, a stór (2)
Until I can make it back someday here
To Paddy’s green shamrock shore

1) Banna Strand , Banna Beach, is situated in Tralee Bay County Kerry
2) my love

Shamrock shore


Emigrant Farewell

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“Farewell My Love and Remebre Me” also with the title “Our Ship Is Ready”, “The Ship Is Ready To Sail Away” or “My Heart is True”, but also “Emigrant Farewell” is the transposition in the Irish folk song of a broadside ballad entitled “Remember Me”, published in Dublin c.1867 (in the “Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads”).

The theme is that of the emigrant’s farewell  who is forced to separate from his true love; he leaves his heart in Ireland so his woman and his country become one in the memory.

In “Ulster Ballad Singer (1968)” Sarah Makem is noted: “Sarah’s melody is used quite often for songs of farewell in much the same way as the air “The Pretty Lasses of Loughrea” was used allover the country for lamentations or execution songs, (see Joyce’s Old Irish Folk Music and Song, pp 219-211). The two best-known printed versions of Sarah’s air are “Fare you well, sweet Cootehill Town” (Joyce, O.I.F.M.S., p 192) and “The Parting Glass” (Irish Street Ballads. p 69). But until such time as a system of notation is invented to record the true intervals of a folksinger’s interpretation, Sarah Makem’s version of this air must remain for study on disc or tape.”

The Boys of the Lough in Farewell and Rember Me, 1987 ( I, III, I)

Pauline Scanlon in Hush 2006 (I, III)
 La Lugh in Senex Puer 1999 (on Spotify): sad and gloomy tune on the piano with a few hints to the cello

Our ship is ready to bear(sail) away
Come comrades o’er the stormy seas
Her snow-white wings they are unfurled
And soon she will swim in a watery world
Ah, do not forget, love, do not grieve
For my heart is true and can’t deceive
My hand and heart, I will give to thee
So farewell my love and remember me
Farewell to Dublin’s hills and braes
To Killarney’s lakes and silvery seas
‘Twas many the long bright summer’s day/When we passed those hours of joy away(1)
III (3)
Farewell to you, my precious pearl
It’s my lovely dark-haired, blue-eyed girl
And when I’m on the stormy seas
When you think on Ireland, remember me
III (The Boys of the Lough )
Farewell my love as bright as pearl
my lovely dark-haired, blue-eyed girl
and when I am seal in the stormy seas
I’ll hope in Ireland, you’ll think on me
Oh, Erin dear, it grieves my heart
To think that I so soon must part
And friends so ever dear and kind
In sorrow I must leave behind
Extra Rhymes La Lugh
It’s now I must bid a long adieu
To Wicklow and its beauties too
Avoca’s braes where lovers meet
There to discourse in absence sweet
Farewell sweet Deviney, likewise the glen
The Dargle waterfall and then
The lovely scene surrounding Bray
Shall be my thoughts when far away
1) or
Where’s many the fine long summer’s day/We loitered hours of joy away

second part:  “Old Cross of Ardboe”

My Own Dear Galway Bay

Galway Bay è oggetto di diverse canzoni tradizionali irlandesi (vedi), questa dal titolo “My own dear Galway Bay” è stata scritta da Francis Arthur Fahy  (1854–1935), di Kinvara (Co. Galway) poeta e scrittore ricordato per il suo ruolo nell'”Irish literary revival” di fine Ottocento:  emigrò in Inghilterra nel 1873 andando a vivere a Clapham (Londra) dove fondò il  Southwark Literary Club (diventata l’ Irish Texts Society), per mantenere salde negli immigrati e nei loro figli la cultura irlandese.
Scrisse alcune canzoni ancora popolari su melodie tradizionali, in particolare per Galway Bay prese come riferimento la melodia “Skibbereen“; in una secondo tempo è prevalsa invece la melodia scritta da Tony Small nativo di Galway

ASCOLTA Dolores Keane (I, III, V, VI)
versione live con Dé Danann


‘Tis far away I am today
from scenes I roamed a boy,
And long ago the hour I know
I first saw Illinois;
But time nor tide nor waters wide
could wean my heart away,
For ever true it flies to you,
my old dear Galway Bay.
My chosen bride is by my side,
her brown hair silver-grey,
Her daughter Rose as like her grows
as April dawn to day.
Our only boy, his mother’s joy,
his father’s pride and stay;
With gifts like these I’d live at ease,
were I near Galway Bay.
Oh, grey and bleak,
by shore and creek,
the rugged rocks abound,
But sweet and green
the grass between,
as grows on Irish ground,
So friendship fond,
all wealth beyond,
and love that lives always,
Bless each poor home
beside your foam,
my dear old Galway Bay.
A prouder man I’d walk the land
in health and peace of mind,
If I might toil and strive and moil,
nor cast one thought behind,
But what would be the world to me,
its wealth and rich array,
If memory I lost of thee,
my own dear Galway Bay.
Had I youth’s blood
and hopeful mood
and heart of fire once more,
For all the gold the world might hold
I’d never quit your shore,
I’d live content whate’er God sent
with neighbours old and gray,
And lay my bones, ‘neath churchyard stones,
beside you, Galway Bay.
The blessing of a poor old man
be with you night and day,
The blessing of a lonely man
whose heart will soon be clay;
‘Tis all the Heaven I’ll ask of God
upon my dying day,
My soul to soar for evermore
above you,
Galway Bay.
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Oggi sono molto lontano dai luoghi dei miei vagabondaggi giovanili,
ed è da molto tempo che vidi
l’Illinois per la prima volta;
ma nè il tempo, la marea o il vasto mare potranno disabituare il mio cuore
perchè per sempre devoto a te volerà,
mia cara vecchia Baia di Galway
La sposa che ho scelto mi è accanto
i capelli castani grigio- argento, sua figlia Rose cresce come lei, così (è) l’alba d’Aprile fino al giorno (1), il nostro unico ragazzo, la gioia di sua madre,  l’orgoglio di suo padre e sostegno; con regali come questi vivrei tranquillo se fossi vicino alla Baia di Galway
Oh grige e brulle
dalla spiaggia al torrente
le rocce aspre abbondano,
ma fresca e verde
l’erba in mezzo
cresce come sul suolo irlandese,
così l’amicizia fedele
oltre ogni ricchezza
e l’amore che vive sempre (2).
Benedici ogni povera casa
davanti alle tue onde
mia cara vecchia baia di Galway
Da uomo prudente comminavo sulla terra, in salute e in pace
se potessi sgobbare, darci dentro e faticare, 
incapace di pensare al passato! Ma che valore avrebbe il mondo per me, con la sua ricchezza sconfinata, se perdessi il ricordo di te
la mia cara Baia di galway
Se avessi il sangue giovane
e la speranza
e ancora un cuore di fuoco
per tutto l’oro che il mondo potrebbe contenere, non lascerei mai la tua riva
per vivere contento ovunque dio mi mandi e con i vicini vecchi e grigi
riposeranno le mie ossa sotto le pietre del cimitero
accanto a te Baia di Galway
La benedizione di un povero vecchio
sarà con te notte e giorno
La benedizione di un uomo solo
il cui cuore diventerà presto terra;
è questo il paradiso che chiederò a Dio
nel giorno della mia morte
la mia anima che voli per sempre
su di te
Baia di Galway

1) se ho ben interpretato il paragone Rose cresce come la luce del sole nell’alba del mese d’aprile (primavera)  fino alla sua pienezza del mattino.
2) oppure “away”: se ho ben colto il senso della frase l’amicizia e l’amore sono paragonati all’erba verde che cresce nonostante le asprezze e le difficoltà della vita



Alla Rosa Nera d’Irlanda -contrapposta idealmente alla Rosa Rossa della Casata Tudor (la rosa dei Lancaster)- sono dedicate un paio di canzoni, la prima scritta da un bardo del XVI/XVII secolo in gaelico irlandese (vedi), e le altre scritte da giovani  irlandesi negli anni 70-80 : qui si esamina la canzone di protesta/speranza dal titolo “To Youth” dei Flogging Molly, il gruppo celtic punk con base Los Angeles.
Róisín Dubh (= little black rose) è  Rosalinda, una fanciulla dal nome di Piccola Rosa, l’allegoria dell’Irlanda, una parola in codice coniata alla fine del Cinquecento/inizi Seicento: la rosa nera era un tempo una rosa di un colore rosso cupo, molto scuro, la rosa gotica per eccellenza associa alla morte. E tuttavia nel linguaggio dei fiori ottocentesco presenta molteplici significati: è sia la fine che l’inizio di un drastico cambiamento, una rinascita. Rose rosso cupo sono il dolore di una tragica storia d’amore. E così l’amore per la propria terra è profondo e tenace; è un amore che richiede il sacrificio.
Questo però è il canto dell’emigrante che lascia l’Irlanda intossicata dalla povertà e dalle lotte fratricide.

ASCOLTA Flogging Molly in Within a Mile of Home (2004)

Tell me why must a man be of service
To his lord
and the gods seldom high
From the grave sprang the name of our fathers
But there’s no glint in a dead man’s eye
Tell me why our fields filled with hunger
And fruitless the crop bittered soil
So I say my farewell to a nation
As the leaf waves goodbye to its sun
So it’s to youth I sing you this story
And it’s of youth I sing it now
Like the train that derailed without warning
I must leave what I left far behind
So goodbye sweet Roisin Dubh
I say goodbye
Tell me why must our peace be this puzzle
That fractures the land splinters war
The last nail sank the shame on our coffin
But in the end we must all die alone
And the bark fell from tree
To the ground that now bleeds
On the anguish that never learnt to shout
When the clash of the drum will surrender the gun
And of this sadness we shall no longer speak
Until tank and the bomb are but all forgotten songs
That’s when I and we will sing again
So goodbye to my love
My sweet Roisin Dubh
Goodbye now until we meet again
Tell me why must our grief still be grieving
For a language that never spoke it’s loss
But this tongue spit with fire will tear down the barbwire
And rip the belly from the waxy ghost
Until we meet again
She’ll rise to beautify
But slumber now must rest
O’ my Roisin Dubh
I’ll forever love
The youth you once possessed
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Dimmi perchè un uomo deve servire il suo Signore
e (perchè) gli Dei di rado grandi
dalla tomba accrescono (1) il nome dei nostri padri, ma non c’è vitalità nell’occhio di un uomo morto;
dimmi perché le nostre terre (sono) in preda alla fame ed (è) sterile il terreno di una coltivazione avvelenata.
Così dico addio alla nazione
come la foglia saluta il suo sole.
Eppure è della gioventù che vi canto questa storia ed è tra i giovani che la canto ora, come il treno deragliato senza
devo lasciare alle spalle quello che  è rimasto, così addio soave Rosa Nera
ti dico addio.
Dimmi perché la nostra pace deve essere questo enigma,
che spacca la terra nella guerriglia,
l’ultimo chiodo sigilla la vergogna sulla nostra bara
ma alla fine si muore sempre soli.
E il ramo caduto dall’albero
alla terra che adesso sanguina,
con l’angoscia che non ha mai imparato a gridare,
quando il clangore del tamburo rinuncerà  al fucile
e di questa tristezza non dovremo più parlare
Finchè carrarmati e bombe non sono che canzoni dimenticate, questo è quando noi canteremo di nuovo,
così addio al mio amore,
mia fragrante Rosa Nera
addio fino al prossimo incontro.
Dimmi perché il nostro dolore deve essere ancora in lutto,
perchè si è persa una lingua che non ha mai parlato;
ma questa lingua sputata dal fuoco
abbatterà il filo spinato e strapperà il ventre al cereo fantasma
Al nostro prossimo incontro
lei risorgerà nella bellezza
ma ora riposiamo nel sonno,
della mia Rosa Nera
amerò per sempre
la gioventù che un tempo aveva.

1) to spring usato nel significato di crescere, aumentare o estendersi in altezza o lunghezza, raggiungere una certa altezza; evidente gioco di parole


The isle of Innisfree

 Canzone scritta e composta da Dick Farrelly con il titolo “The Isle of Inisfree” forse anche ispirato dai versi di Yeats “The “Isle of Innisfree” that I had in my mind was Ireland, another name for Ireland, and that’s something people often get mixed up. I liked the sound of the “The Isle of Innisfree”. I thought it would make a good song title and immediately thoughts of Ireland and emigration came to my mind. The whole song, words and music were composed on that bus. I know that by the time I got to Dublin I had my song, the complete words and music. For me, “Isle of Innisfree” is simply Ireland and it was Ireland that I had in mind when I wrote this song about an exile’s longing for home“.
lough Gill (foto da qui)

Come per molte canzoni vecchio stile la melodia è dolce e malinconica
ASCOLTA la melodia

Bing Crosby (tranne la strofa V) una canzone diventata molto popolare sulla scia della notorietà raggiunta dal film “The quiet Man” (1952)

ASCOLTA Celtic Woman

ASCOLTA The Irish Rovers

ASCOLTA Dublin City Ramblers

I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer
And I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say
But sure a body’s bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away
And precious things are dreams unto an exile
They take him o’er the land across the sea
Especially when it happens he’s an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Inisfree
And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city, wondrous though it be,
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter
I’m once again back home in Inisfree
I wander o’er green hills through dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow
And then into a humble shack I wander–
My dear old home–and tenderly behold
The folks I love around the turf fire gathered
On bended knee Their rosary is told
But dreams don’t last
Though dreams are not forgotten
And soon I’m back to stern reality
But though they pave the footways here with gold dust (1)
I still would choose the Isle of Inisfree
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Ho incontrato gente che dice io sia un sognatore,
e non c’è dubbio che ci sia della verità in quel che dicono; ma di sicuro un uomo è sulla buona strada per essere un sognatore,
quando tutte le cose che ama sono lontane.
E cose preziose sono i sogni
quando lo portano nella terra d’oltre mare,
soprattutto quando capita di essere un esule,
da quell’amata bella Isola di Inisfree
E quando il chiaro di luna fa capolino dalla cima dei tetti
di questa grande città, per quanto meravigliosa sia,
a malapena sento la sua magia o le sue risate
e sono di nuovo a casa a Inisfree
Cammino per le colline verdi e le valli da sogno,
e trovo una pace che nessun altro paese può conoscere,
ascolto gli uccelli cantare
per gli angeli
e osservo i fiumi che scorrono
E poi mi aggiro per un’umile
capanna –
la mia cara vecchia casa
– e guardo con tenerezza
alle persone che amo, intorno al fuoco di torba radunate
in ginocchio a dire il rosario
Ma i sogni non durano, anche se sono sogni che non si dimenticano
e presto ritorno alla dura realtà;
ma anche se pavimentano i marciapiedi con la polvere d’oro
sceglierei ancora l’isola di Inisfree.

1) espressione ricorrente nelle ballate degli emigranti, in cui si metteva in guardia i nuovi arrivati


Back of Bennachie

Sono numerose le canzoni popolari scozzesi che narrano d’incontri romantici “among the heather”( o come dicono in Scozia “amang the heather”) cioè in camporella, tra procaci pastorelle e baldi giovanotti, questo filone ha come luogo dell’appuntamento lo scenario delle Bennachie Hills, la montagna o collina come dir si voglia più famosa e conosciuta della Scozia nord-orientale.
Situata nel Garioch tra i fiumi  Don e  Gadie è una catena di alture, punto di riferimenti dell’Aberdeenshire della Scozia con la più alta, Oxen Craig, che arriva a circa 500 metri. (vedi prima parte)

This photo of Bennachie Hill Walks is courtesy of TripAdvisor


Nel Nord della Scozia è una delle canzoni più popolari con il testo rielaborato a partire dal ritornello, con il titolo di “Braes o ‘Bennachie” o “The Back of Bennachie” ma anche “Gin I Were Where The Gadie Runs” presenta  molte varianti. La melodia è “The Hessian’s March”  conosciuta dai più associata alla anti-war song My Son David” .
In merito ai testi sono sorte un po’ di confusioni per via delle tante rielaborazioni: il filone è quello agreste con un’idilliaca visione dell’amena località cantata nel mutarsi delle stagioni (John Imlah) oppure una nostalgica canzone dell’emigrante (Rev. John Park), ma anche un lament.

Gin I Were Where The Gadie Runs

L’autore del testo è John Imlah (1799-1846) e nel  ‘The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection’, vol VI sono riportate cinque versioni della canzone. La canzone nei versi di Imlah è una idilliaca visione dell’amena località cantata nel mutarsi delle stagioni (vedi).
Un testo ulteriormente rielaborato dal Rev. John Park  (1805-1865)  di St Andrew, la trasforma in una nostalgica emigration song!
ASCOLTA Alex Campbell  1963.

Rev. John Park*
O Gin I were whaur the Gadie (1) rins
Whaur the Gadie rins,
whaur the Gaudie rins
Gin I were whaur the Gaudie rins
At the back (2) o’ Bennachie
Aince mair to hear the wild birds’ sang,
To wander birks an’ braes amang
Wi’ friends and fav’rites left sae lang
At the back o’ Bennachie.
Oh, an’ I were whaur Gadie rins,
‘Mang blooming heaths and yellow whins,
Or brawlin’ down the bosky linns
At the back o’ Bennachie.
O Mary ! There on ilka nicht
when baith our hearts wew young and licht,
we’ve wander’d when the moon was bricht
At the back o’ Bennachie.
O ance, ance mair where Gadue rins
where Gadue rins, where Gadue rins
o micht I dee where Gadie rins
At the back o’ Bennachie.
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
dove scorre il Gadie
dove scorre il Gadie

Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
ai piedi del Bennachie
Per ascoltare ancora una volta cantare gli uccelli del bosco e vagare tra boschetti e colline con gli amici e i cari lasciati da tanto, ai piedi del  Bennachie
Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
tra l’erica in fiore e la gialla ginestra,
o dove rimbottano le cascate dalle rive frondose
ai piedi del  Bennachie
O Maria! Là ogni sera,
quando entrambi i nostri cuori erano giovani e lieti,
andavamo a vagabondare quando la luna era luminosa
ai piedi del  Bennachie
Oh una volta, ancora una volta dove scorre il Gadie, dove scorre il Gadie,
oh se potessi morire dove sorre il Gadie, ai piedi del  Bennachie

*in Scots Minstrelsie, vol. I (1893) di John Greig. (qui).
1) Gaudie o Gadie è un ruscello dell’Aberdeenshire che sgorga dalla collina di Bennachie e sfocia nell’Urie, un affluente del Don
2) scritto anche come “foot”: il termine “retro” con cui verrebbe da tradurre “back” non ha molto senso, senonchè Back o ‘Bennachie è il lato nord della cresta montuosa, il lato più accidentato, è proprio il lato dove scorre il Gadie vicino al villaggio di Oyne. Perciò la traduzione corretta è : versante nord di Bennachie. Il titolo Back of Bennachie con cui viene chiamata talvolta questa versione rimanda all’idea-desiderio dell’emigrante di far ritorno nella sua terra natia.


La versione riportata da John Ord nelle sue “Bothy Song and Ballads” (1990) è invece un lament e racconta tutta un’altra storia.  In questa canzone una giovane donna si lamenta di essere stata fidanzata per ben due volte ma di non essersi mai sposata, perchè i suoi innamorati sono morti accidentalmente (uno in una rissa, l’altro affogato): invece dell’abito nunziale la donna indosserà un sudario, come quello dei suoi promessi sposi. Con il titolo The Gaudie è stata anche cantata da Hamish Imlach, in alcuni siti il testo è però erroneamente attribuito a John Imlah.
Alcuni ritengono che il racconto di omicidi e annegamenti nei dintorni del Bennachie sia precedente alla versione idilliaca diffusasi nell’Ottocento, alcuni studiosi ipotizzano un’origine dalle jacobite song.

ASCOLTA Old Blind Dogs in New Tricks 1992

Gin I were whaur the Gaudie (1) rins
Whaur the Gaudie rins,
whaur the Gaudie rins
Gin I were whaur the Gaudie rins
At the back o’ Bennachie
Oh I niver had but twa richt lads
Aye twa richt lads, twa richt lads
I niver had but twa richt lads
That dearly courted me
And ane  was killed at the Lourin Fair(2)
The laurin’ fair, at the Lourin Fair
Oh ane was killed at the Lourin Fair
The ither  was droont in the Dee (3)
And I gave to him the haunin'(4) fine
The haunin’ fine, the haunin’ fine
Gave to him the haunin’ fine
His mornin’  dressed tae be
Well, he gave to me the linen fine
The linen fine, the linen fine
Gave to me the linen fine
Me windin’ shee tae be
Oh gin I were whaur the Gaudie rins Wi’ the bonny broom an’ the yellow whims Gin I were whaur the Gaudie rins At the back o’ Bennachie
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
dove scorre il Gadie
dove scorre il Gadie

Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
ai piedi del Bennachie
Non ho avuto che due ricchi ragazzi
due ricchi ragazzi, due ricchi ragazzi, non ho avuto che due ricchi ragazzi che mi corteggiarono
E uno fu ucciso alla Fiera
di Lourin
alla Fiera di Lourin
alla Fiera di Lourin
l’altro fu affogato nel Dee
E gli diedi della tela d’Olanda,
tela d’Olanda, tela d’Olanda
gli diedi della tela d’Olanda
perchè fosse il suo manto funebre
Lui mi diede della biancheria fine
biancheria fine, biancheria fine
mi diede della biancheria fine
perchè fosse il mio sudario
Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
con la bella erica e la gialla ginestra
Vorrei essere dove scorre il Gadie
ai piedi del Bennachie

1) Gaudie o Gadie è un ruscello dell’Aberdeenshire che sgorga dalla collina di Bennachie e sfocia nell’Urie, un affluente del Don
2) una fiera millenaria che si tiene ancora ogni anno nel villaggio di Old Rayne
3) Il Dee  scorre nella regione dell’Aberdeenshire.  L’area intorno al fiume è chiamata Strathdee, Deeside, o “Royal Deeside” dove la Regina VIttoria costrui’ il castello di Balmoral.
4) non riesco a trovare una corrispondenza del termine, probabilmente un refuso o un’incomprensione del termine “Holland”; nelle antiche ballate “holland fine” era un termine spesso utilizzato per indicare la tela d’Olanda, la tela di puro lino  di qualità superiore, pregiata per la sua finezza e lavorazione, dal colore particolarmente bianco e una trama fine ma compatta.



Un lamento irlandese o scozzese?
La paternità della slow air è contesa tra Irlanda e Scozia,  secondo Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland, 1840)  fu composta dal bardo irlandese-arpista Myles O’Reilly  (c. 1635) per commemorare la partenza dei giovani irlandesi dopo il trattato di Limerick (1691); secondo O’Neill (Irish Minstrels and Musicians, 1913) il compositore fu Thomas Connellan (c.1640-45 – 1698) Cloonmahon, contea di Sligo che la intitolò “The Breach of Aughrim”.
La melodia è toccante, da far sgorgar le lacrime per la sua mestizia..


It is sad and lone I am today, far from dear Erin’s shore
I may never, never, never see her again; I may never see her more.
In Irlanda oggi il brano è eseguito in versione strumentale occasionalmente suonato ai funerali o come emigration song.
ASCOLTA The Chieftains in “The Chieftains live” 1977

ASCOLTA Sharon Shannon & Liam O Maoinli

ASCOLTA Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill

ASCOLTA Na Casaidigh


In Scozia già popolare lament per cornamusa, la slow air venne versificata da Allan Ramsay  nel 1723, come il lamento di un highlander in partenza per  combattere tra le fila dei ribelli (la ribellione giacobita del 1715 vedi)

(c) The Fleming Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

ASCOLTA Breabach

ASCOLTA  The Rankin Family

Farewell to Lochaber (1), farewell to my Jean,
Where heartsome wi’ her (thee) I ha’e mony day been,
For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more,
We’ll maybe return to Lochaber no more.
These tears that I shed they are all for my dear,
And no’ for the dangers attending on weir (2);
Tho’ borne on rough seas to a far distant (bloody) shore.
Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.
Though hurricanes rise, though rise ev’ry wind,
No tempest can equal the storm in my mind;
Tho loudest of thunders or louder waves roar,
There’s nothing like leavin’ my love on the shore.
To leave thee behind me, my heart is sair pain’d,
But by ease that’s inglorious no fame can be gain’d;
And beauty and love’s the reward of the brave,
And I maun deserve it before I can crave.
Then glory, my Jeanie, maun plead my excuse,
Since honour commands me, how can I refuse?
Without it I ne’er can have merrit for thee;
And losing thy favour, I’d better not be.
I go then, my lass, to win honour and fame;
And if I should chance to come gloriously hame,
I’ll bring a heart to thee, with love running o’er,
And then I’ll leave thee an’ Lochaber no more.
Tradotto da Cattia Salto
Addio Lochaber, e addio
mia Jean
dove ho trascorso con te molti giorni felici
perchè lascio  Lochaber, lascio Lochaber
e forse non ritornerò mai più a Lochaber.
Queste lacrime che verso, sono tutte per la mia cara
e non per i pericoli che mi attendono in guerra
trasportato dal mare ribelle in una spiaggia lontana (di sangue)
forse non ritornerò mai più a Lochaber.
Anche se gli uragani si levano, anche se si solleva il vento
nessuna tempesta può eguagliare la bufera nella mia anima,
più rumorosa dei tuoni o del ruggito delle onde più alte,
non c’è niente di come lasciare il mio amore sulla spiaggia.
Lasciarti indietro, il mio cuore è pieno di dolore,
ma con la cautela del senza gloria nessuna fama si può ottenere;
e la beltà e l’amore sono la ricompensa per il coraggio
e li devo meritare prima di poterli desiderare.
Allora la gloria, mia Jean dovrà perorare la mia spiegazione,
finchè  l’onore mi comanda, come posso io rifiutare?
Senza non potrò mai meritarti
e senza il tuo favore preferisco non vivere!
Vado dunque ragazza, per vincere onore e fama
e se avessi la possibilità di ritornare gloriosamente a casa
porterò il cuore a te, traboccante d’amore
e poi non lascerò te e Lochaber mai più.

1) Lochaber è il cuore delle Highlands, nella parte meridionale della contea di Inverness: in questa regione l’acqua è una delle protagoniste assolute, ed una delle principali ragioni della sua bellezza; fiumi, laghi, cascate, mare … è un tripudio della natura che si incontra con magia, storia e l’amore dell’uomo per la terra  che abita. (continua)


Una emigration song proveniente dall’Irlanda del Nord e di probabile origine scozzese intitolata anche “The Parting Glass”  da confondere con l’altra più popolare “The Parting Glass”  che inizia con “Of all the money e’er I had“.
La sua forma standard è oggi quella registrata dai Chieftains
ASCOLTA Kevin Conneff (The Chieftains) in “A Chieftains Celebration, 1989 (strofe da I a III)

ASCOLTA Cara Dillon 2006

Un brano da renaissance fair, ascoltiamolo nella versione dei Blackmore’s Night in Autumn Sky 2010

e una perfetta tavern song finita nel video-gioco Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (strofe da I a III)

Kind friends and companions, come join me in rhyme
Come lift up your voices in chorus with mine
Come lift up your voices, all grief to refrain
For we may or might never all meet here again
Here’s a health to the company and one to my lass
Let us drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain
For we may or might never all meet here again
Here’s a health to the dear lass that I love so well
For her style and for her beauty, that none can excel
There’s a smile upon her countenance as she sits on my knee
There is no man in this wide world as happy as me
Our ship lies at anchor, she’s ready to dock
I wish her safe landing without any shock
If ever I should meet you by land or by sea
I will always remember your kindness to me
My footsteps may falter my wit it may fail
My course may be challenged by November gale
Ere fortune shall prove to be friend or foe
You will always be with me wherever I go
tradotto da Cattia Salto
Venite cari amici e compagni  e unitevi alla mia canzone,
venite e innalzate le voci in coro con la mia
venite a innalzare le voci e a raffrenare tutto il dolore
che forse  non potremo mai più rincontrarci ancora tutti qui
Un brindisi alla compagnia e uno alla mia ragazza,
beviamo e cerchiamo tutto il divertimento in un bicchiere,
beviamo e cerchiamo di divertirci per raffrenare tutto il dolore,
che forse  non potremo mai più rincontrarci ancora tutti qui.

Alla salute della cara ragazza che amo coì tanto
per i suoi modi e la sua bellezza, che nessuna  può eguagliare,
c’è un sorriso sul suo viso quando si siede sulle mie ginocchia
e non c’è nessun uomo in questo mondo selvaggio felice come me
La nostra nave è in rada pronta per attraccare
le auguro uno sbarco in salvo senza alcun urto
e se ci incontreremo ancora per mare o per terra
mi ricorderò sempre la vostra cortesia verso di me
I miei passi possono vacillare, e lo spirito fallire
il destino forse essere cambiato da una tempesta di novembre,
prima che la fortuna si mostrerà amica o nemica
tu sarai sempre con me ovunque andrò