Archive for the 'Irish/british' Category

The Riddle Song

h1 Thursday, February 1st, 2001

I wonder if this song from the 17th Century inspired the following poem by Walt Whitman?

A Riddle Song
By Walt Whitman

That which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye or cunningest mind,
Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth,
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world incessantly,
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion,
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner,
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in prose,
Which sculptor never chisel'd yet, nor painter painted,
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter'd,
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.

Indifferently, 'mid public, private haunts, in solitude,
Behind the mountain and the wood,
Companion of the city's busiest streets, through the assemblage,
It and its radiations constantly glide.

In looks of fair unconscious babes,
Or strangely in the coffin'd dead,
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night,
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
Hiding yet lingering.

Two little breaths of words comprising it,
Two words, yet all from first to last comprised in it.

How ardently for it!
How many ships have sail'd and sunk for it!

How many travelers started from their homes and neer return'd!
How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it!
What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur'd for it!
How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it–and
shall be to the end!
How all heroic martyrdoms to it!
How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the earth!
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every age and
land, have drawn men's eyes,
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the islands, and the cliffs,
Or midnight's silent glowing northern lights unreachable.

Haply God's riddle it, so vague and yet so certain,
The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it,
And heaven at last for it.

The Riddle Song

[G] I gave my love a [C] cherry that has no [G] stone,
I [D] gave my love a [G] chicken that has no [D] bone,
I gave my love a [G] ring that has no [D] end,
I [C] gave my love a [Am] baby with [C] no [G] crying.

How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
How can there be a ring that has no end?
How can there be a baby with no crying?

A cherry, when it's blooming, it has no stone,
A chicken when it's pipping, it has no bone,
A ring when it's rolling, it has no end,
A baby when it's sleeping, has no crying.



h1 Monday, January 1st, 2001


This is the original text of Stewball from an early printed version that appeared in an American song book dated 1829.

Sometime around 1790 a race took place on the curragh of Kildare (near Dublin) between a skewbald horse owned by Sir Arthur Marvel and 'Miss Portly', a gray mare owned by Sir Ralph Gore. The race seemed to take the balladmakers' fancies, and must have been widely sung.

[G] Stewball was a good horse
He wore a high [Am] head
And the mane on his [D] foretop
Was fine as silk [G] thread

I rode him in England
I rode him in Spain
He never did lose, boys
He always did gain

So come all you gamblers
Wherever you are
And don't bet your money
On that little grey mare

Most likely she'll stumble
Most likely she'll fall
But you never will lose, boys
On my noble Stewball

As they were a-riding
'Bout halfway around
That grey mare she stumbled
And fell to the ground

And away out yonder
Ahead of them all
Came a prancin' and a dancin'
My noble Stewball

Twelve Days of Christmas, The

h1 Friday, December 1st, 2000

What is a 'colly-bird' in the context of the traditional English song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'?

'On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me four colly-birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.'

The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary published the section covering 'colly' in October 1891. It reveals that 'colly' is, or was, an old English word meaning black, from 'coal'. And, it says, a 'colly-bird' is the Blackbird.

[D] On the (first) day of Christmas my [A] true love sent to [D] me
Twelve lords leaping
Eleven ladies dancing
Ten pipers piping
Nine drummers drumming
Eight maids milking
Seven swans swimming
Six geese laying
[D] Five [E] gold [A] rings
[A] Four colly birds
[A] Three French hens
[A] Two turtle doves and
A [D] partridge [A] in a pear [D] tree

Kilgary Mountain

h1 Monday, May 1st, 2000


I first heard this song sung by Bob Gibson in the late 50's. In 1961 I recorded it with the Chad Mitchell Trio. In April 2000, I recorded it again with Tommy Makem for my forthcoming CD 'Roger McGuinn – Treasures from the Folk Den' which will be released on Appleseed Recordings in the spring of 2001. This CD will contain duets featuring Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Tommy Makem, Jean Ritchie, Odetta, Judy Collins and many more wonderful folk artists, singing the best songs from the Folk Den with me.
D Bm
As I was a-walkin' over Kilgary Mountain


I met with Capt. Pepper and his money he was countin'

D Bm

I rattled my pistols and I drew forth my saber


Sayin', 'Stand and deliver, for I am the bold deceiver'


Musha rig um du rum da

Whack fol the daddy o

Whack fol the daddy o

There's whiskey in the jar

I counted out his money, and it made a pretty penny

I put it in my pocket for to take it home to Jenny

She promised and she vowed she never would deceive me

But the devil's in the women and they always lie so easy

When I was awakened between six and seven

The guards all around me in numbers odd and even

I flew to my pistols, but alas I was mistaken

For Jenny's drawn my pistols and a prisoner I was taken

They put me into prison without judge or writin'

For robbing Capt. Pepper on Kilgary Mountain

But they didn't take my fists so I knocked the sentry down

And bid a fond farewell to the jail in Limric town

I wish I'd find my brother, the one that's in the army

I don't know where he's stationed, in Cork or in Kelarny

Together we'd go ramblin o'er the mountains of Kilkenny

I know he's treat me better than my darlin' sportin' Jenny

Now some take delight in fishin' and a-bowlin'

And others take delight in carriages a-rollin'

But I take delight in the juice of the barley

And courtin' pretty maidens in the morning oh so early

Auld Lang Syne

h1 Saturday, January 1st, 2000

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
And days of auld lang syne, my dear,
And days of auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine.
We've wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin' days of auld lang syne.
Sin' days of auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin' days of auld lang syne,
We've wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin' days of auld ang syne.

We twa hae sported i' the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' days of auld lang syne.
Sin' days of auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin' days of auld lang syne.
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' days of auld lang syne.

And ther's a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

(c) 2000 McGuinn Music / Roger McGuinn

I Saw Three Ships

h1 Wednesday, December 1st, 1999


I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day, on Christmas day
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three?
On Christmas Day, etc. And what was in etc. On Christmas day
in etc.

Our Saviour, Christ, and His Lady.

Pray, whither sailed those ships all three?

O, they sailed to Bethlehem.

And all the bells on earth shall ring.

And all the angels in heaven shall sing.

And all the souls on earth shall sing.

Then let us all rejoice and sing.

Tradidional / Arr. Roger McGuinn
(c) 1999 McGuinn Music

Finnegan's Wake

h1 Sunday, March 1st, 1998


Finnegan's Wake is an old Irish tune, but these words were added later for music-hall use during the Victorian era. Some Irish people have objected to them as an English inspired stereotype, but I first heard this song sung by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, in the late 50s. To me, no one was more Irish than they were. Here it is in honor of Saint Patrick's Day.
[C] Tim Finnegan lived on [Am] Walker Street
And a [F] gentle, Irishman, [G] mighty odd;
[C] He'd a beautiful brogue [Am] so rich and sweet
And to [F] rise in the world he [G] carried a [C] hod.
You see he'd a sort o' the [Am] tipplin' way
With a [C] love of the liquor poor [Am] Tim was born
And to [C] help him on with his [Am] work each day
He'd a [F] 'drop of the cray-thur' [G] every [C] morn.

[C] Whack fol the die do, [Am] dance to your partner
[F] Welt the floor, your [G] trotters shake;
[C] Wasn't it the [Am] truth I told you
[F] Lots of fun at [G] Finnegan's [C] wake!

2. One mornin' Tim was rather full
His head felt heavy which made him shake;
He fell from the ladder and broke his skull
And they carried him home his corpse to wake.
They rolled him up in a nice clean sheet
And laid him out upon the bed,
With a gallon of whiskey at his feet
And a barrel of porter at his head.

3. His friends assembled at the wake
And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch,
First they brought in tea and cake
Then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch.
Biddy O'Brien began to cry
'Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see?
'Tim, mavourneen, why did you die?'
'Arragh, hold your gob' said Paddy McGee!
4. Then Maggie O'Connor took up the job
'O Biddy,' says she, 'You're wrong, I'm sure'
Biddy gave her a belt in the gob
And left her sprawlin' on the floor.
And then the war did soon engage
'Twas woman to woman and man to man,
Shillelagh law was all the rage
And the row and eruption soon began.

5. Then Mickey Maloney raised his head
When a noggin of whiskey flew at him,
It missed, and fallin' on the bed
The liquor scattered over Tim!
Tim revives! See how he raises!
Timothy rising from the bed,
Says,'Whirl your whiskey around like blazes
Thanum o'n Dhoul! Did you think I'm dead?'

Go To Sea Once More

h1 Monday, September 1st, 1997


‘Go To Sea Once More’ is a favorite song of mine. I
have wonderful memories of walking into the old Gate of Horn in Chicago,
and hearing Alan Rebeck and Albert Grossman singing it. They would be
at a table near the door, Alan would straddle his chair with its back
facing outward and his classical guitar propped on top. He and Grossman
would harmonize on this and other sea chanteys for hours.

This, as many a sailing song, warns of the dangers of the sea as well of those of shore leave.

I decided to record this song for the Folk Den because we’re on tour
in Anchorage, Alaska, and there is a reference to the Acrtic Sea in the
song. I don’t know of an Arctic Sea, but there is an Arctic Ocean on the
north coast of this state.

Thanks to Anchorage radio station, KOOL FM for donating their studio
and to Brian Roberts ( ) for engineering the

When [Em] first I come to [D] Liverpool, I [C] went upon a [Em] spree
Me money at last I spent it fast, got drunk as [D] drunk could [B7] be
And [Em] when me money was all gone ’twas then that I [D] wanted [B7] more
[Em] But a man must be blind or be [D] out of his mind to [C] go to sea once [Em] more

I spent that night with Angeline, too drunk to roll in bed
Me clothes they were new and me money was too in the morning with ‘em she fled
And as I walked the streets alone, the whores they all did roar
There goes Jack Tarr, that poor sailor lad, he must go to sea once more

As I was walkin’ down the street, I run into Rapper Brown
I asked him for to take me in and he looked at me with a frown
He said last time you was on-board with me you chalked no score
But I’ll take your advance and I’ll give you the chance
and I’ll send you to sea once more

He shipped me aboard of a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Sea
Where the cold winds blow through the frost and the snow and Jamaica rum would freeze
Alas I had no luck with me gear, for I’d spent all me money ashore
‘Twas then that I wished that I was dead of safe with the girls ashore

Some days we catchin’ whales me lads some days we catching none
With a twenty foot oar stuck in your hand from four o’clock in the morn’
And when the day is over lads, you sit on your weary oar
It’s then that you wish that you were dead, you’d go to sea no more

So come all you bold seafaring lads who listen to my song
And when you go out on them long trips, pray that you don’t go wrong
Take my advice, drink no strong drink, don’t go sleepin’ with no whore
But get married lads and have all night in and go to sea no more

� 1998 McGuinn Music – Roger McGuinn

Golden Vanity

h1 Friday, November 1st, 1996


There were a lot of sea chanties that dealt with the
subject of the Captain's daughter. Can you imagine
the desire that the common sailors must have felt for
the only pretty woman on board ship, during a long
voyage? They must have nearly gone mad.

In the same manner, the Captain would have guarded his
daughter with an overwhelming sense of protective jealousy.
That's what happens in this story. After using the poor
cabin boy to do his dirty work, the cruel Captain leaves
him to drown, thus saving his daughter for himself.

I've loved this song, ever since learning it at the
Old Town School of Folk Music in the late '50s. Although
I performed it at the coffee houses on Rush Street in Chicago,
I never got around to recording it until now.


Oh there was a lofty ship and a lofty ship was she


And the name of that ship it was the Golden Vanity

C Am

And she feared she would be taken by the Turkish Enemy

F G C Am

As she sailed on the lowland, lowland low


As she sailed on the lowland sea

Up stepped a little cabin boy, a cabin boy was he

And he said to the Captain what will you give to me

If I sneak alongside the Turkish Enemy

And I sink her in the lowland, lowland low

And I sink her in the lowland sea

Oh I will give you silver and I will give you gold

And the hand of my daughter your bonnie bride will be

If you'll sneak alongside of the Turkish Enemy

And you'll sink her in the lowland lowland low

And you'll sink her in the lowland sea

So he jumped overboard and overboard jumped he

And he swam alongside of the Turkish Enemy

And with a little drilling tool he boar-ed holes three

And he sank her in the lowland lowland low

He sank her in the lowland sea

Then he turned himself around and back again swam he

'Til he came to the side of the Golden Vanity

But the Captain would not heed, for his daughter he did need

And he left him in the lowland lowland low

He left him in the lowland sea

Well his shipmates brought him out, but upon the deck he died

And they wrapped him in his blanket that was so soft and wide

And they cast him overboard and he drifted with the tide

And he sank beneath the lowland lowland low

He sank beneath the lowland sea

And he sank beneath the lowland lowland low

He sank beneath the lowland sea

© 1998 McGuinn Music – Roger McGuinn

John Riley

h1 Thursday, February 1st, 1996


I first heard this song in 1960, at the Club 47, in Cambridge Massachusetts. Joan Baez was performing. She was young and beautiful, with long, flowing black hair. She played and sang with more feeling than anyone I had ever seen before. Her finger-picking technique particularly impressed me, because a lot of folk singers just strummed. But she could really pick.

I was in love that autumn, with the colors and smells of Cambridge and with Joan Baez.

The 12-string is in the Dm position, but played in the key of E with a capo on the second fret. The 5-string banjo is in the G position with the fifth string tuned down to E.

[Dm] Fair young maid [G] all in her [Dm] garden
Strange young man [G] come riding [Dm] by
Saying fair young [F] maid will you marry [C] me?
And this dear [Em] sir was her [Dm] reply

Oh no dear sir I cannot marry thee
For I've a love who sails the deep salt sea
Though he's been gone for seven years
Still no man shall marry me

What if he's died all in some battle slain?
Or if he's drownded in the deep salt sea
What if he's found another love
He and his new love both married be?

Well if he's died all in some battle slain
Or if he's drownded in the deep salt sea
I'll remember his good name
And still no man shall marry me.

And if he's found some other love
He and his true love both married be
I wish them health and happiness
Where they now live all across the sea

He picked her up all in his arms
And kisses gave her one two and three
Saying weep no more my own true love
For I'm your long lost John Riley
Saying weep no more my own true love
For I'm your long lost John Riley