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John Moulden Help: Yeats (53* d) Lyr Add: YOU RAMBLING BOYS OF PLEASURE 18 Dec 00


A few weeks ago a friend asked me about some aspects of Yeats and songs. I've pasted in my reply with slight changes so that it doesn't read like a reply. It is not entirely appropriate to the questions asked here - I disclaim responsibility for any red herrings or started hares.

A brief orientation on Yeats and song.

1. It is my recollection that Yeats made a statement to the effect that he made some of his poems to the rhythm of songs. (Despite the fact - and this was the case with his father also - that Yeats appears to have lacked an ear for music.) 3. However, few of his songs were made in actual imitation of Irish traditional song forms - The Sally Gardens is the obvious one - in AP Graves: The Irish Song Book, the tune is given as "The maids of Mourne shore." However the air given there looks very like the air given under precisely the same name at number 302 of "The Complete Collection of Irish Music as noted by George Petrie" (ed by Charles Villiers Stanford) and there is thus a likelihood that Yeats had no particular air in mind. However, inspection of a ballad sheet song called "You rambling boys of pleasure" makes it clear that this is the song Yeats was imitating.

This is a Canadian traditional version.

YOU RAMBLING BOYS OF PLEASURE

You rambling boys of pleasure, give ear to those few lines I write,
Although I'm a rover, and in roving I take great delight.
I set my mind on a handsome girl who ofttimes did me slight,
But my mind was never easy till my darling were in my sight.

It was down by Sally's Garden one evening late I took my way.
'Twas there I spied this pretty little girl, and those words to me sure she did say
She advised me to take love easy, as the leaves grew on the tree.
But I was young and foolish, with my darling could not agree.

The very next time I met my love, sure I thought her heart was mine,
But as the weather changes, my true love she changed her mind.
Cursed gold is the root of evil, oh it shines with a glittering hue,
Causes many the lad and lass to part, let their hearts be ever so true.

Sure I wish I was in Dublin town, and my true love along with me.
With money to support us and keep us in good company.
With lots of liquor plentiful, flowing bowls on every side,
Let fortune never daunt you, my love, we're both young and the world is wide.

But there's one thing more that grieves me sore is to be called a runaway
And to leave the spot I was born in, oh Cupid cannot set me free,
And to leave that darling girl I love, oh alas, what will I do?
Will I become a rover, sleep with the girl I never knew ?

From Penguin Book of Canada Folk Songs, (ed Edith Fowke)

Others of the early poems have the form of traditional poems - at the time he wanted to be a "popular" poet - The ballad of Moll Magee, The ballad of Father O'Harte The ballad of Father Gilligan for example and many, like a Cradle Song have simple form. There are others worth looking out for, in ballad form - like I am of Ireland, 3 songs to the same tune (O'Donnell Abu), Paistin Finn and others - look at Yeats' collected works. Also within this popular aspiration is his involvement with the series of 84 "Broadsides" published by his sister at her Cuala Press - others contributed to these but Yeats' has some items.

Finally in this area of place where Yeats might have been influenced by popular forms is the series "Words for Music perhaps" which includes the Crazy Jane series (though there are other later written ones.) It is not, I think, widely known that these are inspired by a song published in late 18th early 19th century eight page song books called "Crazy Jane" based on "The Tragical History of Miss Jane Arnold, commonly called Crazy Jane, and Mr Harry Perceval" There is an article by a friend of mine, Jack Weaver, with which I helped him in a recent issue (1998 or 1999) of "The Yeats Annual."

With all of this involvement with or aspiration towards popular song form it is not much wonder that Yeats' poems have attracted settings by other people. "A Catalogue of Contemporary Irish Composers (ed E M Deale, Music Association of Ireland, 2nd ed. Dublin, 1973) lists settings by Seoirse Bodley, Brian Boydell, Ina Boyle, David Byers (to trawl only the Bs).

"Folk" settings are more difficult to pin down because they are not widely documented. however search using the two words - Yeats songs - on the search engine Google [www.google.com] produces more than enough refs. The best I have looked at is the Yeats Society of New York Discography: http://www.yeatssociety.org/ydiscog.html but it doesn't list Padraigín Ní Uallacháin settings of two in her latest cd "Suaintraí" (Shanachie Records.)

Some bibliographic references to some of the series of 84 "Broadsides" (see above); and a later series, and Yeats' involvement in them.

A Broadside. Dundrum [and other locations]: Dun Emer [later Cuala] Press, 1908-1915. First series. Eighty-four numbers in three portfolios. With hand-colored illustrations by Jack B. Yeats.

Yeats, William B.: "THE WICKED HAWTHORN TREE," issued as A BROADSIDE NO. 2 (NEW SERIES). Dublin: The Cuala Press, February 1935. [4]pp. Folio. Colored woodcuts. First printing in this format. One of 300 copies.

Yeats, William B.: "THE ROSE TREE" issued as A BROADSIDE NO.5 (NEW SERIES). Dublin: The Cuala Press, May 1935. [4]pp. Folio. Colored woodcuts. First printing in this format. One of 300 copies.

Yeats, William B.: "THE SOLDIER TAKES PRIDE," issued as A BROADSIDE NO.12 (NEW SERIES). Dublin: The Cuala Press, December 1935. [4]pp. Folio. Colored woodcuts.

Yeats, William B.:"THE THREE BUSHES," issued as A BROADSIDE NO. 3 (NEW SERIES). Dublin: The Cuala Press, March 1937. [4]pp. Folio. Colored woodcuts. First printing in this format. One of 300 copies.

Yeats, William B.: "COME GATHER ROUND ME PARNELLITES," issued as A BROADSIDE NO. 1 (NEW SERIES). Dublin: The Cuala Press, January 1937. [4]pp. Folio. Colored woodcuts. First printing in this format. One of 300 copies.

Miller, Liam: THE DUN EMER PRESS, LATER THE CUALA PRESS WITH A LIST OF THE BOOKS, BROADSIDES AND OTHER PIECES PRINTED AT THE PRESS...WITH A PREFACE BY MICHAEL B. YEATS. Dublin: The Cuala Press, 1973. Cloth, paper labels. Illustrations and plates.

Line Breaks <br> added.
-Joe Offer-


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