Mudcat Café message #2792037 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #30772   Message #2792037
Posted By: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
19-Dec-09 - 11:35 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Dear Old Skibbereen
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Dear Old Skibbereen
Thanks, pattyClink: I can use all the blessings I can get! I've been practising this new, old version a few times, as I'm sure several among us have been, partly to get the additional words into the memory, partly to experiment with what might be called various "interpretations"; in particular, with regard to the second verse, which as Mysha (4th Dec) astutely points out confirms that the exiled father did indeed love his native land with fervo[u]r and pride. Now, while in my view it's best to do this song in a restrained, reflective manner, leaving the words speak for themselves without indulging in any kind of overt, "tear-jerking" drama, I wonder would it be appropriate to have a slightly, very slightly, "sunnier" tone to this verse, according with the line about manhood's pride and sporting when a boy (both expressions which are found in other songs, too)? This not only accords with the snese at this point, it makes the subsequent alteration the more noticeable, both with regard to the man's fortunes and the tone of the verses. You can see how the way I've always heard it -

Oh father dear, I oftimes hear ye speak of Erin's isle:
Her lofty scenes, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild
Ye say it is &c

could evolve, or be adapted, from the fuller version, and it's worth noting that the second verse in that version, unlike every other except the first, ends with the word "Skibbereen" (I need not add how frequent this convention is in Irish songs, especially those about particular localities). With regard to conventional phrases (such as "field and fen", noted by Jim Dixon - the cultivated land and the wild - or indeed, I suppose, "hill and glen", which would supply the same internal rhyme and structure!), there's also "bright and beautiful", which inevitably recalls the popular hymn about "all creatures great and small".

Finally, I think in Herbert Hughes' "Irish Country Songs", the song ends not with "Revenge for S.", but "Remember S.", the final verse beginning,

"Oh, father dear, the day (or, "time") will come,
when Vengeance loud will call..."

that is, a personified Vengeance; itself a poetic convention. While I can recognise that there would be a degree of release, one might even say Catharsis, in a loud, defiant, rousing conclusion (especially if, as often happens, everyone joins in with the last few words), I tend to incline towards a more restrained yet resolute "Remember Skibbereen". This would be more suitable to that other convention, of giving the conclusion of a song "parlando", too. After all, we've got other examples:

"At Fontenoy, at Fontenoy, Remember Limerick -
Dash down the Sassanach!"

Why, it might even confirm that the song was made in America; "Remember the Alamo"....