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Lament of the Irish Emigrant
(Roud 2661)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Tom Lenihan

I’m sitting on the stile, Mary,
Where we sat side by side
On that bright May morning long ago,
When first you were my bride.
The corn was springing fresh and green,
And the lark sang loud and high
And the red was in your lips, Mary,
And the love-light in your eyes.

The place is little changed, Mary,
The day is bright as then,
The lark's loud song is in my ears,
And the corn is green again.
But I miss the soft clasp of your hand,
And your breath warm in my cheeks,
And I still keep listening for the words
You never more will speak.

'Tis but a step down yonder lane,
And the little church stands near,
The church where we were wed, Mary,
I see the spire from here.
But the graveyard lies between, Mary,
And my step might break your rest;
For I've laid you, darling, down to sleep,
With your baby in your breast.


Yours was the good, brave heart, Mary,
That still kept hoping on,
When the trust in God had left my soul,
And my arm's strength was gone:
There was comfort ever on your lips,
And the kind look on your brow,
Oh, I thank you, Mary, for that same,
Though you can’t hear me now.

I am very lonely now, Mary,
For the poor makes no new friends,
But, oh, they love the better still,
The pure Our Father send.
And you were all I had, Mary,
My blessing and my pride,
There is nothing left to care for now,
Since my poor Mary died.


I am bidding you a long farewell,
My Mary, kind and true.
But I won’t forget you, darling,
In the land I'm going to;
They say there's bread and work for all,
And the sun shines always there
But I'll not forget old Ireland,
Were it fifty times as fair.

And often in those grand old woods
I will sit, and shut my eyes.
And my mind will ramble back again
To the place where Mary lies;
And I'll think I see that little stile
Where we sat side by side.
And the springing corn, and the bright May morn,
When first you were my bride.

 

Tom Lenihan said before the song:
"That I got from Willie Clancy’s aunt, Mrs Haren of Clooneyogan. ‘Tis the real old version of the ‘The Irish Exile’".

“An extremely popular emigration song, this appeared in several versions, was parodied several times, and had a sequel written in which the ‘dead’ wife was in fact, still alive.

Sequel to the Irish Immigrant:

Oh! Mary, I should happy be, if you was but alive,
I have not heart to work, Mary, I have not heart to strive;
There's plenty here of every everything,—of hunger there's no fear
Oh! Mary, darling Mary, how I wish that you were here.

We have no queen, or lords to keep, in this thriving happy land,
Our money is not drawn from us, to make them fine and grand;
For a fair day's work, there's a fair day's pay, no sorrow, want, or care,
Oh! Mary, darling Mary, how I wish that you was here.

In sad unhappy Ireland, you yielded your last breath,
'Twas want of food, my Mary dear, and grief that caused your death!
Whene'er I think of your sad fate, to my eye there starts a tear.
Oh! Mary, darling Mary, how I wish that you was here.

As Dermot thus bewailed aloud, his sad unhappy lot,
Unknown to him, his Mary dear, was standing in his cot;
She cried, oh! Dermot, grieve no more, for God has heard your prayer,
For see my dearest husband that, your Mary she is here.

I am no spirit, Dermot, dear, but your Mary kind and true,
Whom God our Father has restored, to soothe and comfort you;
I was not dead, but in a trance, when you placed in my bier,
So Dermot, darling, grieve no more, for your Mary she is here.

I was exhumed, my husband dear, for the dissector's knife
But when the blade it pierced my flesh, it brought me back to life;
I cross'd the mighty ocean, your lonely life to cheer,
So Dermot, darling, grieve no more, for your Mary she is here.

He fondly clasp'd her yielding form, and looked into her eyes,
The love light still, was burning there, though he thought she'd past the skies;
And have I got you back again, my faithful Mary dear,
Oh! Mary, darling Mary, I am thankful you are here.

Now Dermot, and his Mary are, as happy as the day,
In free America's fair land, they ever mean to stay;
And cheerfully, he now does sing, in a voice both loud and clear,
Oh! Mary, darling Mary, I am thankful you are here.

Parody on the Irish Emigrant:

I'm sitting on a rail, Judy,
Were oft across ye'd stride,
When ye dug the praties long ago,
Before they were destroyed;
The boys were bowling on the green,
And the girls danc'd long and high,
And the red was on ye'r nose, Judy,
And the black was on ye'r eye.

Our cabin's little chang'd, Judy,
The pigstye's same as then,
The hog's loud grunt is on my ear,
And the sow's grown fat again;
But I miss the hard slaps from ye'r hand,
And the blow strong on my cheek,
And I still keep tickling up the nose
Ye never more will break.

The times are different now, Judy,
To when we were, och hone,
Seated by the good turf fire,
A scratching our shin bone:
We'd lots of praties then, Judy,
Before they'd got the rot,
And we blistered our poor fingers
With skinning them all hot.

I'm purty lively now, Judy,
I've lots of busum friends,
But oh, the rogues turn'd backbiters,
And blister me all ends:
And you left all you had, Judy,
The devil take ye'r pride,
I've all the scratching to myself
Since my poor Judy died.

They say ye'r gone to—well, Judy
They're words not kind, but thrue,
And sure they'll hear you snarling,
Wheresoe'er they took you to:
They say there's fire and room for all,
And the old one's always there;
But I'll stick to poor old Ireland,
Were it sixty times as quare.”

Reference:
Irish Emigrant Ballads and Songs, Robert L. Wright, Bowling Green Uni. Popular Press, 1975.
Jim Carroll


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