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The Bonny Light Horseman
(Roud 1185)
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Martin Howley

I once loved a soldier, and a soldier bright and gay,
So now he has left me and gone far away.
To the dark plains of Egypt, he was forced for to go
To die in the fields, or to conquer his foe.

Broken hearted I’ll wander, broken hearted I will be,
Since my lovely young horseman, to the war he’s gone from me.

And it’s early each morning as I come down for to dress,
I gaze at his picture, hung over my head.
Such a lovely young fellow, so manly and so tall,
It was scarcely, you’d think, they would kill him at all.

It was brave Napoleon, it was he who took command,
And he planted his cannons all over the land.
He planted his cannons, for some victory to gain,
And he slew brave McDonnell, coming over from Spain.

If I was an eagle, and had wings for to fly,
I would fly to the plains where my own darling lie.
And in his cold grave, I would build my own nest,
And contented I’d be on his lily-white breast.


"This Napoleonic song with reference to ‘McDonnell’ has echoes of Martin Reidy’s 'Maid of Glencoe', and also of several of the ‘Broken Token’ songs (see notes to 'Lady in her Father’s Garden'). The link is made between the two genres by a poignant Scots children’s skipping song version of 'Bonny White Horseman':

Broken Hearted I Wander (Roud 1185)

Broken hearted I wander for the loss of my true lover,
He’s a jolly, jolly horseman, in the battle he was slain.

He had but one sixpence and he broke it in twa
And he gi’ed to me the half o’t before he went away

He wrote me a letter in the month of September,
And he told me not to worry as he was coming home.

If I was an eagle, and had wings for to fly,
I would fly to the plains where my own darling lie.
And in his cold grave, I would build my own nest,
And contented I’d be on his lily-white breast."

Reference:
The Singing Island, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Mills Music, 1960.
Jim Carroll


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