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The Nobleman’s Wedding
(Laws P31; Roud 567)
Ollie Conway
Mullagh

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Ollie Conway and JJ Lenihan

I once was invited to a nobleman’s wedding,
Caused by a fair maid who once proved unkind.
Now she’s married and thinks she is happy,
But the thoughts of her first love still runs through her mind.

How can you sit at another man’s table?
How can you drink of another man’s wine?
How can you say you’re another man’s darling,
When years long ago you said you’d be mine?

Crying and lamenting she rose from the table.
Crying and lamenting she went to her bed.
It was early next morning when the bright room shone round her,
He turned to embrace her and found she was dead.

How can you sit at another man’s table?
How can you drink of another man’s wine?
How can you say you’re another man’s darling,
When years long ago you said you’d be mine?

Annie, lovely Annie, I knew you did not love me,
My love and your love could never agree.
’Twas I who separated the ash from the elm,
’Twas I who separated the ash from the tree.

How can you sit at another man’s table?
How can you drink of another man’s wine?
How can you say you’re another man’s darling,
When years long ago you said you’d be mine?

“P.W. Joyce wrote of this: ‘This pretty ballad was a favourite in my father's house, from whose singing I learned it in my childhood. More than half a century ago I gave it to Dr. Petrie, who published the air in his ‘Ancient Music of Ireland’, p. 180. He gives three versions, the third of which is the one given by me. Instead of the peasant words, however, he has given a ballad by William Allingham, founded on the original. Patrick Kennedy has also given the ballad in his ‘Banks of the Boro’, but this version has been largely constructed by himself. I give here from memory the very words of the peasant song; and they will be found nowhere else. The air, I must observe, has been republished in several settings in the Stanford-Petrie collection.’

Petrie’s reason for choosing Allingham’s version rather than the three alternatives he had at his disposal was ‘With respect to the equally differing copies of the ballad, they are all so rude and imperfect as to be unworthy of publication.’

Four versions of the song were also found in Newfoundland with this note:

‘All four variants of ‘The Nobleman's Wedding’ are reproduced because each has some point of interest not contained in the others, or a flaw in one of its verses that can be cured by replacing it with a good verse. I leave this job of collation to the reader.’

Though not a common song, it has been collected from oral tradition in both England and North America. It appears as ‘The Awful Wedding’ in the Campbell-Sharp Appalachian collection, and as ‘The Green Willow’ in Helen Creighton's Nova Scotia collection. It may also be found previously from Newfoundland in the Greenleaf-Mansfield book ‘Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland’. Variant ‘A’ is distinctive in having a golden love token. The green willow is a symbol of loss or mourning. It has been common in England since it appeared on a broadside there in the early 19th century; the earliest known text was said to have been taken from the oral tradition, which dates it into the 18th century. An Irish broadside version entitled ‘The Strange and Sorrowful Ballad of the Nobleman’s Wedding’ was printed in eight stanzas in Dublin in the 1860s."
Reference:
Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, W. P. Joyce, Dublin 1909.
Jim Carroll

See also
The Nobleman's Wedding sung by John Lyons


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