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The Nobleman’s Wedding
John Lyons
Recorded at a singing session in Clancy’s Bar, Miltown Malbay during the Willie Clancy Summer School, July 1978

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

John Lyons

Late late last night, I was invited to a wedding,
It was of a true and fond lover of mine.
Who was going to be wed to a false-hearted lover,
But the thoughts of her fond love still went through her mind.

Supper it was over and our friends were gathered,
And every young man had to sing a love song.
When it came to the time of her own former lover,
Sure these were the words that the young man began:

How can you sit at another man’s table?
And how can you drink of another man’s wine?
And how can you lie in the arms of another one?
For it’s many is the long night I have loved you in mine.

Sighing and crying she rose from the table,
Sighing and crying she went to her room.
And it was early next morning her husband arose and,
He went to her chamber and found she was dead.

Annie, dearest Annie I know you never loved me.
Annie our love and mine could never agree.
I know that you loved some other one before me,
I know that I come between the bark and the tree.

So come all you young fellows, I pray you take warning,
I pray you take warning only from me.
Oh never get married when she loves another one,
Never come between the bark and the tree.


“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."

Old Irish Folk Music and Songs, W. P. Joyce, Dublin 1909.
Jim Carroll

See also
The Nobleman's Wedding sung by Ollie Conway

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