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The True Lover’s Discussion
(Roud 2948)
Martin Reidy
Tullaghaboy, Connolly
Recorded in singer's home, October 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Reidy

One pleasant evening when pinks and daisies
Fold in their bosom a drop of dew,
The feathery warblers of every species
Together chanted their notes so true.
As I did stray wrapped in meditation
Sure it charmed my heart to hear them sing,
The silent clouds of night were just ready
And the air in concert did sweetly ring.

With joy transported each sight I courted,
While gazing round with unsuspective eye.
Two youthful lovers in conversation
Closely engaged I chanced to spy.
Those couple spoke with such force of reason,
Their sentiments they expressed quite clear,
And just to listen to their conversation
My inclination was to draw near.

Then he pressed her hand, and he said: ‘My darling,
Tell me the reason you changed your mind.
Or did I love you to be degraded,
While youth and innocence were in their prime?
Yes, I am slighted and ill bequitted
For all the favours I did bestow;
And you’ll surely tell me before I leave you
Why you’re inclined to treat me so.’

With great acuteness she then made answer,
Saying: ‘On your favours I do rely,
But you might contrive to blast my glory,
And our marriage day you may hover by.
For young men in general are fickle-minded,
And for to trust you I am afraid,
And as for your favours, if I am indebted,
Both stock and interest you shall be paid.’

‘To blast your glory I ne’er intended,
Or fickle-minded will I ever be,
And as for my debts you can never pay them,
But by true love and loyalty.
Remember, darling our first engagement,
When childish pastimes were all we knew;
Be true and constant – I’ll be thine forever –
I’ll brave all danger and go with you.’

‘Your proffer is good, sir, I thank you for it,
But yet your offer I can’t receive;
With soft persuasion and kind endearment
The wily serpent beguiled Eve.
There are other reasons to be assigned,
The highest tide, love, would ebb and fall;
Another female might suit you better,
So therefore I can’t obey your call.’

‘Yes, I admit the tide in motion
Is always moving from shore to shore,
But yet its substance is never changing,
Or never will till time’s no more.
I’ll sound your fame with all royal [loyal] lovers
And fix their love in whose mind is pure,
Where no existence can ever change it
Or no physician prescribe the cure.’

‘Oh now, my darling, to tell you plainly,
To refrain you I am inclined.
Another young man of birth and fortune
Has gained my favour and changed my mind.
My future welfare I have considered,
On fickle footing I’ll never stand.
Besides, my parents would be offended
To see you walking at my right hand.’

‘What had you darling, when you were born?
What nature gave, love, so had I.
Your haughty parents I do distain them,
Poor ill-got riches I do deny.
An honest heart, is far superior,
Your gold and silver will soon decay,
For naked we came unto this world
And much the same we will go away.’

‘You are falsely when you say you love me,
And slight my parents whom I love so dear.
I think it’s justice to degrade you
If that’s the course you mean to steer.
In wealth or feature or art of nature
Sure you’re not my equal in any line.
Since I conjure you insist no further
For to your wishes I’ll not incline.’

‘Oh falsely, love, I do deny it
Your reputation is wrong I’d swear.
Like Eve I find you a real deceiver,
Your heart is foul as your face is fair.
In the want of riches you vainly slight me,
And my complexion you do distain.
Our skin may differ but in true affection
In black or white, sure, it’s all the same.’

‘Oh, curb your passion, sir,’ she made answer,
‘It’s not to quarrel I met you here,
But just to discourse you in moderation,
And the real intention to make appear.
I speak with candour and I’ll surrender
To what is proper in every way
And if you submit to fair discussions
And reason dictates, you will obey.’

‘’Tis now too late to ask that question
When you despise me before my friends,
Lebanon’s plans [plains] if you could command them
Are not sufficient to make an end.
There is not a tree in the Persian forest
Retains its colour except one.
That is the laurel which I will cherish
And always carry in my right hand.’

‘The blooming laurel you may admire
Because its verdure is always new,
But there is another, you can’t deny it,
It’s just as bright in the gardener’s view.
It’s wisely resting throughout the winter,
Blooms again when the spring draws near.
The pen of Homer has written its praises,
In June and July it does appear.’

‘You speaks exceedingly but not correctly,
With words supporting your cause in vain.
Had you the tongue of a Syrian goddess
Your exhortation I would distain.
It was your love I did require,
But since you placed it on golden store,
I’ll strike my string and my heart shall murmur:
‘Farewell, my true love, forever more.’

She seemed affected, with eyes distracted,
And with loud exclaiming she thus gave way,
Saying: ‘My denial was but a trial,
You God, be witness to what I say.
And I say, my darling, if you don’t forgive me
And quite forget my uncordiality,
A single virgin, for your sake I’ll wander
While the green leaf grows on yon laurel tree.’

So all fair maids I pray take warning,
Let love and virtue be still your aim.
Where no earthly treasure would shield your pleasure,
With those whose person you do distain.
And all royal [loyal] lovers will then respect you
And to your memory will have a sigh.
The blooming rose and evergreen laurel
Shall mark the spot where your body lies.


“This was the longest song in Martin’s repertoire; in fact, it is the longest song we ever recorded anywhere. Martin was known for his fondness for long songs; he once remarked with beautiful understatement,‘A song isn’t worth singing unless it has a few verses in it; I wouldn’t give you twopence for a short song.’ He sang this at a crowded singing session in Marrinan’s bar one afternoon during the Willie Clancy Summer School and, because he thought that it might be too long for the crowded bar, decided to cut a few of the end verses. Those who knew it demanded that he finish it, so he re-launched himself into it in perfect pitch and sang it through to the end. We also recorded a variant from Tom Lenihan which he had shortened somewhat. Hugh Shields wrote of a version he recorded from Eddie Butcher of North Derry:

‘The anonymous poet of Magheratimpany, Ballynahinch (Down), worked a rich literary vein, and his song has been uniquely popular for one of its kind. Sam Henry identified him as a schoolmaster named M'Kittrick, and a schoolmaster he surely was. 'Theological' discussions between lovers of mixed religion are fairly common in Anglo-Irish but, aside from them, folk song in English knows no lovers' quarrel so well composed as this one. It is in the tradition of medieval verse dialogues such as the tenso of the troubadours; poetic dialogues of all kinds flourished peculiarly well in Irish, and Gaelic culture imbues our 'Discourse'. Each stanza has strong formal unity, and together they achieve a discursive flow that must impress even a casual reader. But the song is for listeners. Certainly it often appeared in the Irish popular press; but it is still widely sung today when such printed copies have ceased for decades to be available to singers.’”

Shamrock , Rose and Thistle, Hugh Shields, Blackstaff Press, 1981.
Jim Carroll

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