Sunday night folk-song

July 13, 2008

All week long — who knows why — I’ve had that beautiful English Irish folk-song “Down by the Salley Gardens” running through my head.  Here is a performance of the song by counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, given a few years ago in London at the “Last Night of the Proms” concert.  The second song he sings is “Fairest Isle”, from Henry Purcell’s opera King Arthur.

The volume level on this video is uncharacteristically high.  I recommend turning your levels down before starting the clip.

14 Responses to “Sunday night folk-song”

  1. Janet Says:

    “But I was young and foolsih and now am filled with tears.” That is almost unbearably sad, but lovely.


  2. Janet Says:

    My typing is unbearably sad, also.

  3. cburrell Says:

    It is a sad song, but in a way that leaves me feeling better for having heard it.

    Don’t worry about the typing; we all make miskates.

  4. Janet Says:

    That’s probably because you’re still young and foolish.


  5. Janet Says:

    Oh dear, there was supposed to be a smile after that to indicate that it’s a joke, but, alas, it disappeared into the aether.


  6. I’m all but certain that the lyric, as sung, is by Yeats, although I’ve always figured it had a folk base. Yes, that last line is a killer.

    Uh-oh. I haven’t been watching, just listening, but I glanced at it just in time to see him raise his eyebrow and look for an instant a great deal like the Numa-Numa guy.

  7. Francesca Says:

    Yes, it’s early Yeats. I knew it by heart when I was 13.

  8. cburrell Says:

    Well, I don’t know. According to Wikipedia (that makeshift authority), it is a “traditional Irish song”. It has been attributed to Yeats because he included it in one of his early collections, as a “tribute to oral tradition”. The Wikipedia article then clouds the waters by implying that only a few lines of the poem were traditional, and the rest were written by Yeats. Well, I don’t know.

  9. cburrell Says:

    Who or what is the Numa-Numa guy?

  10. Surely you encountered the Numa-Numa song, as it’s popularly known, when it was sort of a craze a couple of years ago. If you didn’t…well, I don’t know if you really want to associate this video with it. However, if you do, go to YouTube and search for “numa numa.” Make sure you get the one by Gary, the sort of heavy-set guy with glasses, as there are imitations.

    My guess about Salley Gardens is that Yeats polished up a folk lyric. It seems too finely honed as a poem to be the folk original. And as sung here it’s word-for-word as Yeats has it in his Collected (with no indication that he didn’t write it). Usually there are a lot of variants in folk songs. Btw there’s an American song, “Down by the Willow Garden,” which might be a distant relative. It’s a murder ballad, though.

  11. Janet Says:



  12. Janet Says:

    Oh Phooey Maclin! I just had an image in my mind of what you are talking about with eyebrow thing.


  13. cburrell Says:

    I’m not going to look.

  14. Janet Says:

    “Yes, it’s early Yeats. I knew it by heart when I was 13.”

    This is intriguing, Francesca, because it seems to imply that perhaps Yeats wrote it when you were 12.


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