Sunday, January 30, 2005

Still reading "The Republic of Ireland"

I picked up the book, which I found in the children's geography section at a library a couple of counties away, and read another couple of chapters near the book's end. Thus I found the words to the Wearing of the Green, a street ballad sung since 1798, the year that the United Irishmen, led by Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798), rose up against the English in many parts of Ireland, and were soon defeated. Anyway, here are the words:

O Paddy dear, and did you hear the news that's going round,
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground;
And Saint Patrick's day no more we'll keep, his color can't be seen,
For there's a bloody law against the wearin' of the green.
I met with Napper Tandy and he took me by the hand,
And he said , "How's poor ould Ireland, and how does she stand?"
"She's the most distressful country that ever you have seen,
They're hanging men and women there for wearin' of the green."

Then since the color we must wear is England's cruel red;
Sure Ireland's sons will ne'er forget the blood that they have shed;
You may take the shamrock from your hat and cast it on the sod,
But 'twill take root and flourish still, tho' underfoot 'tis trod.
When the law can stop the blades of grass from growing as they grow,
And when the leaves in summertime their verdure dare not show,
Then I will change the colour I wear in my corbeen,
But till that day, plase God, I'll stick to the wearin' of the green.

But if at last our color should be torn from Irelands' heart,
Her sons with shame and sorrow from the dear ould souil will part;
I've hear whisper of a country that lies far beyand the say,
Where rich and poor stand equal in the light of freedom's day.
O Erin must we leave you, driven by the tyrant's hand,
Must we ask a mother's welcome from a strange but happier land?
Where the cruel cross of England's thraldom never shall be seen,
And where, thank God, we'll live and die, still wearin' of the green.

[The Republic of Ireland, 1984, p.91]

There seems to be some disagreement as to who has claim to the song or musical lyrics. M. Franks has it thus-- Dion Boucicault(1820-1890) "himself fled the country, coming to America as the words of his poem itself echo prophetic." UCLA's digital library has the song belonging to composer and lyricist, Chauncey Olcott, 1858-1932. Yet the musical historians of Archeophone Records backs up the claim that the song predates both Boucicault and Olcott.

You can hear this sung by Danny O'Flaherty, from the album The History of Ireland in Song.


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