Down by the Sally Gardens (1)

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DOWN BY THE SALLY GARDENS [1]. Irish, Air (4/4 time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. This is not the tune usually associated with the "Sally Garden" words in modern times (the more familiar air is the same as the ballad "Maids of the Mourne Shore (The)"--see Maids of the Mourne Shore (The) for more). It is an "old" song, well known in South Leinster according to Arthur Darley & P.J. McCall. McCall claimed to have heard an ‘Old country love song’ called “Down by the Sally Gardens” in 1875, with the first stanza transcribed resembling Yeat's famous, but later, version.

Down by the sally gardens my own true love and I did meet,
She passed the sally gardens a-tripping with her snow-white feet,
She bid me take life easy, just as the leaves fall from each tree,
But I being young and foolish with my true love would not agree.

Later W.B. Yeats rewrote the lyrics and published them in 1889. Regarding the poem by Yeats called "An Old Song re-Sung" and later called "Down by the Salley (sic) Gardens," Ó Boyle (1976) is certain that it was derived from the lyrical matrix of a ballad popular in the 18th century called "The Rambling Boys of Pleasure," which tells of rejected love but which ends in a spirit of youthful high adventure. It begins:

Ye rambling boys of pleasure give ear unto these lines I write,
'Tis true I am a rover and in rambling I take great delight;
I placed my mind on a handsome girl and often times she did me slight,
But my mind was never easy only when my darling was in my sight.

Ó Boyle finds a handwritten American version of the song from 1785 (now in the possession of the Baker Memorial Library, Hanover, New Hampshire) which goes:

It's down in Sally's Garden, O there hangs Rosies three,
O there I met a fair maid who told to me her mind so free;
She bids me take love easy, as leaves they do fall from the tree,
But I being young and Crazy, could not with her agree.

Source for notated version: Mr. James Cogley (Duffrey Hill, Enniscorthy, Ireland) [Darley & McCall].

Printed sources: Darley & McCall (Feis Ceoil Collection of Traditional Irish Music), 1914; No. 33, p. 14.

Recorded sources: RCA 5798-2-RC, "James Galway and the Chieftains in Ireland" (1986).




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