Sleep on my Kathleen dear

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X:1 T:Song of Sorrow, The T:Sleep on, my Kathleen dear M:C L:1/8 R:Air Q:”Larghetto” B:William Forde – 300 National Melodies of the British Isles (c. 1841, p. 1, No. 2) B: https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/text/300-national-melodies-of-the-british-isles.-vol.-3-100.-irish-airs N:William Forde (c.1795–1850) was a musician, music collector and N:scholar from County Cork Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:C G|c3d cBAG|G2 Bd e2 g-e|dBAG E>DEG|G6z|| e|f3g fedB|d2 eg g3 e|f3g fege|dBAG E3e| f3g fe g2|G2 Bd e2 ge|dBAG E>DEG|G6z||



SLEEP ON MY KATHLEEN DEAR (Codal leat mo Caitilin dileas). AKA and see "Song of Sorrow (The)." Irish, Slow Air (4/4 time). G Major/Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (O’Farrell): AABB' (O’Neill). Paul de Grae provides informative background to this air in his comprehensive manuscript "Notes to Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections"[1] (2017), here reproduced:

[O'Neill's version] is practically identical to Crosby's song setting, including grace notes; the few minor differences may be errors.

Crosby may have borrowed in his turn, as his settings an almost exact transposition from A to G of "Ailleacan Dubh O!/Uilleágan Dub O" in Joseph C. Walker's Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (No. IX of the "Irish Melodies"). O'Farrell has a similar but not identical setting also in G and under O'Neill's title. A close variant is "Fair Hills of Eire O!", better known as the son "Bán-Chnoic Éirinn Ó/Ban-Chnoic Éireann Ogh."

The title is the first line of "Sleep On," a song by John O'Keeffe (1747-1833) in the ballad opera The Poor Soldier (1782); see LI 15. William Shield (1748-1829) was responsible for the music of the opera, though in this case, he set O'Keeffe's lyrics to an old Irish air, Bunting's "Ulican Dubh O/Uilleágan Dub O". Some several other airs in [O'Neill's] Music of Ireland have a similar provenance it is worth noting the brief note on O'Keeffe in Lover's book:

Dublin was the birthplace of O'Keeffe. The O'Keeffe's, an ancient and honorable family, lost their estates
in the civil wars of James and William. Our author was reared for the priesthood;--objected to to into orders;--
became very nearly a professional painter;--turned actor next, and, finally, dramatist of prolific pen,--he having
produced forty-nine pieces. He lost his sight in 1800. Many of his songs are graceful, though never rising to any great
excellence; they were never intended, however, to be more than incidental to his dramas.

O'Keeffe was highly successful as a playwright for the London stage. His occasional collaborator William Shield was one of the most famous and popular composers of his time, with many of his works being produced at Covent Garden in London. He mad considerable use of folk tunes, from his native Northumbria as well as from Ireland. His best known works are Rosina (1781) and The Poor Soldier (1782).

Other airs in Music of Ireland associated with Shield's operas are "Little Mary Cullinan"; "Whistle and I’ll Wait for You"; "Princess Royal (The)"; "When William at Eve"; and "Little House Under the Hill (1)."

County Cork Church of Ireland cleric and uilleann piper included a version as "Sleep on, Sleep on, My Cathaleen Dear" in volume 4 of his large mid-19th century music manuscript collection (p. 158).


Additional notes



Printed sources : - William Forde (300 National Melodies of the British Isles), c. 1841; p. 1, No. 2. O’Farrell (Pocket Companion), c. 1805; p. 18. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 97, p. 18.






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  1. Paul de Grae, “Notes on Sources of Tunes in the O’Neill Collections”, 2017 [1].