Will You Come to the Bower

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WILL YOU COME TO THE BOWER. English, Air (2/4 time). C Major (Howe): G Major (Sumner). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Howe): AABB (Sumner). "Will you come to the bower?" is a song by Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852), although it is thought to be based on an earlier song (and tune) by the same title. According to tradition this tune was played by a fifer and drummer from the rag-tag army of Sam Houston at the battle of San Jacinto in 1836. However, according to Davis family lore there were no fifers or drummers in Houston’s forces at the time, only two fiddlers, a father and son named Daniel and George Washington Davis. Houston’s plan was to draw near the Mexican forces under Santa Anna by parading his men, as if on drill, before sounding a final charge. He hoped such a non-aggressive appearing maneuver would allay the Mexican alertness and allow him an element of surprise. To that end (and not having a fife or drum), he had the Davis men play something the Texans would know, but not particularly martial in nature. Not knowing any marches, the fiddlers over and over played “Will you come to the bower?”, a love song popular on the frontier, and it was to the strains of the song on stringed instruments that the Texans marched in their crude fashion. Houston’s trick worked and he carried they day (see “They Weren’t Merely Fiddling Around,” Elmo Schwab Jr., Houston Post, Sun., April 21, 1985 [1].

Moore's lyric, which to some carries a slightly bawdy connotations, begins:

Will you come to the bower I have shaded for you?
Our bed shall be roses all spangled with dew.
Will you, will you, will you, will you
Come to the bower?

There, under the bower, on roses you'll lie,
With a blush on your cheek, but a smile in your eye.
Will you, will you, will you, will you
Smile, my beloved?

The song was adopted by the Fenian movement and a new lyric gained wide currency:

Will you come to the bower o’er the free boundless ocean,
Where the stupendous waves roll in thundering motion;
Where the mermaids are seen and the fierce tempest gathers,
To loved Erin the green, the dear land of our fathers.
Will you come, will you, will you, will you come to the bower?


Source for notated version: the 1823-26 music mss of papermaker and musician Joshua Gibbons (1778-1871, of Tealby, near Market Rasen, Lincolnshire Wolds) [Sumner].

Printed sources: Howe (Complete Preceptor for the Accordeon), 1843; p. 32. O'Flannagan (The Hibernia Collection), Boston, 1860; p. 38. Paff (The Gentleman's Amusement No. 1), New York, 1812; p. 3. Riley (Flute Melodies, vol. 2), New York, 1817; p. 78. Sumner (Lincolnshire Collections, vol. 1: The Joshua Gibbons Manuscript), 1997; p. 95.

Recorded sources: Sanctuary Records, The Dubliners - "Originals" (2013).




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