Limerick is Beautiful (Colleen Bawn)
DESCRIPTION: The city of "Limerick is beautiful ... The girl I love ... lives in Garryowen, And is called the Colleen Bawn." If I were "Emperor of Russia ... Or Julius Caesar, or the Lord Lieutenant" I'd give up everything to have her be my bride.
AUTHOR: Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) ?
EARLIEST DATE: 1860 (in play "The Colleen Bawn")
KEYWORDS: love lyric nonballad beauty Ireland courting rejection lover
FOUND IN: Canada(Ont) Ireland
REFERENCES (3 citations):
O'Conor, p. 12, "Limerick is Beautiful" (1 text)
OLochlainn 72, "Limerick is Beautiful" (1 text, 1 tune)
Dean, pp. 23-24, "Coleen Bawn" (1 text)
O. J. Abbott, "The Colleen Bawn (Limerick Is Beautiful)" (on Abbott1)
Bodleian, Harding B 26(100), "Limerick is Beautiful", P Brereton (Dublin), c.1867; 2806 b.11(40), "Limerick is Beautiful"; also Harding B 26(101), "Colleen Bawn" ("Limerick is beautiful as every body knows")
LOCSinging, sb20290b, "Limerick is Beautiful!", H. De Marsan (New York), 1861-1864
cf. "The Wreck of the Varty" (tune)
cf. "Over Hills and Mountains" (theme: singer would give up the crown or great wealth he doesn't have for love)
Limerick is Beautiful (Rebel Version ) (DT, LIMBEAUT)
NOTES: Given how often most of the characters the singer envies were assassinated, I might be tempted to give up the job too. - RBW
Fowke notes that the song was included in Boucicault's play, and that he is therefore sometimes credited with authorship. A more literary version was penned by the Irish poet Michael Scanlan. - PJS
The song is from Dion Boucicault's play "The Colleen Bawn" which opened September 10, 1860 at the Adelphi Theatre, London [sources: Templeman Library University of Kent site "Richard Fawkes Dion Boucicault Collection" (gives attribution for "composer" as "Levey, R. M., Mr"; "The Adelphi Theatre 1806-1900" at Eastern Michigan University site for English Language and Literature).]
Broadside LOCSinging sb20290b includes the statement "Sung by Dan Bryant in the great Irish drama, the Colleen Bawn, at Wallack's Theatre, New-York."
"Garryowen (Garrai Eoin, 'the garden of Eoin') on the edge of the old city of Limerick Eoin is the older Irish form of the name John" (source: Odds and Ends from May 26, 2001 online edition issue Limerick Leader site)
Broadside LOCSinging sb20290b: H. De Marsan dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS
According to Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford, 1965, p. 780, "Of the 132 plays written my Dion Boucicault, only Rip Van Winkle (1865) in which Joseph Jefferson starred for over thirty years, and The Colleen Bawn, a romantic comedy of Ireland, are remembered." On the other hand, his daughter Nina Boucicault, when in her late thirties, would create the role of "Peter Pan" in the first theatrical production (see Robert Douglas-Fairhurt, The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, Belknap/Harvard, 2015, p. 306), so the Boucicault family arguably still managed to leave a mark on the theater.
Brian Miller suggests to me that Dean's song should not be linked with the "Limerick is Beautiful" texts, and points to several broadsides that are of his "Coleen Bawn" type. He probably has a point -- one of the broadsides is headed "The New Version of the Colleen Bawn," and neither it nor Dean's version mention the characters in "Limerick is Beautiful," nor Garryowen; the only places in it are Limerick and the Shannon. But this song seems to be rare, and the theme is similar; if a fragment turned up, it probably would not be clear which version it goes with. So I'm going to continue to keep them together for now, while being aware that there were two separate compositions. (With a fair chance that Dean's song is a recomposition of Boucicault's, or possibly the reverse.) Roud lumps them. - RBW
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