Gra Geal Mo Chroi (II -- Down By the Fair River)
DESCRIPTION: The singer hears a woman wishing her lover were here. Her lover passes. The singer remarks on her beauty "like a sheet of white paper her neck and breast." He or she promises to prove true to his or her own love.
EARLIEST DATE: 1875 (OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads citing P W Joyce's _Old Irish Folk Music and Songs_)
KEYWORDS: love beauty lover promise
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar,Ont) Ireland
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, pp. 150-151, "Down by the Fair River" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs, p. 69, "Down By the Fair River" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke-TraditionalSingersAndSongsFromOntario 27, "Groyle Machree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H582, pp. 238-239, "Gragalmachree" (1 text, 1 tune)
OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 13, "Gra Geal Mo Chroi" (1 text, 1 tune)
Graham-Joe-Holmes-SongsMusicTraditionsOfAnUlsterman 30, "Gra mo Chroi" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mikeen McCarthy, "One Fine Summer's Morning" (on IRTravellers01)
Bodleian, 2806 b.11(148), "Lovely Young Johnny" or "Gra Gal Ma Cree ," H. Such (London), 1863-1885
cf. "Stone and Lime" (lyics)
NOTES [336 words]: Is this Laws M23 ["Gay Girl Marie"]? I don't believe so. There is no letter from the lover, and none of the consequences of that letter (some versions of this ballad have a line "Like a sheet of white paper her neck and breast" that may hint at a letter).
The coded name as "Grey Gram o'Chree" (Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs) or "Gra geal mo chroi" (O Lochlainn) is mentioned ("And her name in plain Irish is ....") once or twice, but is not the end of almost every verse as it is in Laws M23. This ballad is about a girl thinking about her lover; it is a collection of floating verses -- connected to that theme -- that I don't find in Laws M23. For example,
The moon it may darken and show us no light
The bright stars of heaven fall down from their height
The rocks may all melt, and the mountains remove
The ships of the ocean may go without sails
The smallest of fishes turn into great whales
In tha middle of the ocean there will groe an apple tree
For good measure, Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs adds "Come all ... Never build your nest on a green hollow tree...." lines and "I lost my own darling by courting too shy."
One point I missed in earlier contrast of this song with "Gay Girl Marie" [Laws M23] is that Laws M23 has a male protagonist ["I am a bold rover ..."] while this song is a woman's story ["If I were an empress ..."] - BS
In earlier editions of the Index, with the improbable title to guide us, however, we did lump them. See additional notes under "Gay Girl Marie" [Laws M23].
It is unfortunate that, apart from Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia, almost none of the versions of this were available to Laws. But Laws does not list the Creighton/Senior-TraditionalSongsOfNovaScotia text here. So we have now split the songs.
According to William H. A. Williams, 'Twas Only an Irishman's Dream, University of Illinois Press, 1996, p. 34, "machree" (used in some of the alternate titles) is a popular word in Irish song because it comes from Irish Gaelic "mo chroí," "my heart." - RBW
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