A Sheaf of Songs from Leinster


Song Cycle by Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir (1852 - 1924)

Word count: 854

1. Grandeur [sung text checked 1 time]

Poor Mary Byrne is dead,
An' all the world may see
[Where]1 she lies upon her bed
Just as fine as quality.

She lies there still and white,
With candles either hand
That'll guard her [through]2 the night:
Sure she never was so grand.

She holds her rosary,
Her hands clasped on her breast.
Just as dacint as can be
In the habit she's been dressed.

In life her hands were red
With every sort of toil,
But they're white now she is dead,
An' they've sorra mark of soil.

The neighbours come and go,
They kneel to say a prayer,
I wish herself could know
Of the way she's lyin' there.

It was work from morn till night,
And hard she earned her bread:
But I'm thinking she's a right
To be aisy now she's dead.

When other girls were gay,
At wedding or at fair,
She'd be toiling all the day,
Not a minyit could she spare.

An' no one missed her face,
Or sought her in a crowd,
But to-day they throng the place
Just to see her in her shroud.

The creature in her life
Drew trouble with each breath;
She was just "poor Jim Byrne's wife" —
But she's lovely in her death.

I wish the dead could see
The splendour of a wake,
For it's proud herself would be
Of the keening that they make.

Och! little Mary Byrne,
You welcome every guest,
Is it now you take your turn
To be merry with the rest?

I'm thinking you'd be glad,
[Though]3 the angels make your bed,
Could you see the care we've had
To respect you — now you're dead.


View original text (without footnotes)
1 Stanford: "When"
2 Stanford: "thro'
3 Stanford: "tho'"

Researcher for this text: Johann Winkler

2. Thief of the World [sung text checked 1 time]

Oh, it’s little Rosanne 
Is the rogue of the world!
If it’s villany in it,
Herself will be there,
An’ it’s like she’ll begin it 
With time and to spare.
For she’s pullin’ my coat, 
Or she’s teasing the goat,
Or huntin’ the chuckins, the little old dote.
Or maybe she’s off on her two little toes,
An’ the Mischief is puzzled to guess where she goes.

Oh, it's little Rosanne 
Is the thief of the world!
If you’re hearin’ her laughter, 
You’d best be aware,
For there’s something she’s after, 
But who can tell where?
Och, she’s lookin’ for eggs,
Or the basket of pegs,
Or she’s chasin’ the ducks till they run off their legs. 
There’s nothing that’s safe! I’ve right now to know,
For she’s stolen my heart on me three years ago.


Researcher for this text: Johann Winkler

3. A soft day [sung text checked 1 time]

A soft day, thank God!
A wind from the south
With a honey'd mouth;
A scent of drenching leaves,
Briar and beech and lime,
White elderflower and thyme,
And the soaking grass smells sweet,
Crushed by my two bare feet,
While the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the eaves.

A soft day, thank God!
The hills wear a shroud
Of silver cloud;
The web the spider weaves
Is a glittering net;
The woodland path is wet,
And the soaking earth smells sweet
Under my two bare feet,
And the rain drips,
Drips, drips, drips from the leaves.


Researcher for this text: Ted Perry

5. The bold unbiddable child [sung text checked 1 time]

Now what is he after below in the street?
(God save us; he's terrible wild!)
Is it stirrin' the gutter around with his feet?
He'd best be aware when the two of us meet.
Come in out o' that, come in out o' that, come in,
You bold unbiddable child!

He's after upsetting the Widow Foy's pail -
She'll murder him yet, Widow Foy!
An' he's pulling the massachree dog by the tail;
By the hokey! that young one is born for the gaol.
Come in out o' that, come in out o' that, come in,
You rogue of a villainous boy!

Go tell him his mother is seeking a stick
For a boy that is terrible wild.
If he cares for his feelings he'd better be quick;
He'll draw in his horns when he sees me, will Mick.
Come in out o' that, come in out o' that, come in,
You bold unbiddable child.


Researcher for this text: Ted Perry

6. Irish skies [sung text checked 1 time]

In London here the streets are grey, and grey the sky above;
I wish I were in Ireland to see the skies I love -
Pearl cloud, buff cloud, the colour of a dove.

All day I travel English streets, but in my dreams I tread
The far Glencullen road, and see the soft sky overhead.
Grey clouds, white clouds, the wind has shepherded.

At night the London lamps shine bright, but what are they to me?
I've seen the moonlight in Glendhu, the stars above Glenchree -
The lamps of Heav'n give light enough for me.

The city in the winter-time put on a shroud of smoke,
But the sky above the Three rock was blue as Mary's cloak,
Ruffled like doves' wings when the wind awoke.

I dream I see the Wicklow hills by evening sunlight kissed,
An' ev'ry glen and valley there brimful of radiant mist -
The jewelled sky topaz and amethyst.

I woke to see the London streets, the sombre sky above,
God's blessing on the far-off roads, and on the skies I love -
Pearl feather, grey feather, wings of a dove.


Researcher for this text: Ted Perry