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Down by the Salley Gardens

[ Roud 32872 ; Ballad Index FSWB182 ; DT SALLYGRD ; Mudcat 13144 , 128254 ; William Butler Yeats]

An Old Song Re-Sung, or Down by the Salley Gardens, is a poem by William Butler Yeats. It was published in 1889 in his book The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems. Yeats indicated in a note that it was “an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballisodare, Sligo, who often sings them to herself”. This “old song” is very probably You Rambling Boys of Pleasure.

Paddie Bell sang Down by the Sally Gardens in 1968 on her EMI album I Know Where I’m Going.

Bram Taylor sang The Sally Gardens in 1986 on his Fellside album Dreams and Songs to Sing. This track was also included in 1999 on his Fellside anthology Singing! The Bram Taylor Collection. He commented in his liner notes:

A W.B. Yeats poem originally published in 1889. It is said to have been inspired by a song, You Rambling Boys of Pleasure, composed in the 18th century. The air is The Maids of Mourne Shore.

Heather Heywood sang The Sally Gardens in 1987 on her Greentrax album Some Kind of Love. This track was also included in 1996 on the anthology The Rough Guide to Scottish Music. She noted:

I have always liked this song, I think mainly attracted by the superb tune. It is a poem by Yeats who based it on the traditional song, Rambling Boys of Pleasure. When preparing for a concert with a local group, Quadrille, the opportunity of singing with pipes accompaniment by Wattie [Lees] prompted me to learn it. The words I then took from a recording by Sean Cannon.

Kathryn Roberts sang Sally Gardens in 1993 on Intuition’s eponymous CD Intuition.

Seriouskitchen sang Sally Gardens set to their own music on their 2002 CD Tig. They noted:

A beautiful lyric, from one of the greatest poets of these islands. The art of setting a poems to music is one of the most challenging of tasks, especially with lyrics a fine as these. This tune is of our own making and is intended to give the words the space they deserve, allowing the poet to work his magic.

Mairi Campbell sang The Salley Gardens on Concerto Caledonia’s 2011 CD Revenge of the Folksingers. The album’s liner notes commented:

The marriage of W.B. Yeats’s Old Song Re-Sung to the air The Maids of Mourne Shore was first made in 1909 by Herbert Hughes. Britten’s justly famous version in his Folksong Arrangements Volume 1 (1943) is so complete in and of itself that all we could sensibly do was assign it to our various instruments and listen to Mairi sing it.

Bob Davenport sang Down by the Sally Gardens in 2014 on Liz Giddings and Roger Digby’s CD The Passing Moment.

Sam Kelly sang Down by the Salley Gardens on his 2015 CD The Lost Boys.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner played Down by the Sally Gardens on their 2015 live CD Layers of Ages.

Emily Mae Winters sang Down by the Sally Gardens in 2016 on her CD Siren Serenade.

Daria Kulesh sang Down by the Salley Gardens in 2018 on her EP Spring Delights. She noted:

W.B. Yeats’ exquisite poem set to a traditional Irish tune and a nostalgic throwback to my Moscow days as a resident singer in an Irish pub.


William Butler Yeats’ poem Down by the Salley Gardens

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.