Since I’ve started learning fiddle, one of my favorite pieces is this nice oldie with lyrics by Yeats. Like many other Irish tunes, it’s got a long history with some twists and turns. Yeats wrote the poem in 1889. Then, in 1909, an Irish collector of folk songs and composer named Herbert Hughes set the words to an old air called “The Maids of the Mourne Shore.” A “sally” or “sallie” is an old Irish word for a willow tree. Here’s the best version I’ve found of this song, by singer Maura O’Connell (formerly of De Danaan), backed by a wonderful group of Irish musicians and American slide player Jerry Douglas.
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 did not agree.
In a field down 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.