The Night Herding Song

Harry Stephens, an American cowboy, wrote this song circa 1890, while he was herding wild horses in Canada. While the rest slept, one or two unlucky cowboys always had to stand guard overnight. Called the “night hawk”, this job was one of the worst a cowboy could draw, and they believed the sound of music would keep the herds calm. You can hear a version of it by the inimitable Roy Rogers here. I believe he’s backed up by the Sons of the Pioneers, one of the most well-known Western bands, with whom he sang lead at the beginning of his career.

rogers

 

THE NIGHT HERDING SONG

Oh slow down, little dogies, quit your roving ’round.
You’ve wandered and trampled all over the ground.
Oh, graze along, dogies, and go kinda slow,
And don’t always be on the go.
Move slow, little dogies, move slow.

I’ve circled, trail-herded, night-herded too
But to keep you together, that’s what I can’t do.
My horse is leg-weary and I’m awful tired,
But if I let you get away I’m sure to get fired.
Bunch up, little dogies, bunch up.

Oh say, little dogies, when you goin’ to lay down?
And quit this forever shiftin’ around?
My limbs are weary, my seat is sore
Oh, lay down, dogies, like you’ve laid before,
Lay down, dogies, lay down.

Oh, lay still, dogies, since you have laid down
Stretch away on the big open ground.
Snore loud, little dogies, and drown the wild sound
That’ll go away when the day rolls ’round,
Lay still, dogies, lay still.

Old Maid in the Garrett, Traditional Irish Song

#IrishMusic #amwriting

A traditional Irish toe-tapper bemoaning the single state, Old Maid in the Garrett introduces an unmarried woman whose fate would probably lead to a dismal life in her brother’s attic. She is extolling her virtues and ready to settle for anyone, even “a wee fat man”, as single women were considered a drain on the family resources and much scorned. For it was children who would grow to keep the family farm thriving. A version of this song by Sweeney’s Men can be found here, so you can tap along with the words if the spirit moves you.

OLD MAID IN THE GARRETT

Now I’ve often heard it said from my father and my mother
That going to a wedding was the makings of another.
Well, if this be so, then I’ll go without a biddance.
Oh, kind providence, won’t you send me to a wedding?

Chorus
And it’s oh, dear me, how would it be
If I die an old maid in the garrett?

I can cook and I can sew, I can keep the house right tidy,
And wake up in the morning to get the breakfast ready.
There’s nothing in this wide world would make me half so cheery,
As a wee, fat man who would call me his own deary.

Chorus

Well, now there’s my sister Jean, she’s not handsome or good-looking,
Scarcely fifteen and a fellow she was courting.
Now, she’s twenty-four with a son and a daughter;
Here am I at forty-five and I’ve never had an offer.

Chorus

So come landsman or come kingsman, come tinker or come tailor,
Come fiddler or come dancer, come ploughboy or come sailor,
Come rich man, come poor man, come bore or come witty,
Come any man at all who will marry me for pity.

Chorus

Well, now I’m on me way home, for nobody’s heeding.
Oh, nobody’s heeding to poor Annie’s bleeding!
So, I’m on me way home to my own pity garret.
If I can’t have a man, then I’ll surely get a parrot!

Chorus

Brennan on The Moor, Traditional Irish Folk Song

#Music #IrishMusic

Another song that’s featured in my Donovan family series, this song tells the story of a bold highwayman of the 1700s in County Cork who, like Robin Hood, stole from the rich to give to the poor. You can hear a live version of it by The Clancy Brothers here.

BRENNAN ON THE MOOR

‘Tis of a brave young highwayman this story I will tell,
His name was Willie Brennan and in Ireland he did dwell.
It was on the Kilwood Mountain he commenced his wild career,
And many a wealthy nobleman before him shook with fear.

Refrain

It was Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor,
Bold, brave and undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

 

One day upon the highway as Willie he went down,
He met the mayor of Cashiell a mile outside of town.
The mayor he knew his features and he said, “Young man,” said he,
‘Your name is Willie Brennan, you must come along with me.”

Refrain

Now Brennan’s wife had gone to town provisions for to buy,
And when she saw her Willie, she commenced to weep and cry,
He said, “Hand to me that ten penny.” As soon as Willie spoke,
She handed him a blunderbuss from underneath her cloak.

Refrain

Now with this loaded blunderbuss – the truth I will unfold –
He made the mayor to tremble and he robbed him of his gold.
One hundred pounds was offered for his apprehension there,
So he, with horse and saddle to the mountains did repair.

Refrain

Now Brennan being an outlaw upon the mountains high,
With cavalry and infantry to take him they did try.
He laughed at them with scorn until at last, ’twas said,
By a false-hearted woman he was cruelly betrayed.

Refrain

JACK O’ DIAMONDS, Cowboy Tune

#Music #Cowboysongs #amwriting #HistoricalFiction
A popular ditty with cowboys, this old tune has borrowed from both Irish and American traditions. If some of it sounds familiar, the line “Her parents don’t like me, they say I’m too poor” was borrowed by Peter, Paul & Mary for “Pretty Mary”; the lines “I’ll eats when I’m hungry” and “them that don’t like me” and the theme in general, all can be found in The Moonshiner by the Irish Rovers. For an American version of this song, you can’t do better than the Willis Brothers here.

JACK O’ DIAMONDS

Refrain:

Jack o’ diamonds, Jack o’ diamonds, I know you of old,
You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.
Oh, whiskey, you villain, you’ve been my downfall,
You’ve kicked me, you’ve cuffed me, but I love you for all.


Oh Mollie, oh Mollie, it’s for your sake alone
That I leave my old parents, my house and my home,
That I leave my old parents, you caused me to roam,
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


My foot’s in my stirrup, my bridle’s in my hand,
I’m gonna leave Mollie, the fairest in the land.
Her parents don’t like me, they say I’m too poor,
They say I’m unworthy to enter her door.


They say I drink whiskey, my money is my own,
And them that don’t like me can leave me alone.
I’ll eat when I’m hungry, I’ll drink when I’m dry,
And when I get thirsty I’ll lay down and cry.


I’ll build me a castle on yonder mountain high,
Where my true love can see me when she comes riding by.
Where my true love can see me and help me to mourn.
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


I’ll get up in my saddle, my quirt in my hand.
I’ll think of you, Mollie, when in some far distant land.
I’ll think of you, Mollie, you caused me to roam,
I’m an old rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.


If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck,
I’d dive to the bottom to get one sweet sup.
But the ocean ain’t whiskey, and I ain’t a duck!
So I’ll play Jack o’ diamonds and try to change my luck.


Oh baby, oh baby, I’ve told you before,
Do make me a pallet, I’ll lie on the floor.
I’ve rambled and gambled this wide world around,
But it’s with the rebel army, dear Mollie, I’m bound.


It’s with the rebel army, dear Mollie, I roam,
I am a rebel soldier and Dixie’s my home.
I have rambled and gambled all my money away,
But it’s with the rebel army, oh Mollie, I must stay.


Jack o’ diamonds, Jack o’ diamonds, I know you of old,
You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold.

Rory O’More, Traditional Irish Tune

One of my favorites! This traditional song is a perfect rendition of the pull-and-tug between a courting couple: a man who’s madly in love, and a woman who’s trying to ‘play it cool’. You can find a version of it by the inimitable Wolfe Tones here.

 

RORY O’MORE

Young Rory O’More courted Kathleen bawn.
He was bold as a hawk and she soft as the dawn.
He wished in his heart pretty Kathleen to please,
And he thought the best way to do that was to tease.
“Now, Rory, be easy,” sweet Kathleen would cry,
Reproof on her lip but a smile in her eye.
“With your tricks I don’t know in troth what I’m about.
Faith, you’ve teased ’til I’ve put on my cloak inside out!”

“Oh, jewel,” says Rory, “that same is the way
You’ve treated my heart for this many a day.
And ’tis pleased that I am and why not, to be sure?
For ’tis all for good luck,” says bold Rory O’More.
“Indeed then,” says Kathleen, “don’t think of the like,
For I half gave a promise to soothering Mike.
The ground that I walk on he loves, I’ll be bound.”
“Faith,” says Rory, “I’d rather love you than the ground.”

“Now, Rory, I’ll cry if you don’t let me go;
Sure I dream every night that I’m hating you so.”
“Oh,” says Rory, “that same I’m delighted to hear,
For dreams always go by contrairies my dear.
Oh, jewel, keep dreaming that same till you die,
And bright morning will give dirty night the black lie.
And ’tis pleased that I am and why not, to be sure?
Since ’tis all for good luck,” says bold Rory O’More.

“Arrah, Kathleen, my darling you’ve teased me enough!
Sure I’ve thrashed for your sake Dinny Grimes and Jim Duff.
And I’ve made myself drinking your health quite a beast,
So I think after that I may talk to the priest.”
Then Rory, the rogue, stole his arm round her neck,
So soft and so white without freckle or speck,
And he looked in her eyes that were beaming with light,
And he kissed her sweet lips – don’t you think he was right?

“Now, Rory, leave off sir, you’ll hug me no more;
That’s eight times today and you’ve kissed me before!”
“Then here goes another,” says he, “to make sure,
For there’s luck in odd numbers!” says Rory O’More.

The Mountains of Mourne

#amwriting #IrishMusic

Written by Percy French in 1896, The Mountains of Mourne shows us a somewhat naive and gullible Irish lad who finds himself in London for the first time. It’s a charming song, not without humor and self-deprecation. You can hear a version of it by Irish Mist here.

THE MOUNTAINS OF MOURNE

Oh, Mary, this London’s a wonderful sight
With people here working by day and by night;
They don’t sow potatoes, nor barley nor wheat,
But there’ gangs of them digging for gold in the streets.
At least when I asked them that’s what I was told,
So I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold.
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

I believe that when writin’ a wish you expressed
As to how the fine ladies in London were dressed,
Well, if you believe me, when asked to a ball,
Faith, they don’t wear no top to their dresses at all.
Oh, I’ve seen them myself and you could not in trath
Say if they were bound for a ball or a bath!
Don’t be startin’ them fashions now, Mary Macree,
Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

I’ve seen England’s king from the top of a bus,
And I’ve never known him, but he means to know us.
And tho’ by the Saxon we once were oppressed,
Still I cheered, God forgive me, I cheered with the rest.
And now that he’s visited Erin’s green shore,
We’ll be much better friends than we’ve been heretofore.
When we’ve got all we want, we’re as quiet as can be,
Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

You remember young Peter O’Loughlin, of course,
Well, now he is here at the head of the force!
I met him today, I was crossing the Strand,
And he stopped the whole street with a wave of his hand.
And there we stood talkin’ of days that are gone
While the whole population of London looked on.
But for all these great powers he’s wishful like me
To be back where the dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea.

There’s beautiful girls here, oh, never you mind!
With beautiful shapes nature never designed,
And lovely complexions all roses and cream,
But O’Loughlin remarked with regard to the same
That if at those roses you venture to sip,
The colours might all come away on your lip!
So I’ll wait for the wild rose that’s waitin’ for me
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

At the Intersection of #Music and #Writing

#amwriting #amediting

It occurred to me the other day that the people who propound THE RULES OF WRITING are much more vocal than those of us who do not. Since I was listening to a John McCormack CD at the time (it’s almost Paddy’s Day, you know, and I’m learning two new songs), I wondered how those proponents of THE RULES feel about music.

There are all kinds of music for all kinds of tastes: from rap to opera, from big band to show tunes to rock, rock’n’roll, rockabilly, country, pop – the list goes on and on. My tastes are probably a bit limited, as I prefer music with a simple message and a complex but repetitive melody. To wit, I like traditional folk music. Whether it’s Irish or Cowboy music, Appalachian or Gold Rush, African-American spirituals or Bob Dylan, I love folk music.

But I also like mid-century Country-Western, doo-wop, contemporary ballads, show tunes and some classical pieces (though I prefer a single instrument to an orchestral arrangement).

It seems to me that almost everyone enjoys more than one kind of music. Just because you like rap doesn’t mean you can’t like show tunes. People who like swing might also savor classical music.

So what if I said that everyone should like Irish folk music and listen to nothing else? If I did, you’d laugh out loud, wouldn’t you? Give me the brush-off, a raspberry or even an inelegant gesture.

You wouldn’t accept anyone at all telling you what kind of music you have to listen to and enjoy.

Why is it then, that all writers are supposed to imitate one author? Why is only one author held up as the ultimate standard for writing well?

And why, if only one author qualifies for such a high honor – why is it not Shakespeare?

 

coffee & computer - Pexels

Photo courtesy of Pexel

Nope. It’s Hemingway. The Heming-way is the way we must write now. We must eschew adverbs, delete gerunds, avoid passive voice, reduce adjectives and write shorter sentences.

In addition, we must only use “said/ask/whispered” for dialogue tags (or use none at all), simplify our punctuation, and make our paragraphs shorter.

There’s even an app now called “Hemingway Editor © ”. It encourages shorter, simpler words and reports a “good” score as 6th grade reading comprehension level. That might be great for 6th graders, but really? The first sentence of this post is 27 words long and the app considered it “too complex” and too hard to read. The second sentence, it considered “very hard” to read. But I’d bet real money that you had no trouble understanding either of them.

Previous generations used reading as a way to increase their knowledge of words and language. Do we really want to encourage people to limit their vocabulary and comprehension? Do we really want to play to the lowest acceptable level of literacy?

It makes no sense to me.

If you were to catalog the classic literature of the early 20th century, Hemingway is only one of many authors you’d find on the list. Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Steinbeck, Joyce, Faulkner – all contempories of Hemingway, all hugely popular in their lifetimes. All still have a following today. And all have unique writing styles.

The Sound and the Fury – was there ever a better depiction of a Southern aristrocratic family’s dissolution?* Faulkner employed a number of narrative techniques, including omniscient POV and stream of consciousness. Why do THE RULES hawkers disavow him?

Look Homeward, Angel is my favorite book, hands down. Thomas Wolfe gives us an intimate look into the heart and soul of a poor, socially awkward boy with a miserly mother and an alcoholic father.** The writing is lyrical, melodic, majestic in its reach. The emotional scope of the novel is incomparable. Again, THE RULES hawkers decry.

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce manages to blend the most appealing aspects of the two works noted above. And the hawkers tear out their hair and scream “No! NO! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Why?

I’ve heard from several sources that contemporary readers prefer a style like Hemingway’s. Do they? Or have they just become so inundated with it that they don’t realize they have a choice?

We as writers have a choice. We are free to choose Hemingway – if that’s what we want. But I think it’s equally important to realize that choosing “other” is not a cardinal sin. We have an obligation – yes, an obligation – to create what is in us, regardless of THE RULES.

I don’t discount or disparage Hemingway’s talents at all. But I do object to them being held up as the gold standard. No single author deserves that, not even Shakespeare.

Believe me, if I could write like Thomas Wolfe I would.

So tell me, what kind of music do you enjoy? Does it translate to what you enjoy reading? or to the way you write?

 

§

*By the way, Hemingway Editor doesn’t think you can understand the first sentence in this paragraph, either.

**Per Hemingway Editor, this sentence is too long for you to understand, and “miserly” was identified as an adverb. Oy vez!