The dark-eyed gipsy, song

Tilly Quigley, singing in English
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There were three gipsies, they lived in the East
And they were braw and bonny oh
And they sang so sweet, so very very sweet,
They charmed the heart of a lady oh.

She gave to them the sparkling wine,
She gave to them the brandy too
And the gay gold ring that the lady wore
She gave it to the dark-eyed gipsy oh.

When the lord of the castle came home
He enquired for his lady oh,
She’s gone, she’s gone, said the brave servant boy,
She’s away with the dark-eyed gipsy oh.

Charlés then put spurs to his horse
And off he rode so speedily too
Until he fell in with his gay wedded love
Along with the dark-eyed gipsy oh.

– Are you going to forsake your house and land?
Are you going to forsake your children three?
Are you going to forsake your gay wedded love
And go the dark-eyed gipsy oh?

– What cares I for my house and home?
What cares I for my children three?
For I lay last night in a fine feather bed
In the arms of a dark-eyed gipsy oh.


‘The dark-eyed gipsy’, as it is usually called in Ireland, was almost the only old British ballad printed by the Irish popular press. I have noticed Dublin and Cork imprints only, but the plentiful Ulster oral versions clearly show broadside textual influence. Eddie Butcher’s fragment Y was my first clue to Tilly’s version, which she learned from the centenarian Sarah Sweeney: see p. 20. As in most Irish versions, it is by singing that the gipsies cast their spell over the lady, but the gifts which in 2.1–2 are tokens of her hospitality to them perhaps replace the narcotic spices given in some versions by them to her: see Notes. Overtaken by her husband, neither the lady nor the gipsies are punished. Irish versions mostly end with expression of the lady’s perfect devotion to her gipsy, and contain little to recall the historical features which are said to link the ballad with sixteenth- or seventeenth-century Scotland.