The true lovers’ discourse, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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One pleasant evening when pinks and daisies
Closed in their bosom one drop of dew
And feathered warblers of every species
Together chanted their notes so true,
As I did stray rapt in meditation
It charmed my heart for to hear them sing,
Night’s silent arbours were only rising
And the air in concert did sweetly ring.

With joy transported, each eye I courted
And gazing round me with inspective eye
Two youthful lovers in conversation
Closelie engagéd, I then chanced to spy;
This couple spoke with such force of reason,
Their sentiments they explained so clear
And for to listen to their conversation
My inclination was to draw near.

He pressed her hand and he says –My darling,
Tell me the reason you’ve changed your mind,
Or have I loved you to be degraded
By youth and innocence all in its prime?
For I am slighted and ill requited,
Where’s all the favours I did bestow?
You’ll surely tell me before you leave me
If you’re intent for to treat me so.

With great acuteness she thus made answer
Saying – On your favour I won’t rely,
You might contrive to blast my glory,
Our marriage days they might hover by.
Young men in general are fickle-minded
And for to trust you I’d be afraid;
If for your favours I am indebted
Both stock and interest you shall be paid.

– To blast your glory, love I ne’er intended
Nor fickle-minded will I ever be,
Nor for my debts you could never pay them,
Except by true love and loyalty.
Remember darling, our first engagement,
When childhood’s  pastime was always new;
Be true and constant,  I am thine forever,
I’ll brave all dangers and go with you.

– Your offer’s good sir, I thank you for it
But yet your offer I can’t receive;
With soft persuasions and kind endearings
The wiléd [?] serpent beguiléd Eve.
There are other reasons must be acceded,
The highest tide, sir, will ebb and fall;
Some other female will suit you better,
Therefore, I cannot obey your call.

– Yes, I’ll admit to the tide in motion,
It’s always moving from shore to shore.
But yet its substance is never changing
Nor never will unto time’s no more.
I’ll sound your name with all loyal lovers,
And fix your love on whose mind is pure
Since no existence can ever change it
Nor no physician prescribe a cure.

She says – Young man, for to tell you plainly,
For to detain you I’m not inclined;
Another young man of birth and fortune
Has gained my favour and changed my mind.
My future welfare I have considered,
On fickle footing I’ll never stand;
Besides, my parents would be offended
For to see you walking at my right hand.

– What had you, darling, when you were born?
What Nature gave you, love, so had I;
Your haughty parents I do disdain them
And your ill-got riches, I do defy.
An honest heart, love, it’s far superior,
Your golden riches will soon decay,
For naked we come into this world, love,
And  much the same we will go away.

– You falsify when you said you loved me
And you slight the parents whom I love dear,
So I think it justice now to degrade you
If that’s the course that you mean to steer.
By wealth of Fortune or art of Nature
You’re not my equal in any line;
Since I conjure you insist no further,
Unto your wishes I won’t incline.

– To falsify, love, I do deny it,
Your imputations is wrong, I’ll swear,
Like Eve I find you a real deceiver,
Your heart’s as false as your face is fair.
For the want of riches you meanly slight me
And my complexion you do disdain;
Our skin may differ, but true affection
In black or white sure it’s all the same.

– Oh, curb your passion, she thus exclaiméd,
It wasn’t to quarrel that I met you here,
It was to discourse you in moderation
With real intentions to make appear.
I speak with slandour, I will surrender
To what is proper in every way
And if you’ll submit to a fair discussion
And reason dictates I will obey.

– It is too late now to ask that question
Since you despised me before my friends,
Lebánon’s plains if you could command them
Is not sufficient to make amends.
For there’s not a tree in yon [im]perial forest
Retains its colour excepting one
And that’s the laurel that I do cherish
And I’ll always carry it in my right hand.

– The blooming laurel, sir, you do admire it
Because its virtue is always new,
But there is another, you can’t deny it,
It’s just as bright in the gardeners view.
It’s wisely resting throughout the winter,
It blooms again when the spring draws near,
The pen of honour has wrote its praises,
In June and July it does appear.

– You speak exceedingly but not correctly
With words supported by cause in vain;
Had you that tongue of yon senior goddess
Your exultations I would disdain.
It was your love that I did require
But since you have placed it on golden store
I’ll strike the string and my harp will murmur,
So farewell, darling, forever more.

She thus affected with eyes distracted
With loud exclaiming she thus give way,
– Sir, my denial was but a trial,
You gods be witness to what I say.
She says – Young man, if you don’t forgive me
And quite forget it uncordedly
A single virgin for your sake I’ll wander
While green leaves grows on your laurel tree.

Now all young maidens, I pray, take warning,
Let love and virtue be still your aim;
No worldly treasure will yield you pleasure
On those whose person you do disdain.
All loyal lovers will then respect you,
Unto your memory they’ll heave a sigh;
The blooming rose and the evergreen laurel
Will mark the spot where your body lies.

Near Ballinahinch about two mile distant
Where blackbirds whistle and thrushes sing,
With hills surrounding and valleys bounding,
A charming prospect all in the spring,
Where fair maid’s beauty it’s never wanting,
The lonesome stranger a refuge finds,
Near Magheratendry if you’ll enquire
You’ll find the author of those simple lines.


The anonymous poet of Maghertimpany, Ballynahinch (Down) – see Notes, 18.7 – worked a rich literary vein, and his song has been uniquely popular for one of its kind. Henry (notes to P) identified him as a schoolmaster named M’Kittrick, and a schoolmaster he surely was. ‘Theological’ discussions between lovers of mixed religion are fairly common in Anglo-Irish, but aside from them, folk song in English knows no lovers’ quarrel so well composed as this one. It is in the tradition of medieval verse dialogues such as the tensó of the troubadours; poetic dialogues of all kinds flourished peculiarly well in Irish, and Gaelic culture imbues our ‘Discourse’. Each stanza has strong formal unity, and together they achieve a discursive flow that must impress even a casual reader. But the song is for listeners. Certainly it often appeared in the Irish popular press; but it is still widely found today when such printed copies have ceased for decades to be available to singers.