Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

batgirl
batgirl
|
10


Siúil a Rún is an Irish song, most likely from the late 17th century, in which a lass is heartbroken because the lover is joining the military and going to war and will do anything to assure his safe return. Women and war is a theme in some older folk songs. Like many songs from the UK, this one traveled to America and mutated. Since the original is in the Celtic gaeilge, the lyrics didn't travel well. During the Revolutionary War, it had become "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier."  I had originally thought this song was Civil War  era and referred to Johnny Reb, but it was almost a century earlier.

One thing I feel should be taken into consideration is that back in the day, a man leaving his woman was more serious than some emotional upheaval, though it was that also. Without a husband present, the woman had to farm, take care of the animals, the children, the house, as well as deal with the outside world. With her man going to war, she had the expectation he may not return or he may return maimed.  It had to be a horrifying experience even for an unmarried woman and her lover but probably more so for a married woman. So I'm not sure how the writers were able to even find the words for songs like these.

Siúil a Rún found itself called Shule Aroon or Shule Agra or Agrah, then Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier.

Here is Siúil a Rún in its original English/Irish:

Siúil a Rún  

I wish I was on yonder hill
Tis there I'd sit and cry my fill
Till every tear would turn a mill
Is go dte tu mo mhuirnin slan.

Siúil, siúil, siúil a rúin
Siúil go sochair agus siúil go ciúin
Siúil go doras agus éalaigh liom
Is go dté tú mo mhúirnín slán

I'll sell my rock, Ill sell my reel
I'll  sell my  onlyspinning wheel
to buy my love a sword of steel
Is go dte tu mo mhuirnin slan

Siúil, siúil, siúil a rúin
Siúil go sochair agus siúil go ciúin
Siúil go doras agus éalaigh liom
Is go dté tú mo mhúirnín slán

I'll dye my petticoats, I'll dye them red
and it's round the World I will beg for bread
until my parents would wish me dead.
Is go dte tu mo mhuirnin slan

Siúil, siúil, siúil a rúin
Siúil go sochair agus siúil go ciúin
Siúil go doras agus éalaigh liom
Is go dté tú mo mhúirnín slán

I wish my love would return from France,
his fame and fortune there advanced.
If we meet again, 't will be by chance.
Is go dte tu mo mhuirnin slan

Siúil, siúil, siúil a rúin
Siúil go sochair agus siúil go ciúin
Siúil go doras agus éalaigh liom
Is go dté tú mo mhúirnín slán



     I came across this song (below) in the 1829 book, "Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction."  It's not the same song, but seems to have borrowed the refrain from the mutated version, Shule Aroon.

"Siúil a Rún"  was published as "Shule Aroon" in the 1845 book "Ballad Poetry of Ireland."





But I first heard this song as "Gone the Rainbow" by Peter, Paul and Mary.  It's a beautiful rendition, perhaps one of the best, but in my opinion marred by the inclusion of these nonsense  words for the original Irish chorus.  

Shule, shule, shule-a-roo
Shule-a-rak-shak, shule-a-ba-ba-coo
When I saw my Sally Babby Beal
Come bibble in the boo shy Lorey



Below in an 19th century broadside showing Shule Agra(h).



And below is sheet music displayed in the 1864 book, "Songs of Ireland."

Pete Seeger sang, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier:

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier

Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill.
Who can blame me, cryin' my fill.
And ev'ry tear would turn a mill.
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Shule, shule shule arga.
Me oh my I love him so,
But only time will heal my soul
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

I'll sell my rock, I sell my reel
To buy my love a sword and shield
But now he lies murdered on the field.
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Shule, shule shule arga.
Me oh my I love him so,
But only time will heal my soul
Johnny has gone for a soldier.



While his group, The Weavers called it "Buttermilk Hill" 
The only female in the group, Ronnie Gilbert, sang it solo. I'm not particularly fond of this version.

Buttermilk Hill

Here I sit on Buttermilk hill.
Who can play me, cry my fill.
And every tear and turn of milk.
Johnny is gone for a soldier.

Behold my, I loved him s.o
Broke my heart to see him go.
And only time can heal my wound.
Johnny is gone for a soldier.

I sold my rock, I sold my reel.
I even sold my spinning wheel.
To buy my love a sword of steel.
Johnny is gone for a soldier.

Here I sit on Buttermilk hill.
Who can play me, cry my fill.
And every tear and turn of milk.
Johnny is gone for a soldier.

Don't you love how these songs change and undulate like plasma....

War... sometimes a woman couldn't sit at home when her lover left to fight.  sometimes she tagged along, dressed like a comrade.

Again I first heard such a song from Peter Paul and Mary with "Cruel War"  -- a gorgeous rendition,  no nonsense words needed.



This song, which doesn't seem as old as Siúil a Rún, also is found under different titles with great variations in the lyrics. 

Peter, Paul and Mary's Cruel War
The cruel war is raging, Johnny has to fight.
I want to be with him, from morning 'til night.

I want to be with him, it grieves my heart so,
"Won't you let me go with you?", "No, My Love, No."

"I'll tie up my hair, men's clothing I'll put on
I'll pass as your comrade, as we march along."

"I'll pass as your comrade, no one will ever know
Won't you let me go with you?" "No, My Love, No."

"Oh Johnny, oh Johnny, I fear you are unkind
I want to be with you, from morning 'til night."

"I want to be with you, it grieves my heart so,
Won't you let me go with you?" "Yes, My Love, Yes."

-----

The Golden Encyclopedia of Folk Music has these lyrics:

The cruel war is raging Johnny has to fight
I want to be with him from morning till night

Oh Johnny, dear Johnny, morning, noon and night,
I think of you marching, left, right, left and right

I know you're so gentle when you hold me tight,
Oh how will they make you get out there and fight?

Go speak to your sergeant, and say you want out,
Just say you're allergic to this kind of bout.

Oh Johnny, dear Johnny, yes, I know you're brave,
But oh how I miss you, it's your love I crave.

Oh why did the army take you from my side,
To go into battle, away from your bride.


Pete Seeger's half-sister Peggy (see: The First Time) recorded this version:


This title is:

The Cruel War is Raging

The cruel war is raging and Johnny has to fight
I want to be with him from morning til night
I want to be with him, it grieves my heart so
Won't you let me go with you, No my love no

Tomorrow is Sunday, and Monday is the day
That your captain will call you and you must obey
Your captain will call you, it grieves my heart so
Won't you let me come with you? No, my love, no.

I'll go to your Captain, go down upon my knees
Ten thousand gold guineas I'd give for your release
Ten thousand gold guineas, it grieves my heart so
Won't you let me come with you? No, my love, no.

Your waist is too slender, your fingers are too small
Your is too to the cannonball
Your waist is too slender, it grieves my heart so
Won't you let me come with you? No, my love, no.

Oh Johnny, oh Johnny, I feel you are unkind
For I love you far better than all of mankind
I love you far better than words can e'er express
Won't you let me come with you? Yes, my love, yes.

I'll tie back my hair, men's clothing I'll put on.
I'll pass for your comrade as we march along.
I'll pass for your comrade, no one will ever guess
Won't you let me come with you? Yes, my love, yes.

Another version I found in "Words to Songs by Various Artist for All Occasions," compiled by Bruce Simmons of North York Ontario.



And there's "Johnny, My Jewel," a field recording done in Fayetteville, Ark. 1960:



"English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians" by Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp, 1917 has this song:


A rarer version is William and Nancy's Parting 
The image below is from "The Quest of the Ballad" by Prof. W. Roy Mackenzie, 1966

Other titles may include:

"Girl Volunteer"
"I'm Going to Join the Army"
"Men's Clothing I'll Put On"



This may seem long... but oh, if war were only this short.

[N.B.  I had previously published this in the chess.com forums sometime back, but wanted it in my blog as well]