Johnny's Gone for a Soldier
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This is probably an American adaptation of the Irish tune Shule Aroon which dates back to the 17th Century. It is also known as Buttermilk Hill and Shule Agra (the version at this site being a variant). Johnny's Gone For a Soldier was popular during the the American Revolutionary War.

There are variations at:

According to one theory, the tune Shule Agra arose out of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Irish supported James II, and were defeated at the Boyne. William III, who defeated James, offered forgiveness to the rebels who would swear loyalty to him, but many preferred exile. The only evidence for this theory, is that some English versions have the line "But now my love has gone to France, To try his fortune to advance...."

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.

Me, oh my, I loved him so,
Broke my heart to see him go,
And only time will heal my woe,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

I'll sell my rod, I'll sell my reel,
Likewise I'll sell my spinning wheel,
And buy my love a sword of steel,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

I'll dye my dress, I'll dye it red,
And through the streets I'll beg for bread,
For the lad that I love from me has fled,
Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Related Links
Lyrics from Digital Tradition