The Irish Girl
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

These words are almost identical to a broadside printed by Such called The New Irish Girl, which presumes an older version. Broadwood notes that these words were sung to several different airs. An entirely different ballad, set to a different air, named The Irish Girl, a favorite song, was printed by Skillern in the 18th century. And another ballad entitled The Irish Girl was printed in a chapbook in 1790. None of these tunes is similar to the other.

This song was collected in Surrey and was sung by Mr. James Bromham in 1896.

A copy of the Such broadside and others can be found at the Bodleian Library. Broadsides of the ballad were printed in both England and Scotland.

Abroad as I was walking
Down by the river side,
I gazed all around me,
An Irish girl I spied;
So red and rosy were her cheeks,
And yellow was her hair,
And costly were the robes of gold
My Irish girl did wear.

Her shoes were of the Spanish black,
All spangled round with dew,
She wrung her hands, and tore her hair,
Crying 'Love! what shall I do?
I'm going home, I'm going home,
I'm going home,' said she,
'Why will you go a-roving,
and slight your dear Pollie?'

The very last time I saw my love
She seemed to lie in pain,
With sorrow, grief and anguish
Her heart was broke in twain:
'Oh! there's many a man that's worse than he,
Then why should I complain?
Oh! love is such a killing thing!
Did you ever feel the pain?'

I wish my love was a red rose,
And in the garden grew,
And I to be the gardener;
To her I would be true.
There's not a month throughout the year,
But love I would renew:
With lilies I would garnish her,
Sweet William, thyme, and rue.

I wish I was a butterfly,
I'd fly to my love's breast;
I wish I was a linnet,
I'd sing my love to rest;
I wish I was a nightingale,
I'd sing till morning clear,
I'd sit and sing to you, Pollie,
The girl I love so dear.

(This verse may be omitted when singing)
I wish I was at Exeter,
All seated on the grass,
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand,
And on my knee a lass.
I'd call for liquor merrily,
And pay before I go;
I'd hold her in my arms once more,
Let the wind blow high or low

Variants at this Site
From English Traditional Songs and Carols
See Bibliography for full information.