A Love Song by James Goodman
Will you come to Ballyheigue sweet, on Lady Day?
To view the nimphs [sic] and the swains on the strand for to play.
To view the Atlantic and its vast flowing tide,
And to see the horse race, all along the seaside.
|Chorus to verse 1
Love! My darling don’t deny me, don’t my sweet love.
Don’t disown me or controle [sic] your nimphs [sic] from above
If you restore me it’s then I’ll own you for to be my love,
And it’s then we’ll rove thro’ shady pines my own, dearest love.
Will you come to Ballycastle for a while to retire
From the heat of the day, that great building to admire.
To view each commodious and solitary cell
Where in the days of yore the holy men did dwell.
|Chorus to verse 2
Oh my honey, sweet and funny, true, just and fair.
Oh my bonny lovely lilly [sic] blooming and rare.
Come do you love me, am I worthy? Tell me I pray
But if not, you witty, cunning, pretty lass keep away.
Will you come, dearest darling, and for love we’ll not part,
To the circular seat by the bowed summer wall.
It is there I will roll you into the bowling green
And it’s with you I will sport, my own lovely queen.
|No chorus given.|
Will you come, my love, to view Lord Glandore’s fine domain
That the green spreading arbours and vast flowing plain.
To impress the sweet rose and flowers, by degrees
And I’d kiss you dearest lady ‘neath the shade of the trees.
No chorus given
Will you come to Ballybunnion [sic] to that beautiful place
When the summer is in bloom for to view the fine caves.
To hear bands of music and dancers also,
The swimmers and the bathers and the hurlers playing goal.
|No chorus given|
Will you come, dearest darling and for love we’ll not part
And I’ll take you back again to the abbey of Ardfert
Where we’ll live in great pleasure for the rest of our life
And I can’t but be a happy man in getting such a wife.
|No chorus given|
Will you come shooting heirs [sic] to the top of Com an Áir?
Where Fionn and his trains did often resort
Where Meadrach was slain and great Talc Mac Treoin
By Osgar, the brave hero that never dreaded sword.
|No chorus given
This unusual text in English appears on page 106 of the song manuscript and I am quite sure that James Goodman wrote this love song himself. There is no matching tune to be found in the music manuscripts but I believe he did intend it to be sung and probably sang it himself to his wife Charlotte whom he married in 1852. Some of the vowel rhymes are reminiscent of Irish rhyme although the consonantal end-rhyme is English in style. The song is an odd mixture, quite conventional in places, a bit rough and ready in others. Some places in Co. Kerry are given prominence in the text and it is likely that these had significance for James himself and possibly Charlotte too.
This was a challenge to transcribe from the MS. It was scribbled down in a hurry and his spelling is a bit ‘creative.’ Indeed, Goodman’s spelling in English is often rather eccentric. The song features an odd mixture of images and rhymes, for example the ‘nymphs’ (or rather, ‘nimphs’!) and ‘swains’ of 17th century English poetry are juxtaposed with the heroes of ancient Irish legend.
Lady Day in England is March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. In Ireland, however, it is August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, called in Irish ‘Lá Fhéile Muire sa bhFómhar.’ Pattern Day in Ballyheigue, north Kerry takes place each year on the 8th of September (the Feast of Our Lady’s Birthday). Nowadays this includes an outdoor mass at the grotto, stalls in the streets, refreshments and entertainment but horse races take place in Ballyheigue around Christmas and these originally began in 1853. Goodman may have been conflating two events.
Here he is inviting her not, as I first thought, to the famous Lammas Fair at Ballycastle, Co. Antrim but, rather, to visit an ecclesiastical site, probably the cathedral and monastery at Ardfert which is near Ballyheigue.
The Goodman family home at Baile Áimín near Ventry had a walled garden. Built in to the wall was ‘the Turret’ a viewing spot which looked out to Ventry harbour. I believe this was ‘the circular seat by the bowed summer wall.’ I am indebted for this information and for much more to the great and generous scholar and beloved parish priest, the late Monsignor Pádraig Ó Fiannachta R.I.P.
I must admit to being floored by Goodman’s stated wish to ‘roll’ her ‘into the bowling green.’ Not what one expects from a clerical gentleman!
‘Lord Glandore’s fine domain’ refers to the house called Ardfert Abbey. Only its gates now remain. The title Earl of Glandore was given in 1776 to one of the Crosbies, who were already Barons Brandon but it died out in 1815. The 4th Baron Brandon, William Crosbie (1771-1832), was a Protestant clergyman and served as Rector of Castleisland, the home parish of James Goodman’s mother, Mary Gorham and was of an age to have known his fellow-clergyman Thomas Goodman, James’ father. It is likely that James knew some members of the family who lived at Ardfert Abbey.
The more conventional courtship activities of walking and music are added to here by ‘hurlers playing goal.’ We know that James Goodman and his brothers were good athletes in their youth and in a poem James wrote in Irish to his brother Seóirse (George) in 1854 he refers to Seóirse’s prowess as a hurler.
Another reference here to ‘the Abbey of Ardfert.’ Goodman had a keen interest in antiquarianism and corresponded with John O’Daly of Dublin, John Windele of Cork and others on this subject.
I always smile when I read the last verse because of the hilarious spelling of ‘heirs’ for ‘hares.’ Com an Áir is the name of a townland and large valley in the mountains to the east of the R560 road which goes over An Chonair, (the ‘Conor’ Pass) on the Dingle peninsula, Co. Kerry. The valley of Com an Áir, ‘hollow of the slaughter,’ is said to be the site of a bloody battle in ancient times and is the subject of a poem in the Fiannaíocht in which Oscar, the great warrior, though wounded, left his sick bed and went to fight. He killed Meargach na Lann and Tailc Mac Treoin. Goodman loved the stories and poems of Fionn and the Fianna and copied them into manuscripts from his youth as well as working on them with John O’Daly and others for the scholarly Ossianic Society.
The characters of Fionn Mac Cumhail, Oisín, Oscar, Caoilte and all the heroes of the Fianna were part of Goodman’s growing-up in Corca Dhuibhne. The famous battle between the Fianna and the invading forces of Dáire Donn Rí an Domhain (the King of the World) was fought on the strand at Ventry near James Goodman’s home. The names of these legendary warriors featured in the landscape and their deeds were told around the fire on long winter evenings or read aloud from manuscripts. In inviting his sweetheart to go with him to the valley of Com an Áir James Goodman was sharing with Charlotte one of the great passions of his life.