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The Parting Glass

A Song of Farewell and Hope


"The Parting Glass" seems to be the most sought-after Irish traditional on this site ... though one may even discuss whether the song is originally Irish or Scottish. First appearing in print around the time of the American War of Independence, it was soon after included in a collection of "Scots Songs". At least parts of the lyrics may, however, be traced back to the early 1600s with a Scottish background.

The tune was apparently originally called "The Peacock" and featured in a collection of tunes compiled by James Aird and published in 1782. The same tune was also noted for the song "Sweet Cootehill Town", a song of farewell by an emigrant to the County Cavan market town. In the USA, the same melody was used for church hymns at a time and is apparently still popular in the Sacred Harp tradition.

Modern versions include the seminal recording by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, by The Pogues and Steeleye Span, by Sinead O'Connor and Loreena McKennitt. It also appears in popular collections of songs by, to name a few, the High Kings and Celtic Woman. Ed Sheeran released it as a "hidden track" on "+", it also featured on the soundtracks of "The Walking Dead" and "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag".


The Parting Glass


O, all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I've done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
to mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

O, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wished me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile.
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own, she has my heart in thrall;
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

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Note that there might be several variations of the lyrics and that the version given above is not to be seen as the "official". Song lyrics changed over times, either in contents or in minute details that may be down to changing ways in pronunciation, especially if the language changed from a Shakespearean model to our more modern take on English (let alone the influences that changed language in the colonies ... er ... overseas). So if you find different lyrics or are even singing a different version, these are as correct as the version above.

But I never cease to be amazed when I look at the statistics - the lyrics to "The Parting Glass" always seem to come out tops in searches performed on this site! Why is that so? Okay, it is a perfect song to round off an evening with friends, I guess. Or are there other reasons? Come on, constant reader, help me out here - what are the real reasons for the popularity of "The Parting Glass"?

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