Bean Dubh an Ghleanna

Dark Woman of the Glen
This is a traditional Irish song covered by many different artists. See similar song Moll Dubh A' Ghleanna by Atlan. more...

This is a traditional Irish song covered by many different artists. See similar song Moll Dubh A’ Ghleanna by Atlan.

Joe Heaney Archives

She was a beautiful woman, and she could very hardly be reached by somebody who was poor; all they could do was stare at her all the time. And she made him sick, so sick, that he was in love. And you know what love is – that my grandmother said that ‘Love is blind, and marriage is an eye-opener.’  She also said when poverty came in the door, that love went out the window. But this man was really in love.

From The Doegen Records

Two distinct songs share the title ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’. The lyrics of the present recording are similar to the opening verse of the song as published in John O’Daly, The poets and poetry of Munster (Dublin, 1849), 220-5. It is sometimes referred to as ‘Moll Dubh an Ghleanna’. O’Daly could not ascertain the authorship of the air but stated that the words are attributed to the famous rapparee Éamann an Chnoic (‘Ned of the Hills’) who flourished in the early eighteenth century. Breandán Ó Buachalla notes that verses from the song ‘Éamann an Chnoic’ appear in some versions of ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’. See Nua-dhuanaire I (Dublin, 1971), 128. Edward Bunting included a version of the melody in A general collection of the ancient Irish music (London, 1796), 22. Thomas Moore based his song ‘Go Where Glory Waits Thee’ on Bunting’s ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’ or ‘The Maid of the Valley’. George Petrie found fault with Bunting’s setting and felt compelled to print his own setting of the air which can be examined in David Cooper, The Petrie collection of the ancient music of Ireland (Cork, 2002), 239-41. Petrie’s lyrics are very similar to those sung by Pádraig Ó Ceallaigh on this recording. However, Ó Ceallaigh’s highly ornate and stylistic rendition of the song differs melodically from those found in printed sources. For an example of two different melodies set to this popular song see Nóirín Ní Riain, Stór amhrán (Cork and Dublin, 1988), 38-41. Examples of other recorded versions of the song appear on Séamus Ennis’s Ceol, scéalta agus amhráin (Gael Linn, 1961; reissued 2006), and on Seán de hÓra’s self-titled album (Gael Linn, 1977). The other song also entitled ‘Bean Dubh an Ghleanna’ can be found in Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish poetry (Dublin, 1789), and Edward Walsh, Irish popular songs (Dublin, 1847). For a discussion of it see David Cooper, The Petrie collection of the ancient music of Ireland, 241-3. Petrie gives the opening four lines as: An bhfaca tú nó an gcuala tú / An stuaire dob áille gnaoi / I ngleannta dubha, is mé in uaigneas / Gan suaimhneas de ló ná d’oíche. A claim that the poem was composed by Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh is made in Seán Ó Dufaigh and Diarmuid Ó Doibhlin, Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh: beatha agus saothar (Dublin, 1989), 105.

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I have a cow on the mountain
And I have been after her for a while
Since I lost my sense with my spouse
Driving her east and west
Wherever the sun goes
From morning till the gold of the evening;
When I look over
In the place where my love used to be
Oh, a stream of tears falls from my eyes;
O Bright King of Power
May you have mercy on my case
Because it is the dark-haired woman
Who left me in sorrow.

Dark woman of the glen,
It’s the dark woman I prefer,
The woman of the nicest laugh
Her cheek like snow
And her throat like the swan,
And her waist slim, narrow, and beautiful
There is no decent young man
From Dublin to Galway,
Or from there to Tuam,
Who isn't travelling and journeying
On lovely brown horses
And hoping for that beautiful dark-haired woman

He who would see my house
With no roof on it but straw
And built on one side of the road
Where the bee goes
And makes there its nest
With the heat and the bright gold sun
When the sapling grows up
No respect remains for it
But rather looking forward to kissing the branch
And my fair, pretty girl
Who eloped from me with a waster
My five hundred thousand farewells to her

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