This is a traditional Irish song arranged by Michael McGlynn and John McGlynn. It appears on Anúna’s 1994 album Invocation (re-recorded 2002). Siúil a Rún is one of the most widely sung songs in the Irish repertoire. Well-known performances are by Clannad from their album Dúlamán and Mary Black on different occasions.
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Siúil a Rún is a traditional Irish song, sung from the point of view of a woman lamenting a lover who has embarked on a military career, and indicating her willingness to support him. The song has English language verses and an Irish language chorus, a style known as macaronic. The title translates to “go, my love” (or variants): siúil is an imperative, literally translating to “walk!”, a rún is a term of endearment.
The history of the song is unclear. It has been suggested that the song refers to the “Wild Geese” of the Glorious Revolution. If it does, however, the original version has probably been lost. It is not uncommon that Irish songs were translated into English, with their chorus surviving in Irish, or being transformed into nonsense words (see Caleno custure me), but in most of these cases, some of the Irish version still survives. It is possible that the song was composed in the 1800s with the conscious intention of styling it after older songs.
Some in Ireland say that after the British occupied the island, they gave Irish men the choice of either joining the army or being exiled forever. In the American rendition of the song, the young man referred to in the song chooses the army. In the Irish rendition, however, he chooses permanent exile. As is common in folk music, many lyrical variants of the song exist. One verse commonly sung goes “I wish the king would return to reign, and bring my lover home again, I wish I wish I wish in vain, ‘s go dteigh tú a mhúirnín slán”. This has led to thinking that the song has Jacobite meanings and origins, the “king” being James II or James VII.
In Ulysses, James Joyce had Stephen Dedalus sing the song to Leopold Bloom in Bloom’s kitchen (as part of the Ithaca episode). The song can be seen to signal or echo many of the grand themes of the book, referencing loss of language, usurpation, betrayal, loss of leadership and women selling themselves. Bloom responds by singing a song in Hebrew.
“Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier”/”Buttermilk Hill” is a well-known American variant dating to the Revolutionary War, sharing a common melody and similar lyrics.
I wish I were on yonder hill
'Tis there I'd sit and cry my fill
And every tear would turn a mill
I wish I sat on my true love's knee
Many a fond story he told to me
He told me things that ne'er shall be
Go, go, go my love
Go quietly and go peacefully
Go to the door and fly with me
His hair was black, his eye was blue
His arm was strong, his word was true
I wish in my heart I was with you
I'll dye my petticoat, I'll dye it red
And 'round the world I'll beg my bread
'Til I find my love alive or dead
Go to the door and fly with meCan you provide a better translation?