MY LOVE AND I
Songs for Male Voices
arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw
It was down by the Sally Gardens/My love and I did meet . . .
Singing must be the most satisfying way to express love. How else can we account for the wealth of love songs in every tongue? The love may be true or false, eternal or ephemeral, courtly or boisterous: still it finds its story, its tune, its protagonists (often including the singer) and, sometimes, its moral. The songs that linger in the ear’s recesses and the mind’s depths endure for generations, resurfacing at odd intervals to bathe us anew in this universal emotion.
Sheer masculine exuberance fuels such songs as A-Roving, To Ladies’ Eyes andVive L’Amour, while a much more subdued, gentle longing is expressed in Turn Ye to Me, Stars of the Summer Night (with its lovely poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), and Aura Lee. We find an intellectual, philosophical wit masquerading as folk song in Ben Jonson’s Drink to MeOonly, Thomas Moore’s When Love is Kind and Has Sorrow Thy Young Days Shaded, and William Butler Yeats’ unforgettable It Was Down by the Sally Gardens. Anonymous singers give us such gifts as the haunting Lowlands, with its evocation of the rolling of the sea; the country dances of Du, du liegst mir im Herzen and Stodole Pumpa; and the story-telling of the very Irish A Ballynure Ballad (‘For it’s I have got the cordial eye that far exceeds the whiskey!’) and the very Spanish Al Olivo (‘The dark-eyed maiden rescued me when I fell from the olive tree.’)
The loved-one is evoked in all her beauty in the fifteenth century L’Amour de Moy, which places her in the midst of the flowers in the garden, while she is only glimpsed once in Passing By. The Spaniard describes his love in her suggestive dance in La Tarara (with the ice-cold gardenia at her bosom). The German lover in Treue Liebe swears eternal fidelity, as does the Castilian who addresses both his native city and its ‘burgalesa’ when he bids them farewell in Adios, Catedral de Burgos.
Haul Away, Joe is a true work song, with its muscular refrain and rough humor, while My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean can only be described as a play song: pure idiocy. (Both would have been enriched by improvised verses which would not bear repetition.) And the American glee-club tradition is maintained in such nineteenth-century favorites as Seeing Nellie Home andDarling Nellie Gray.
So, we sing and love and lose and laugh and cry, and are at our most human when we suffer these arrows of desire and regret.
She bade me take life easy/ As the grass grows on the weirs,
But I was young and foolish/ And now am full of tears.