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St. Patrick's Day is an opportunity to gather some previously posted poems and lyrics in celebration of the Irish and Ireland, below, including:

"The Cowboy's Lament" (also known as "The Streets of Laredo," "The Dying Cowboy" and other titles), one of the oldest cowboy songs. The tune comes from the 18th century Irish ballad, "The Bard of Armagh" (sometimes called "The Unfortunate Rake," "Phelim Brady," and other titles); 

The late Doc Stovall's "Reflections of an Irish Cowboy," which he never put to music;

Gary Prescott's "Fair Blows the Wind," named the "Best Western Song" in 2005  by the Academy of Western Artists, sung by Jean Prescott  on her Embers of Time recording; 

Jeff Streeby's poem, "Johnny Has Gone for a Cowboy," based on a 15th century Irish widow's lament, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier";

Juni Fisher's "I Will Miss Ireland Forever," part of an Irish trilogy of songs from her Tumbleweed Letters recording; and

The late Rod Nichols' poems, "An Irish Cowboy," and "An Irish Cowboy's Song"

 

Also below, the results of our 2014 limerick challenge, with limericks by winner Tom Swearingen and honorable mentions by Andy Nelson and Almeda Bradshaw.

Below:

F. H. Maynard
The Cowboy's Lament / The Bard of Armagh

Doc Stovall
Reflections of an Irish Cowboy

Gary Prescott
Fair Blows the Wind

 Jeff Streeby
Johnny Has Gone for a Cowboy

Juni Fisher
I Will Miss Ireland Forever 

 Rod Nichols
An Irish Cowboy
An Irish Cowboy's Song

2014 Limerick Challenge
Tom Swearingen, winner
Andy Nelson
Almeda Bradshaw

 


2014 Cowboy Limerick Challenge


Tom Swearingen's cowboy limerick was chosen as the top submitted limerick:

There was a cow puncher named Horton
Who climbed on a bull that was snortin'
He thought what a mistake
I’ve got bones I could break
So I best get back to calf sortin'

© 2014, Tom Swearingen
 

Honorable mentions go to Andy Nelson:

St. Patty bought a rig in the highland,
'Twas the only stock truck on the island,
He owned not a cow,
But this was sure how,
He could drive all the snakes out of Ireland.

© 2014, Andy Nelson
 

And Almeda Bradshaw:

The cowboy, his horse and a cow
Were combined to create, some how
A romantic synergy
Shot with wild west energy
That captured hearts then, and still now

© 2014, Almeda Bradshaw
 

Utah songwriter, musician, and poet Chris Mortensen inspired the limerick contest with his Cowboy Limerick:

There once was a cowboy named Frederick
Who wanted to lasso a limerick
But he failed at the sport
'Cause his loop was too short ...

Chris says of his limerick that "...the listeners usually 'get it,' after a short delay."

 

Thanks to all who participated.
 


The Cowboy's Lament / The Bard of Armagh

See our feature about F. H. Maynard (1853-1926), author of an early version of the song, for a full discussion of  "The Cowboy's Lament," and its many versions, variations, comments on its authorship, and parodies (and titles, such as "Streets of Laredo" and "The Dying Cowboy").

A 2010 book, Cowboy's Lament; a Life on the Open Range, an impressive product of serendipity and scholarship, offers a compelling view of the life of F.H. Maynard. Through Maynard family contacts, Jim Hoy, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, uncovered Maynard's memoir of his colorful life. Read about the book here.

Following are the versions that appear in Jack Thorp's 1908 edition and the 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys:

The Cow Boys Lament

'Twas once in my saddle I used to be happy
   'Twas once in my saddle I used to be gay
But I first took to drinking, then to gambling
   A shot from a six-shooter took my life away.

My curse let it rest, rest on the fair one
   Who drove me from friends that I loved and from home
Who told me she loved me, just to deceive me
   My curse rest upon her, wherever she roam.

Oh she was fair, Oh she was lovely
   The belle of the Viliage the fairest of all
But her heart was as cold as the snow on the mountains
   She gave me up for the glitter of gold.

I arrived in Galveston in old Texas
   Drinking and gambling I went to give o'er
But, I met with a Greaser and my life he has finished
   Home and relations I ne'er shall see more.

Send for my father, Oh send for my mother
   Send for the surgeon to look at my wounds
But I fear it is useless I feel I am dying
   I'm a young cow-boy cut down in my bloom.

Farewell my friends, farewell my relations
   My earthly career has cost me sore
The cow-boy ceased talking, they knew he was dying
  His trials on earth, forever were o'er.

Chor. Beat your drums lightly, play your fifes merrily
   Sing your death march as you bear me along
Take me to the grave yard, lay the sod o'er me
   I'm a young cow-boy and know I've done wrong.

(from the 1908 edition of Songs of the Cowboys, typographical errors unchanged)


  Songs of the Cowboys
, compiled by N. Howard Thorp ("Jack" Thorp), Estancia, New Mexico, News Print Shop, 1908 

 

Mark L. Gardner sings and plays  "The Cow Boy's Lament" in the style it would have been heard in 1908, on a period instrument, on the CD that accompanies the 2005 Jack Thorp's Songs of the Cowboys (see our feature here). 

 


 

The Cowboy's Lament

    Authorship credited to Troy Hale, Battle Creek, Nebraska. I first heard it sung 
    in a bar-room at Wisner, Nebraska, about 1886.
[Thorp's note]

As I walked out in the streets of Laredo,
As I walked out in Laredo one day,
I spied a poor cowboy wrapped up in white linen,
Wrapped up in white linen and cold as the clay.

"Oh beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
Play the Dead March as you bear me along;
Take me to the graveyard, and lay the sod o'er me,
For I'm a young cowboy, and I know I've done wrong.

"I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy,"
—
These words he did say as I boldly stepped by.
—
"Come sit beside me and hear my sad story;
I was shot in the breast and I know I must die.

"Let sixteen gamblers come handle my coffin,
Let sixteen cowboys come sing me a song,
Take me to the graveyard and lay the sod over me,
For I'm a poor cowboy and I know I've done wrong.

"My friends and relation they live in the Nation,
They know not where their boy has gone.
He first came to Texas and hired to a ranchman,
Oh, I'm a young cowboy, and I know I've done wrong.

"Go write a letter to my gray-haired mother,
And carry the same to my sister so dear;
But not a word shall you mention
When a crowd gathers round you my story to hear.

There is another more dear than a sister,
She'll bitterly weep when she hears I am gone.
There is another who will win her affections,
For I'm a young cowboy, and they say I've done wrong.

"Go gather around you a crowd of young cowboys
And tell them the story of this my sad fate;
Tell one and the other before they go further
To stop their wild roving before 't is too late.

"Oh muffle your drums, then play your fifes merrily;
Play the Dead March as you bear me along.
And fire your guns right over my coffin;
There goes an unfortunate boy to his home.

"It was once in the saddle I used to go dashing,
It was once in the saddle I used to be gay;
First to the dram-house and then to the card-house:
Got shot in the breast , I am dying to-day.

"Get six jolly cowboys to carry my coffin;
Get six pretty maidens to bear up my pall;
Put bunches of roses all over my coffin,
Put roses to deaden the clods as they fall.

"Then swing your rope slowly and rattle your spurs lowly,
And give a wild whoop as you bear me along;
And in the grave throw me, and roll the sod over me,
For I'm a young cowboy, and I know I've done wrong.

"Go bring me a cup, a cup of cold water
To cool my parched lips," the young cowboy said.
Before I turned, the spirit had left him
And gone to its Giver
—the cowboy was dead.

We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly,
And bitterly wept as we bore him along;
For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young, and handsome;
We all loved our comrade, although he'd done wrong

(from the 1921 edition of Songs of the Cowboys)

   
Songs
of the Cowboys
, compiled by N. Howard Thorp ("Jack" Thorp)
 with an introduction by Alice Corbin Henderson. Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921

See our feature and selections from this book here.


YouTube offers a variety of vintage renditions:

Vernon Dalhart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc97GED-HB0

Tex Ritter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgl4vAl9ERc&feature=related

Ken Maynard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGZeqOL7LKs

Gene Autry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoXlcax1XBE&feature=related

Peter LaFarge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A1qlzJFHXs&feature=related

Johnny Cash:: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDHwAoBQWJA&feature=related


The melody and story are said to have come from the 18th century Irish ballad, "The Bard of Armagh" (also known as "The Unfortunate Rake," "Phelim Brady," and by other titles). Here is one short version of that ballad:

The Bard of Aramagh

"Oh, list to the lay of a poor Irish harper,
And scorn not the strains of his old withered hand,
But remember the fingers could once move sharper
To raise the merry strains of his dear native land;
It was long before the shamrock our dear isle's loved emblem.
Was crushed in its beauty 'neath the Saxon Lion's paw
I was called by the colleens of the village and valley
Bold Phelim Brady, the bard of Armagh."

See another version, here: http://ingeb.org/songs/ohlistto.html and listen to a version of the song here.
 

There are a number of recordings that present both "The Bard of Armagh" and "The Cowboy's Lament," including including Michael Martin Murphey's outstanding version on his Cowboy Classics Playing Favorites II CD; Cowboy Celtic's version on their Cowboy Ceilidh CD; and another by Ken and Lynne Mikell on their Shamrocks and Horseshoes recording.

 


photo of F. H. Maynard from Rhymes of the Range and Trail,
courtesy of Mark L. Gardner

There are many versions and variations on "The Cowboy's Lament."  Francis Henry Maynard (1853-1926) wrote an early version of the song, The Dying Cowboy:

As I rode down by Tom Sherman's bar-room,
Tom Sherman's bar-room so early one day,
There I espied a handsome young ranger
All wrapped in white linen, as cold as the clay.
"I see by your outfit that you are a ranger,"
The words that he said as I went riding by,
"Come sit down beside me, and hear my sad story,
I'm shot through the breast and I know I must die.
....

Maynard worked as a cowboy at the height of the trail-drive era, starting in 1870, when he was 17, and continuing for the next ten years. Jim Hoy comments on Maynard's use of the word "ranger" in his 2010 book about Maynard, Cowboy's Lament; a Life on the Open Range, "A herder working on the open range was sometimes called a range rider, which likely explains Maynard's use of the term "ranger" rather than "cowboy"..."

Hoy writes about how Maynard came to write the song, including an excerpt from a 1924 newspaper article that quotes Maynard:

During the winter of 1876 I was working for a Grimes outfit which had started north with a trail herd [from Texas]...We were wintering on the Salt Fork of the Arkansas river on the border of Kansas....

One of the favorite songs of the cowboys in those days was called "The Dying Girl's Lament," the story of a girl who had been betrayed by her lover...

I had often amused myself by trying to write verses, and one dull winter day in camp to while away the time I began writing a poem which could be sung to the tune of "The Dying Girl's Lament." I made it a dying ranger or a cowboy....

After I had finished the new words to the song I sang it to the boys in the outfit. They liked it and began singing it. It became popular with boys in other outfits ...and from that time on I heard it sung everywhere on the range and the trail.

Hoy comments, "Others besides Maynard also asserted authorship of "The Cowboy's Lament," and given the wide set of variants in the lyrics there is no reason to doubt that what folklorists call independent recreation might well have occurred."

"The Dying Cowboy" is included in F.H. Maynard's 1911 book, Rhymes of the Range and Trail.

The song's tune is said to have come from the 18th century Irish ballad, "The Bard of Armagh" (also known as "The Unfortunate Rake," "Phelim Brady," and by other titles). See one short version of that ballad here.

Read more in our feature here.

 

 


 

Reflections of an Irish Cowboy

It's a road leading nowhere for as far as you can see,
   winding its way through an early morning haze
It's a meadow looking greener in the spring and summer rains,
   the cattle and some sheep that share the graze
It's the clouds that hand so low you feel you can touch them,
   the smell of early morning on the breeze
It's the wind that never stops, it blows for days on end,
   wild and raw, but sometimes gentle as the rocking of the sea
The sun peeks through those broken clouds to dry the earth again,
   and burns away the mist it's clear and free
It's a sentimental journey I take often in my mind
   to a place that's ever home sweet home to me.

It's the faces of the children in the schoolyard as they play,
   I close my eyes and see it like it was yesterday
I see that little stream still flowing, never changing, cool and clear,
   I'm caught up in old memories of a place I still hold dear.
The smoke-blackened chimneys that have warmed hearth and home
   of the ageless little cottages built of gray native stone
And I can't forget the music, I hear 'pipes and fiddles play,
   "Londonderry Air" still haunts me as I go along my way.
I remember the taste of the whiskey that set my mind awhirl,
   'tis said it was invented so the Irish couldn't rule the world.
But with a heart as heavy as the famine on the land
   I left behind that little island to ne'er return again.

And knowing I was leaving everything I loved behind,
   I faced a storm-tossed ocean not knowing what I'd find.
Watched the green fields fade behind me and I boldly looked away
   to face the first part of the journey that brought me where I am today.
This new life on the prairie, this place they call "the West,"
   God knows, it's strange and different, but I think it's for the best.
The days pass by so swiftly, it's the nights that move so slow,
   I think back to bonnie Ireland and wish I hadn't had to go.
But I had to make some choices so I told them all goodbye
   I think of that sad parting and a tear dimes in my eye.
It's those memories I carry through the years that turn me old
  even out here on this prairie, it's always Ireland in my soul
.

© 2001, Doc Stovall
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

See our feature about Doc Stovall here.

1937-2012


 

Fair Blows the Wind

Fair blows the wind across these wide plains
Dear Lord how he misses sweet Rose
The love of his life from fair Dublin town
This bonnie young lass he loves so

He's lonesome tonight out on the long trail
Thinking of home and sweet Rose
The cattle are resting, the moon's sinking low
But his mind is on Ireland and Rose

     CHORUS
     He's singing,  "Irish Rose, my sweet Irish Rose
     Across the ocean of blue
     Fair blows the wind across these wide plains
     Blowing my love back to you"

Fair blows the wind across these wide plains
Thousands of miles from sweet Rose
She cried when he left,  "I'll be waiting for you." 
Then she kissed him and gave him a rose

     CHORUS
     He's singing,  "Irish Rose, my sweet Irish Rose
     Across the ocean of blue
     Fair blows the wind across these wide plains
     Blowing my love back to you"
 
BRIDGE
Fair blows the wind across these wide plains
He's thinking tonight of sweet Rose
The love of his life from fair Dublin town
This bonnie young lass he loves so...

     CHORUS
     He's singing,  "Irish Rose, my sweet Irish Rose
     Across the ocean of blue
     Fair blows the wind across these wide plains
     Blowing my love back to you"
 
     My wild Irish Rose..
.

© 1998, Gary Prescott, Line Camp Music, BMI, All rights reserved.  
From the Embers of Time CD by Jean Prescott
Named the "Best Western Song" in 2005  by the Academy of Western Artists
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


See our feature about Jean Prescott here.


 

Johnny Has Gone for a Cowboy

She sits alone in her rocking chair,
a Spanish comb in her golden hair,
the gift of a lover so fine and fair.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

He came to her on a summer's day.
She knew at once that he would not stay.
She rued the hour he would ride away.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She pledged her troth and she pledged her soul.
She pledged herself, entire and whole.
Her heart, it paid a shameful toll.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She gave to him a love untold.
He took from her the silver and gold
to buy a mount full strong and bold.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

He spoke her soft and he spoke her fair.
He gave her a comb for her golden hair.
He rode away on a nightblack mare.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She begged him stay but to no avail.
Her heart was lorn in her sad travail.
She lost her love to the cattle trail.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

'Neath the prairie sun and the prairie rain,
these long, long years her love is lain
in an unmarked grave on a grassy plain.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

She sits alone in her rocking chair,
a Spanish comb in her silver hair,
the gift of a lover so fine and fair.
Her Johnny has gone for a cowboy.

© 2000, Jeff Streeby
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Jeff tells us "This is based on a 15th century Irish widow's lament called "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier."  It has been set to music by Harry Wolf on his CD, This Ain't No Bull.

"Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" is known by other names, including "Buttermilk Hill" and "Shule Aroon." One version is posted, with audio, here: http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer/johnny.html.

 

See our feature about Jeff Streeby here,
and his work-in-progress, Sunday Creek, here.


 

I Will Miss Ireland Forever

We buried me mother when I was seventeen,
Said good bye to County Kilkinney
Them me brothers and me sailed for America
When I left Ireland behind me. 

Galen and Sean were fightin' Irish lads
They joined the horse soldier's army
I did the laundry for the officers and cads
When I left Ireland behind me. 

    Don't take me wrong, I left Ireland by choice.
    But I miss the bloom on the heather,
    And too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra in me mother's sad sweet voice,
    Oh, I will miss Ireland forever.

Galen died of fever when he was off at war,
Sean married a floozy called Meggy
He works on the railroad now, I don't see him no more
Since I left Ireland behind me.

    Don't take me wrong, I left Ireland by choice.
    But I miss the bloom on the heather,
    And too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra in me mother's sad sweet voice,
    Oh, I will miss Ireland forever. 

            I married a soldier, he seldom is around.
            I bore him a red-headed daughter.
            She stands by the river and wonders where it's bound
            While I wash his clothes in the water.
       
    Don't take me wrong, I left Ireland by choice.
    But I miss the bloom on the heather,
    And too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra in me mother's sad sweet voice,
    Oh, I will miss Ireland forever. 
    I will miss Ireland forever. 

© 1999, Juni Fisher/Red Geetar Music ASCAP 
from Tumbleweed Letters
These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

View a performance of the song here on YouTube. 

See our feature about Juni Fisher here.


 

An Irish Cowboy

There's a lilt of Irish laughter
'cross the prairie late tonight,
there's a melody of Ireland
'round the campfire's dimmin' light.

Though my  mind is seein' shamrocks,
my eyes see scrub grass short
and I know that I'm in Texas,
but it's Ireland in my heart.

Neath a veil all bright and shiny
as I gaze up to the stars
tis the self-same sky I'm thinkin'
and it doesn't seem that far.

I can hear the gray wolf howlin'
like a banshee in the dark,
and I know that I'm in Texas
but it's Ireland in my heart.

All the herd is softly lowin'
on the wind I hear it now,
and it brings to mind a low Mass
for the sound's the same somehow.

And the smoke is slowly risin'
while the embers glow and spark,
and I know that I'm in Texas,
but it's Ireland in my heart.

Lord I thank You for all blessin's
and the life I live today.
I dreamed I'd be a ccowboy,
and you answered when I prayed.

And I love the path I've followed
though it meant I had to part,
and I'm proud to be in Texas
with Ol' Ireland in my heart.

© 2007, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without written permission.

 


 

An Irish Cowboy's Song

Tis an Irish cowboy melody
'round the campfire's fadin' light
as a gentle air of fair colleen
calms a bedded herd tonight.

It's the end of day for beast and man
and a time for rest to come,
while a nighthawk rides around the herd
and a melody he hums.

Not a hand who lies upon that ground
is an Irishman asleep,
but ol' Erin's song's a welcomed one
for a nightly vigil's keep

For no fairer tune could take the place
of an Irish lullaby,
with a gentle grace and liltin' air
though a hundred angels try.

It's a gift that came from Ireland's sure
and it found a home out here,
as a part of cowboy life and lore
like the horse and longhorn steer

Not a rope, nor horse nor man out there
could have done the job alone,
nor controlled a restless herd each night
if it wasn't for a song.

Like an Irish cowboy melody
'round the campfire's fadin' light
as a gentle air of fair colleen
calms a bedded herd tonight.

© 2006, Rod Nichols
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without  written permission.

 

Read more of Rod Nichols' poetry here.

 

 

May those that love us, love us.
  And those that don't love us,
     May God turn their hearts.
       And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
          May He turn their ankles
             So we will know them by their limping.

 


 

 

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