Frank Harte singing in a casual setting.According to the Digital Tradition The song appears on 19th century broadsides; first in England and later in Ireland (though without Sam Henry’s Nationalist spin). It appeared in print in America as early as 1835 (The Forget Me Not Songster). It has been found in tradition in England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA and Canada.
Oh woeful was the day when I was pressed to sail afar
And leave behind the girl I loved in the town of Ballinagard.
The shady groves were my delight till I was forced to sail.
You all may guess at my distress lying in the Nightingale.
Oh, grief and woe that I must go and fight for England’s King.
I do not know his friends or foe and war’s a cruel thing.
The Nightingale lies near at hand, my time alas is brief.
From pearling streams and mountain rills I part with bitter grief.
No more I’ll walk the golden hills with Nancy by my side
Or stroll along the sun-bright rills or view my land with pride.
We sail away at dawn of day. Our sails are ready set.
When Old Ireland’s shore I see no more, I will sigh with deep regret.
Now all is changed and I must range across the ocean wide.
Our ship she may in Biscay Bay be sunk beneath the tide.
If I should fall by a cannonball or sink beneath the sea,
Good people all, a tear let fall and mourn for mine and me.
But if God should spare my graying hair and bring me back again,
I will love far more my Antrim shore, it’s dark blue hills and glens.
Around my fire but one desire God grant till life shall fail
To keep me far from cruel war and from the Nightingale.