ADS-L Digest - 18 Jun 2008 to 19 Jun 2008 (#2008-172)

Josh Macfelder josh.a.macfelder at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 20 05:15:25 UTC 2008

On Thu, 19 Jun 2008 17:32:18 -0700 "JAMES A. LANDAU Netscape. Just the Net
You Need." <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM> wrote:

"The Peter, Paul, and Mary version of the song (entitled "Gone the Rainbow")
included these words:

I sold my flax, I sold my wheel
To buy my love a sword of steel
So it in battle he might wield
Johnny's gone for a soldier

These words, if accurate (PP&M frequently made changes to the songs they
sung and made no claim to historical accuracy), would place the song in the
days of spinning wheels and soldiers who used swords. That would be earlier
than the Wars of the French Revolution, which were mostly fought with
gunpowder. Swords went out of fashion on land battlefields in the late 17th
Century with the invention of the bayonet (which in its turn was made
obsolete by the pop-top on beer cans.)"


Thanks for pointing that out, I really overlooked the reference to the
sword. As a matter of fact, the "Siul a Riun" song reads almost the same:

"I'll sell my rock, I'll sell my reel,
I'll sell my only spinning wheel
To buy my love a sword of steel"

So you might be right in placing the song in the 17th c. As for the spinning
wheels, though, I really don't know. Right now I'm in Ukraine, where in the
countryside quite a few babushkas (elderly ladies) still use those, so I
guess they're not out of use yet. Of couse, this doesn't have to be true for
Ireland :P

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list