yonder - English or Irish?

Barbara Need bhneed at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 20 13:47:41 UTC 2008

I first knew a version of this song as "Johnny has gone for a
soldier" sung by Burl Ives (without _yonder_ in the song). The notes
accompanying the text says it was sung during the American
Revolution. A web search also identifies it as a Revolutionary War
song, "probably an American adaptation of the Irish tune Shule Aroon
from the 17th Century".


On 20 Jun 2008, at 8:05, Joel S. Berson wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: yonder - English or Irish?
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> James Harbeck's inclusion of spinning wheels in his placement of the
> days is incorrect.  Spinning wheels were certainly used later than
> the 17th century.  And they were an important element in British land
> war of the other continent, namely the Revolutionary war: the
> colonials, in their efforts to boycott imports from Britain,
> endeavored to spin more.
> Which leads me to wonder (rhymes with yonder):  Josh Macfelder seems
> to have assumed the song relates to a war on the continent.  Why not
> overseas?  Or why not a civil war in England?
> However, I have the same view as James about the sword:  an ordinary
> soldier in the 18th century would likely not be armed with one
> (unless he were Persian, Indian, perhaps Turkish, etc.).
> Joel
> At 6/20/2008 01:15 AM, Josh Macfelder wrote:
>> 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 - http://www.americandialect.org
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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