The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56663   Message #887236
Posted By: Malcolm Douglas
10-Feb-03 - 08:46 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: The Bonny Moon
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The Bonny Moon
This is no.906 in the Roud Folk Song Index. It appears in the USA as Roll On Silver Moon (1919), and about 10 years later in Gloucestershire, as By Thy Sweet, Silver Light, Bonny Moon. In the 1840s (America again) it was Silvery Moon; on broadsides it seems most often to have been The Bonny Moon, or [By] Thy/The Sweet [Silver] Light Bonny Moon.

These headings seem to cover most or all of the Bodleian holdings, though many are also listed under other, slightly variant titles:

Bonny Moon

The sweet silver light, bonny moon

The sweet silver-light bonny moon (these last two by Haly of Cork).

Although Alfred Williams published a text (Folk Songs of the Upper Thames), most collectors seem to have let it go, as an early 19th century "pop" song of recent provenance; and not the sort of thing they were looking for. Sharp noted a set but didn't publish it. Gale Huntington (Songs the Whalemen Sang) quotes a set based on entries in the log of the Euphrasia (1849) and the Cortes (1847), commenting

"In the Euphrasia version of Silvery Moon there is this notation, "Roll on silver moon, etc." which may indicate that the last four lines of the first stanza were sung as a refrain or chorus... I doubt if many would call this a true folk song..."

At the Lester Levy Collection:

The Silver Moon, or, Roll on Silver Moon. Baltimore: G. Willig, n.d.

The Music of the Barker Family of the Old Bay State. Roll on Silver Moon New York: Firth Pond & Co., No.1 Franklin Square, 1848.

The Silver Moon. Ballad. Arranged for the Piano Forte by B.A. Burditt. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 115 Washington St., 1847.

The question of origin would be open, perhaps; England or the USA. At any rate, the song was widely issued on broadsides and as sheet music all around the same period (middle 1820s to middle 1840s). The Haly issues aren't dated, but there ought to be somebody round here who knows what period the business was active. They may have been the source of the couple of sets known to have been recorded in tradition in Ireland (Packie Byrne and Elizabeth O Croinin) but don't seem to have reached further.