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Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?

DigiTrad:
ROCKY BANKS OF THE BUFFALO


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Rocks of Bawn/ more verses please (26)
Lyr Req: Identify this song?-Rocks of Bawn (17)
Lyr/Tune Add: Rocks of Baun (MacColl) (4)
Rocks of Bawn - any background info? (4) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Rocks of Bawn


Ian HP 09 Sep 98 - 02:08 PM
09 Sep 98 - 05:43 PM
dulcimer 09 Sep 98 - 07:44 PM
alison 09 Sep 98 - 08:05 PM
Big Mick 09 Sep 98 - 11:32 PM
alison 09 Sep 98 - 11:48 PM
alison 10 Sep 98 - 12:03 AM
Antaine 10 Sep 98 - 03:36 PM
Bruce O. 10 Sep 98 - 04:16 PM
Martin Ryan 10 Sep 98 - 08:01 PM
Barry Finn 11 Sep 98 - 12:14 AM
Ian HP 11 Sep 98 - 03:14 PM
dulcimer 13 Sep 98 - 09:35 PM
Roddy 25 Aug 99 - 10:14 PM
PJ Curtis(The Burren) 26 Aug 99 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,padraig 03 Aug 03 - 03:06 AM
Brakn 03 Aug 03 - 07:25 AM
Amos 03 Aug 03 - 09:40 AM
dulcimer 03 Aug 03 - 07:34 PM
David Ingerson 06 Aug 03 - 06:46 PM
Amos 06 Aug 03 - 11:08 PM
Den 06 Aug 03 - 11:49 PM
Brían 07 Aug 03 - 01:17 PM
Brían 07 Aug 03 - 03:13 PM
David Ingerson 07 Aug 03 - 04:40 PM
Amos 07 Aug 03 - 07:07 PM
David Ingerson 07 Aug 03 - 07:47 PM
greg stephens 08 Aug 03 - 04:47 AM
Brían 08 Aug 03 - 06:17 AM
GUEST,Sean 26 Oct 03 - 01:44 PM
Chris Amos 27 Oct 03 - 02:01 AM
GUEST 27 Oct 03 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,guest mick 27 Oct 03 - 01:01 PM
Brían 27 Oct 03 - 03:04 PM
David Ingerson 27 Oct 03 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,dolcej@yahoo.com 15 Nov 03 - 11:17 PM
mg 16 Nov 03 - 12:22 AM
GUEST,Seaking 16 Nov 03 - 06:43 PM
GUEST,Kingfisher 17 Nov 03 - 04:38 AM
Brakn 17 Nov 03 - 05:51 AM
GUEST,oceide@eircom.net 11 Dec 03 - 07:03 AM
Canberra Chris 11 Dec 03 - 07:43 PM
GUEST 14 Dec 03 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,JTT 14 Dec 03 - 04:55 PM
GUEST 05 Jan 04 - 09:08 AM
Brían 05 Jan 04 - 05:57 PM
GUEST,JTT 06 Jan 04 - 03:30 AM
GEST 10 Mar 04 - 12:00 PM
GUEST 27 Jun 04 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Learaí na Láibe 27 Jun 04 - 11:23 AM
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Subject: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Ian HP
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 02:08 PM

I have long been fascinated by the song 'Rocks of Bawn', and have wondered whether those rocks are a symbol of something. I think they must be, and I have my own ideas, but can someone add info & enlightenment?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From:
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 05:43 PM

I think your "Bawn" is actually Bourne...and I have been told that Bourne is a rocky (no surprise) stretch of land along the Irish coast. I would certainly agree that while the rocks may be literal there is a metaphorical substance to them as well.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: dulcimer
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 07:44 PM

Anyone know a midi or abc source for the tune?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: alison
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 08:05 PM

Hi,

Bawn actually means "white" so it means the white rocks. I'll put in the tune later.

Slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Big Mick
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 11:32 PM

Alison,

It's great having someone around who speaks an gaelige.

Thanks,

Mick


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: alison
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 11:48 PM

Hi,

Actually Mick, I have a confession to make. I don't speak gaelic, I know a few words, but I have a dictionary. I wasn't given the option of learning it in school. But one of the local Irish clubs is starting lessons. So at long last I'm going to learn, in Australia!!

I have never heard of "Bourne" and it doesn't exist on my maps, maybe you're thinking of the "Burren" which isa large area of limestone (white rock)which looks like the surface of the moon. It is on the West Coast in County Clare.

Slainte

Alison


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Subject: Tune/Chords Add: THE ROCKS OF BAWN
From: alison
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 12:03 AM

Hi,

Here's the tune as done by Liam Clancy. There is another tune in Soodlum's Irish Ballads, but I prefer this one.

MIDI file: ROCKS.MID

Timebase: 480

Name: THE ROCKS OF BAWN
TimeSig: 3/4 24 8
Key: E
Tempo: 080 (750000 microsec/crotchet)
Start
0960 1 64 070 0465 1 68 052 0015 0 64 070 0958 0 68 052 0002 1 64 055 0471 1 66 045 0009 0 64 055 0960 1 64 053 0011 0 66 045 0460 1 61 044 0009 0 64 053 0469 0 61 044 0008 1 64 052 1460 0 64 052 0466 1 61 041 0477 0 61 041 0003 1 59 029 0963 1 64 053 0023 0 59 029 0451 0 64 053 0000 1 64 067 0958 0 64 067 0002 1 64 049 0480 0 64 049 0000 1 64 069 1918 0 64 069 0476 1 68 040 0231 1 71 042 0041 0 68 040 0186 1 73 058 0017 0 71 042 0971 1 73 058 0010 0 73 058 0455 1 71 053 0015 0 73 058 0960 1 73 057 0023 0 71 053 0455 0 73 057 0002 1 71 058 0237 1 68 048 0004 0 71 058 0217 1 64 058 0017 0 68 048 1430 0 64 058 0498 1 66 065 0222 1 68 042 0016 0 66 065 0199 1 69 065 0023 0 68 042 0977 1 69 055 0029 0 69 065 0209 0 69 055 0002 1 71 055 0238 0 71 055 0002 1 68 051 0238 0 68 051 0002 1 66 043 0238 0 66 043 0002 1 64 036 0478 0 64 036 0002 1 64 057 0478 0 64 057 0002 1 61 050 1438 0 61 050 0962 1 71 068 0478 0 71 068 0002 1 73 045 0958 0 73 045 0002 1 73 052 0478 0 73 052 0002 1 71 054 0958 0 71 054 0002 1 73 054 0473 1 71 057 0005 0 73 054 0230 0 71 057 0009 1 68 038 0238 0 68 038 0008 1 64 046 0957 0 64 046 0480 1 66 058 0478 0 66 058 0002 1 68 050 0478 0 68 050 0002 1 69 056 0958 0 69 056 0002 1 71 042 0478 0 71 042 0002 1 68 054 0238 0 68 054 0002 1 66 049 0238 0 66 049 0002 1 64 061 0478 0 64 061 0002 1 64 055 0453 1 61 047 0022 0 64 055 0725 1 64 060 0005 0 61 047 0233 0 64 060 0002 1 61 049 0452 1 59 038 0028 0 61 049 0960 1 71 047 0041 0 59 038 0153 1 71 053 0053 0 71 047 0233 0 71 053 0025 1 71 065 0455 0 71 065 0003 1 68 046 0478 0 68 046 0002 1 64 065 0235 0 64 065 0005 1 64 054 0203 1 66 047 0034 0 64 054 0480 1 64 053 0016 0 66 047 0462 0 64 053 0002 1 64 050 0458 1 61 054 0022 0 64 050 0480 1 64 058 0004 0 61 054 1434 0 64 058 0467 1 61 051 0495 0 61 051 0000 1 59 049 0958 0 59 049 0002 1 64 057 0478 0 64 057 0002 1 64 060 0958 0 64 060 0002 1 64 057 0475 0 64 057 0009 1 64 058 1916 0 64 058
End

This program is worth the effort of learning it.

To download the March 10 MIDItext 98 software and get instructions on how to use it click here

ABC format:

X:1
T: THE ROCKS OF BAWN
M:3/4
Q:1/4=80
K:E
E6|G4E2|F4E2|C2E4|-E4C2|B,4E2|E4E2|E6|-E4GB|
c4c2|B4c2|BGE4|-E4FG3/4A/4|-A4AB|GFE2E2|C6|
-C4B2|c4c2|B4c2|BGE4|-E2F2G2|A4B2|GFE2E2|
C3EC2|B,4B3/4B5/4|B2G2EE3/4F/4|-F2E2E2|C2E4|
-E4C2|B,4E2|E4E2|E6|-E6||

Come (E)all you loyal (A)heroes where(E)ever (A)that you (E)be.
and don't (A)hire with (E)any master till you (A)know what your (E)work will (C#m)be
For (A)you must (E)rise up early from the (A)clear day (E)light of (A)dawn(B)
And I (E)know that you'll never be (A)able to (E)plough the (A)Rocks of (E)Bawn.

I know the words are slightly different from the ones in the database. The guitar chords are in front of the words which they fall on.

Slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Antaine
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 03:36 PM

Bán does mean the colour white but it has other meanings also.
In the context of the song it doesn't mean white.

Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Dinneen) gives the following among other meanings :
bán : a plain, a lea-ground, dry pasture land, river-side pasture, a yard,
ag siúl na mbánta = walking the fields, out and about,

waste , blank space, untilled, empty, blank

imithe bán = gone mad, wild,

In the context of the song I interpret bán to mean waste land that is hard and unprofitable to work.

The following notes were written by A.L. LLoyd on the record by Seosamh Ó hÉanaí called Joe Heaney Irish Traditional Songs in Gaelic and English, Topic (1963) 12T 91 :
In 1652, Oliver Cromwell "subdued" Ireland, a process that often recurred in history before and since. Many Catholic landholders were dispossessed and forced to take their families and belongings beyond the Shannon, to the hard country of Connaught. While English and Scottish Protestant newcomers settled on the lusher vacated farms, the dispossessed Irish hacked out a thin living among the "rocks, bogs, salt water and seaweed" of the barren west coast. In the ensuing centuries, to many a farm-hand even the British Army offerred better prospects than the stony plough-defying soil of Mayo, Galway and Clare. The lament of the Connaught ploughman has become one of the most popular of all Irish folk songs, seemingly within the last few years. The older folk music collections of Petrie and P. W. Joyce do not include The Rocks of Bawn, and even O Lochlainn's Irish Street Ballads (1939), though it presents the words, does not attach to them the hexatonic tune that has now become so familiar.

(The "quotation marks" are his.)

This record should be in your collection. It is obligatory listening. But don't ask me where you can get it now. It is a collector's item.

Ní féidir an dubh a chur ina bhán oraibh anois!
Nobody can fooll ye now!(trying to tell you black is white)

Go n-éirí libh,
Antaine


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 04:16 PM

In 'Sam Henry's Songs of the People' Bawn or Bawnboy is located in Co. Cavan.

The above alternative meaning for ba/n (not white) was also suggested on the IRTRAD-L discussion a few months ago. The song was said to be of the 1890's, and I forgot the cited author's name.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Martin Ryan
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 08:01 PM

As Antaine implies, "Bawn" occurs as an element of many Irish placenames. Trying to pin the song down to any particular one may well be the reverse of counting angels on the head of a pin!

That said, it shouldn't be too had to date the song. I'll look.

Regards


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 11 Sep 98 - 12:14 AM

Was it Cromwell who stated he hated that part of the country (the Burren) because "There wasn't a tree to hang one from, a stream to drown one in or enough earth to bury one in" (I think it goes something like that)? He must've been a great lover of nature & all things of beauty, to have traveled so far & to think & see only on the wonderous sights that a keen bloody eye can behold, it should've caused his heart to burst with pride & caused him to be left on that rocky surface to cook so that the great birds could have a great feast & discuss how great the great man tasted. Barry


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Ian HP
Date: 11 Sep 98 - 03:14 PM

Thanks for contributions so far, folks. It seems to me that "to plough the rocks of Bawn" is to do the impossible. The impossibility of ploughing rocks seems to be a metaphor for getting justice, getting things to come right. But does it go deeper, is there more to it than that? Am I on the right track?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: dulcimer
Date: 13 Sep 98 - 09:35 PM

Just a point of clarification. According to the guide on a tour of the Burren, it was one of Cromwell's officers who was sent to subdue the Irish living there who steadfastly refused to submit to his attempts to annihilate those who did not believe as he did. The officer also had to report he wasn't totally successful, which may be a fitting commentary on much of Irish history since Cromwell.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Roddy
Date: 25 Aug 99 - 10:14 PM

Puzzle:- Last verse expresses "I wish the Queen of England would write to me in time, And place me in some regiment all in my youth and prime; I would fight for Ireland's glory from the clear day light 'til the dawn; And I never would return again for to plough the Rocks of Bawn." Queen Victoria ? Massive recruitment into the British Army of Irishmen in the nineteenth century. Think about it. Roddy


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: PJ Curtis(The Burren)
Date: 26 Aug 99 - 01:57 PM

Interesting debate this.'Bawn' in the context of this song means 'unplowed field' which the plowman had to face - a backbreaking job for the hired help. This song is really a work song; one of the few in the canon of Irish traditional song. Joe Heaneys' version is the classic rendition; though Paul Brady did a great version too. PJ Curtis(resident of the above mentioned Burren)


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,padraig
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 03:06 AM

think i will agree with pj this is a song of labour hard and back
breaking ,for many irish familys worked hard for there food
when the english tyrants occuppied our land.hence their would have many
a place in eire that could have been a rocky crag.
i sing the song and would really love to know more of its history
padraig


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brakn
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 07:25 AM

Bawn townland is in Cavan. As far as I'm aware this has always been regarded as a County Cavan song. I learnt it from Dermot O'Brien's version.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Amos
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 09:40 AM

The phrase as used in the song "means" just endless, thankless, hard work. I don't see why it need be much deeper than that.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

A


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: dulcimer
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 07:34 PM

Amos, I think you are correct. The meaning of having to hire to work at an endless, thankless task for some landlord is social commentary enough on the conditions in Ireland throughout the 1800's.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 06:46 PM

But Amos, doesn't meaning reside only in consciousness? There are some rocks in the world that have a lot of meaning for me--I could be more specific about their exact meaning but don't want to waste my time or yours--but to other people these same rocks mean nothing. There is no meaning "in" the rocks, only in the minds of the people. The same is true with a poem or song lyrics (althoug less obviously because we generally agree on the meaning of the words). So if Ian HP wants to invest more meaning in the song than you do, it's basically just a difference of opinion.

Having said that, however, I must admit that some opinions about the meaning of lyrics are more defensible or supportable than others, but they are nonetheless personal and subjective in the end. It's the gray area between florid schizophrenic investments of meaning and denial of any meaning that makes the debate about the "meaning" of a piece of literature or music interesting and profitable (culturally speaking).

So maybe "plowing the rocks of bawn" means gaining independence from England. Then again, maybe not. And maybe it's the struggle to find meaning in an essentially meaningless universe. But maybe that doesn't float your boat (or drag your plow) either. ;-)

Just trying to clarify, if only for myself, some thoughts about an important concept.

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Amos
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 11:08 PM

David:

Well, mate, you may design whatever meaning you wish for the phrases. But in the context of the verses I know to that song, you would have to be awfully subtile to claim that there was such a meaning intenitonally included in the symbols as they are commonly understood. The big deal with words is that they are NOT just subjective -- they are based on subscritpion to agreements. That's why they're so handy for crossing the gap between universes, eh? The meaning is not in the rocks of Bawn, but in the phrases; the maps are not the territory.

Anyway, I personally believe the words of the song may be taken at face value. They are consistent with it and I just see no reason to assume things are any more complex than that.

A


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Den
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 11:49 PM

Camel through the eye of a needle, putting sugar in your tea with a collander, draining the sea with a sponge. Sometimes its just that simple.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 01:17 PM

I have been following this thread with interest. Although I would hate to get to analytical about a song like this(although this has never stopped me before), I think this songs' title may be making a reference to this song: http://www.mudcat.org/Detail.CFM?messages__Message_ID=493562 ploughboy.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 03:13 PM

Oops: CARRAIGE BAINE

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 04:40 PM

Thanks, Brian, for another take on this song of varying richness to various people. Like my suggestions in the post above about additional "meaning" attributable to this song, I think your suggestion, although interesting, cannot be strongly defended. After all there are many white rocks in Ireland. The denotations of the phrases "rocks of bawn" and "carraige baine" are the same, but in these cases, the connotations are quite different.

Amos, I don't know why I don't want to let this go--I guess there is some part of me that loves to split hairs with reasonable and thoughtful people. Yes, words--by means of our general agreement on their meaning--are a somewhat effective bridge across the chasms between us. (Although I must say that touch and body language are better!) But I think they are more slippery than we would like to believe. The word "bawn" (or ban, baine, or bán) is a handy example. I always took it to mean white (or fair-haired) but, as Antaine showed, it has a number of other meanings. Which meaning the original author was thinking of we can only guess at, but it leaves the meaning of the song open to various interpretations.

I might not be in the same search for "meanings" that Ian HP is, but I think there is something about this song that begs for deeper thought. Paddy Tunny said it was "one of the mighty Irish songs." Joe Heany thought it was a prime example of the tradition and sang it frequently. How does a song that meanders, is vague and sometimes confusing, get to be a classic? I think it somehow resonates with a deep part of the Irish psyche (and I know I might be blundering into a quaking bog here, not being Irish myself). It somehow touches the soul of the Irish people (or some of them).

How does it do that? What is it about this song that can make it so powerful?

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 07:07 PM

It has a simple powerful tune. And a simple powerful sense of phrase. These two things are its aesthetic backbone in my opinion.

One does not, of course, plow rocks, and therefore the phrase "plow the rocks" of Bawn impinges intensely because it is both jarring and beautiful. One does not think of country lads as heros, generally, nor do they usually think of themselves as such, so again the line "Come all ye loyal heros..." is compelling because it flips expectation. It is unusual and highly politicaly incorrect to inform another person that you are placing your curse on them, especially in a sweet-tuned verse, which is yet another reversal of expectation executed beautifully.    These are some of the things that make it mighty when it is well rendered. In addition there is the plaintive undercurrent of pathos that the image of plowing rocks, and long thankless labor for little return, implies. This contrasts with the heights invoked by dreaming of Queens and calling people heros. The contrast generates an emotional frisson.

But to be quite honest wi' you I would rather pass the beauty on by singing and playing the song than analyze it further, as there is little beauty in parsing beauty.


A


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 07:47 PM

Ah, but you've done a beautiful job parsing its beauty, Amos. Well done! And thank you.

Interestingly, although I've been attracted to the song for years, it was only two nights ago someone asked me to sing it at a no-books bi-weekly session. I've twelve days to learn it. The occasion is the second anniversary of the death of one of our singing group, Liam Callen, a close friend of mine. Liam learned it from Joe Heaney and sang it frequently. Now it falls to me. I hope I can do it justice.

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Aug 03 - 04:47 AM

Well, as has been observed above in many ways, we all know what "plough the rocks of Bawn" means in the context of the song, though the literal meaning may elude us. It reminds me of a blues anecdote. An earnest young admirer/researcher asked Mississippi John Hurt exactly what "Salty Dog" meant. MJH relied "To tell you the truth, I've never thought about it".
    Maybe Joe Heaney would have said the same, if asked what the Rocks of Bawn meant.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 08 Aug 03 - 06:17 AM

I have always liked this song for its simple 4 line abba come-all ye tune. I like how it begins with an admonishment and ends with a plea. I happen to really like the internal vowel=rhyming that occurs throughout, often in unpredictable places:

Youre sitting by the fireside from the clear daylight 'til dawn
I'm afraid you'll ne'er be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn.

I happen to like how it shares a melody(COME ALL YOU TRAMPS AND HAWKERS) without being too obvious. I really like the attributes of our hero, armed with an old clay pipe and arrayed in worn out shoes and trousers. Ireally like how something about this simple declaration of a 19th century laborer remains topical and universally sympathetic even though, or maybe because the exact nature of his task apears to be a mystery.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Sean
Date: 26 Oct 03 - 01:44 PM

Fascinated with the contributions, half afraid to add my little contribution. A "Bawn" in Wexford SE Ireland was as I understand a field of grassland, well drained generally free fron rocks a place where hurling could be played. One of the songs themes is the nostolgic longing for a return to happiness of home & framing while another theme is the knowledge that a return is not possible due to the living conditions that existed at the time.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Chris Amos
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 02:01 AM

Many years ago I found an album of Joe Heaney in my local library and took it out without knowing what to expect. This song really took me by surprise, the sheer beauty of the song and his amazing delivery, it was one of the major influences which got me interested in folk music

If anyone hasn't heard Joe's, spine tingling version it can be found in the Voice of the People series published by Topic a few years ago

Chris


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 12:17 PM


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,guest mick
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 01:01 PM

the reference to the queen of England in the last verse and the address to loyal heroes suggests this a loyalist song.Interesting given the low status of the protaganist.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 03:04 PM

I don't think the reference to the Queen of England is so much a testimony to his loyalty to the Crown as a testimony to his opportunities for economic advancememt. He might as well be ploughing the Rocks of Bawn.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 05:06 PM

I always took "loyal heroes" to be similar in meaning to, say, "loyal comrades"--steadfast, true. No political connotations to my mind.

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,dolcej@yahoo.com
Date: 15 Nov 03 - 11:17 PM

The alternate last verse going around 'I wish some Sergeant-Major would send for me in time'
makes loads more sense then the line about the 'Queen of England.'

Also for clarity sake, the repetitive chorus line should read: 'from the clear daylight of dawn' i.e. getting up early (as 'from the clear daylight to dawn' makes no sense.

There are also two verses going around about Sweeny. Put them both in the same song and they contradict each other:

O' hear me gallant Sweeny for your fate I do bemoan
O' the rain is pelting on your face amongst the rocks and stones
Your work is hard and troublesome, though your step is like the fawn
but I know that you won't be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn

My curse upon you Sweeney, for you have me nearly robbed
You're sitting by your fireside with your dudgeen in your gob
You're sitting by your fireside from the clear daylight till dawn
And I know you will never be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn

My solution: if you want to use both verses, you have to change the name in the second verse. As Sweeny is an Irish name, I suggest changing the 2nd name to something English (Cromwell? Who was the King/Queen during this time? If anyone knows, email me) ) Anyway, you get my drift: Sweeny, in one verse, is working the land like the singer of the song, and in the other is the one responsible for profiting from the work of others. Also keeping them both Irish names is confusing, unless you want to suggest that fellow Irishmen were responsible for this injustice.
J.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: mg
Date: 16 Nov 03 - 12:22 AM

my opinion only ...I have never heard of the first Sweeney verse, but I sure as hell wouldn't change the name to Cromwell....if the name is Sweeny it is Sweeny....if you only learned one or the other verse I would certainly recommend whichever one you learned...I do want to be a folk police and just insist that you don't do this but I know that I can't..I can only plead with you..

mg


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Seaking
Date: 16 Nov 03 - 06:43 PM

I think it was Pat Clancy who used to sing this..


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Kingfisher
Date: 17 Nov 03 - 04:38 AM

Might the verse beginning My curse upon you Sweeney not be in the mouth of another person e.g. Sweeney's employer?

Does "the clear daylight to/'til the dawn" not make sense as "through the night", from the time daylight fades until it appears again?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brakn
Date: 17 Nov 03 - 05:51 AM

Perhaps

"the clear daylight to/'til the dawn" could possibly be a way of saying all of the time or 24 hours a day.

re "My curse attend you Sweeney" - I think that Sweeney would've been a farm owner or overseer.

re Sergeant-Major/Queen of England - It matters not. It's written or sang in the hope that someone will recruit this guy to the army and free him of his burden - plowing theb rest of his life.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,oceide@eircom.net
Date: 11 Dec 03 - 07:03 AM

great craic reading all the interpretations.
what about humour?
the bawn is the lawn/lea/ground right for the plough
play then on the easy/impossible.
the loyal hero=sweeney the labourer


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Canberra Chris
Date: 11 Dec 03 - 07:43 PM

Thanks for the thread on a song I love. The last two years I have sung a solo with piano accompaniment in a concert mainly of choirs. Out of missionary zeal I do a folk song in uncompromising sean nos style, having a sensitive pianist who can improvise around it. It has to be a 'big' song to carry it. The first was Carrickfergus, this year's was Rocks of Bawn. (Next year - Spencer the Rover).

I had taken the Clancy Brothers' 'bawn = white' at face value, thanks for the other ideas. I can add that as a digger archaeologist, as well acquainted with soils as a cyclist with inclines, digging 'clay with flints' or flinty chalk with a trowel gives a wrist-jarring insight into ploughing 'the rocks of bawn'.

The feel of the meaning is unmistakeable. My audience were mainly public servants, and I told them that workers in bureaucracies these days well know such feelings! And 'plough the rocks of bawn' is much more poetic than 'push shit uphill'.

From the internal contradictions and changes of topic in the song, like the apparent switch of identity of Sweeney from the labourer to the hiring farmer, I take this as likely to be a hybrid song, where bits of two or three songs have collided and stuck together. Sometimes by happy accident this results in strongly evocative lyrics, as it mimics the way our minds wander, and the 'not quite fitting' of life itself.

Art has occasionally got close to this, as in the mad aria from Lucia di Lammermoor, or Ophelia's mad speech in Hamlet. But the supreme example of accidental genius is Carrickfergus. The Mudcat thread on the origin of this song, with its detective work and stunning revelations, is a very great document. Print it off (in its two parts) and read it to the end in a long, slow bath.

Chris


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 03 - 02:01 PM

no clue, who listens to this shit


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 14 Dec 03 - 04:55 PM

Ahem, have any of the people interpreting this song ever had a job of work? At the start of the song he's coaxing and flattering the new boss - "O rise up lovely Sweeney..." and giving him helpful advice on the care of his horses - always an important matter to the Irish landed classes!

In the later verse, having been ploughing the rocky fields of Bawn (and yes, a bán is a nice sloping piece of pasturage - he's had enough of the hiring boss, and his real feelings come out; at this stage he's muttering about the damn boss sitting by his fireside with his dúidín (pipe) in his gob (mouth).

Then he's dramatically wondering if he'd be better off if the Queen of England were to offer him a fancy job soldiering in India or somewhere, in a classy uniform. That doesn't make him a loyalist, it makes him a young fellow who fancies his chances with travel and girls.

Lighten up, guys!


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jan 04 - 09:08 AM

I may be going way to far but I thought that Sweeney was Mad Sweeney (Buile Suibhne) who was cursed by the monk, Ronan.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 05 Jan 04 - 05:57 PM

I've wondered that too, but probably not.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 03:30 AM

Yes you're going too far. Sweeney's a common name in Ireland. Suibhne Ghealt is a *little* older than this song! Though there is a good modern poem, by Seamus Heaney maybe? about the Madness of Sweeney.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GEST
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 12:00 PM

Just in passing, why are the words 'Rock' and 'Bawn' capitalized in the Digitrad? I always took that to mean the Rocks of Bawn was/is a place.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 11:21 AM

'Bawn' is capitalised because everybody just assumes it's a placename. The name appears in many parts of Ireland and is even more common as part of placenames.I think a lot of the speculation here is off the mark unless someone can come up with evidence that 'bawn' has been used in Hiberno-English as an abstract term for rocky land.

The common meaning of 'Bán' is a grass field, not rocky terrain. As an adjective it can mean 'untilled' or 'wild', not 'rocky'.

'Bawn' also means the enclosed land surrounding a castle. I think it is also means a 'yard' in the north of Ireland.

Also the syntax doesn't look right, if 'bawn' is a specific noun, the definite article 'the' would need to be included. Even poetic license would not allow that omission.

I have a reasonably good command of Irish but I'm not a scholar so I am open to correction. However I am not convinced by the arguments put forward above.

There also seems to be a strong wish to find political meanings in a song that is quite straightforward and apolitical.

This is a song about a hired labourer being exploited by a lazy farmer, there is no reference to a landlord.

Large numbers of Irishmen, both Protestant and Catholic enlisted in the British army in the nineteenth century. It would just have been seen a career opportunity by many and there are numerous references to enlistment in this context in Irish folk songs.

I am referring here to the most commonly sung lyrics. There is also a much different version to be found on the net.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Learaí na Láibe
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 11:23 AM

Oops I forgot to put a name to the last message.

Learaí na Láibe 'twas.


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