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Gone the rainbow PP&M translation

21 Sep 04 - 01:35 AM (#1276998)
Subject: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Rasener

I have for so many years sung Gone the rainbow to my daughters at bedtime (not anymore as they are a bit too old now).

The chorus has always intigued me as I havent got the faintest what it means. My kids have also asked what it means, but I haven't been able to explain it.

Is there anybody out there that can translate the verse for me?

Many thanks

Gone The Rainbow
Adapted & Arranged:Stookey/Travers/Yarrow/Okun

Shule, shule, shule-a-roo,
Shule-a-rak-shak, shule-a-ba-ba-coo.
When I saw my Sally Babby Beal,
come bibble in the boo shy Lorey.

21 Sep 04 - 02:16 AM (#1277010)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Joe Offer

Hi, Villan - all PP&M lyrics are available at I posted the PP&M lyrics for this song here (click) [and I see you posted them here (click) ].

As for meaning, I think they mean the same as many similar lyrics in Irish songs - nothing. I think the words most frequently sound more like "shule aroon." I guess you could almost call them "mouth music," although actual mouth music is a little more sophisticated. Certainly, it conveys a strong tone of sadness, but I don't believe the words have any particular meaning. Note all the other threads on this song - in the crosslinks at the top of this page.

Pay special attention to the notes from Belden in the Digital Tradition entry here. Apparently, Belden thinks they have meaning, and who am I to disagree with Belden? Belden says "Shule" (siubhal) means walk or come. He won't commit himself to a further interpretation of the meaning, but he does give a possible Gaelic source and translation (see DT).
-Joe Offer-

21 Sep 04 - 02:57 AM (#1277020)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Rasener

Thanks Joe
So its Irish then.

Do you know what, I always thought it was Jewish.

21 Sep 04 - 03:04 AM (#1277027)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Rasener

saw this which seesm to gte nearer to the meaning.

Shool, shool, shool la rue Shool la rack shack Shool la ba ba coo When I saw my Sally bally Bill Come bibble in a brook, come Laurie (lorry)!

03 Feb 11 - 09:38 PM (#3088284)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation

Lol my mum thought it was Hebrew as well, I on the other hand thought it was just baby talk sounding. Doesn't sound much like Hebrew to me, or much like anything really. I do love it though :)

04 Feb 11 - 11:53 AM (#3088637)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: GUEST,leeneia

I always thought somebody stuck those syllables in because the song wasn't long enough to make it on a radio station. I always found them rather embarrassing. I mean - bibba bibba boo? Please!

When I play this song on my dulcimer, I replace them with improvisation on the instrument.

05 Feb 11 - 08:45 AM (#3089138)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Noreen

Please, PLEASE read one of the threads about Siul e ruin, eg origins thread and listen to this most beautiful of songs,

eg: Clannad : Siuil a Ruin

You will see and hear that the PPM song is based on an Irish song and the original Irish language refrain has been changed by those who didn't understand it into something they could sing... but the original words are FAR from being nonsense.

(I feel better now!)

22 Aug 13 - 08:56 PM (#3551964)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation

who can explain this song?

23 Aug 13 - 02:20 AM (#3552001)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: GUEST,leeneia

I believe the Irish song 'Siul a ruin' (that may not be spelled right) is about a disappointed lover, walking and thinking.

The American song is about a mother singing to her baby. The father (Johnny) has gone to war, and the mother has sold her spinning wheel and flax to provide him with a sword.

See one version here:

23 Aug 13 - 05:30 AM (#3552035)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: GUEST,Grishka

"Shuyle a ru" ("שול אַ רו") is clearly Yiddish (not Hebrew), obviously what the OP was associating. The Irish connection looks much more likely though.

23 Sep 13 - 09:02 AM (#3560597)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation

I am a Chinese lecturer now,I had ever heard this song in 1998 when I was a freshman in chengdu normal college.I remembered i rethink about it i find i do not understand it's meanning as do you know it?if you know tell me pls.

from yangjian

Department of Chinese of Huizhou University
Huizhou City, Guangdong 516007, South China
Skype: mygoodbody

30 Sep 13 - 02:39 AM (#3562683)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: GUEST,Mek

This thread is amazingly lived so long and still active.
Well I guess somebody put in the effort and explain this song in wikipidea now.

I think I'll point this out for future wanderer who might come across here.

30 Sep 13 - 11:17 AM (#3562849)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: GUEST,leeneia

Hello, Guest from China

There's more than one set of words sung to this tune, and that makes things complicated. Some are about a failed love affair and some are about soldiers. The tune is often called by its Irish name, Shule Aroon or Suil a Ruin (same thing spelled differently)

This thread that we are on is called 'Gone the Rainbow,' so I will explain that particular version.
A mother is sitting on a hill called Buttermilk Hill, and she is singing to her baby. The baby's father has left them to become a soldier. The mother sold her rock, her reel and her spinning wheel (these are things she needs to make thread from fibers) to make money to buy a sword for the baby's father.

In the last verse the mother sings 'gone the rainbow, gone the dove.'
These are symbols that mean that the beauty and peace have gone from her life.
In the 1960's (or maybe 1970's) a trio of singers called Peter, Paul and Mary (PPM for short) recorded this version, which many people heard on the radio and still remember. The song wasn't really long enough, so it was padded out with nonsense syllables.

A long time ago, the nonsense syllables may actually have been words in the Irish language, but nobody knew about that in the 1960's.

28 May 18 - 08:52 AM (#3927584)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation

I always assumed those syllables were adaptations of the Gaelic, transformed into lullabye syllables, pallatable for singing to a child (the point of a lullabye)--bibby babby beal - isn't that just what we'd say to a little one?

28 May 18 - 11:58 AM (#3927616)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: leeneia

You are right. Somebody night sing nonsense syllables to make a soothing sound and make the song longer. After all, you need to keep singing until the baby is well and truly asleep.

I wouldn't choose those particular syllables myself. They sound too silly. Also, babies are interested in syllables - that's what they listen for when first learning to speak. The crisp syllables of "rack shack bibba boo" will wake the kid up again.

IIRC, some relative of P, P, or M wrote those syllables.

28 May 18 - 12:00 PM (#3927618)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: leeneia

A delightful video of a baby who has mastered syllables:

08 Jan 19 - 01:28 AM (#3970495)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: GUEST,Derek in Hong Kong

I heard this song when I was in secondary school in mid 70s, the chorus was so soothing and impressing although I didn't understand what that meant at all.... Last year I become grand father, I heard from my daughter the new mother tried to make baby sleep by singing something like "shule, shule, shule......" She even used an apps from Ipad to play the voice... Daughter said these are similar to what baby heard when it was still in mother's body.   Anyway, this is a special song that I won't forget. Thanks to PPM for making it popular.

08 Jan 19 - 06:17 PM (#3970656)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: beachcomber

Good heavens, I cannot believe some of the "explanations" given here as to the "meaning" of Shule a rack shack etc.,
There is no meaning, because the words were originally in the Irish language. I've known this song as an Irish song, since well before the 60s when P.P & M. recorded it. Obviously they heard some Irish source and liked the song so much that they wanted to record it. There were plenty of Irish singers plying there trade in the Bars and clubs of New York at the time and some would have known this song. (It does allow that P.P. & M. style)They didn't have time, or maybe couldn't be bothered, learning the Irish words phonetically so, either they or some other agent, replaced the Irish words with some syllables that could be easily remembered and were in the correct meter.
That's all, no Yiddish,no Scottish, no nuttin' else, just plain old Irish. It's a lovely song and P.P. & M. did a beautiful version.

08 Jan 19 - 07:12 PM (#3970663)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: CupOfTea

It is possible PP&M got this song from an intermediary source, rather than mangling the Irish they couldn't pronounce. (I can't either, which is why I sing "Gone the Rainbow/Buttermilk Hill" along with Irish traditional songs: better the specificly American version than mess up a lovely thing in Gaelic.) I found a version in Pete Seeger's Clearwater Songbook that was from the lower Hudson Valley, sung by the Allison family, with same first and last verse, no chorus, and a middle verse running:
Me, oh my, I loved him so,
Broke my heart to see him go
Only time will heal my woe.
Johnny's gone for a soldier.

The verse fits neatly into the PP&M version, so I sing it, too. I do believe that it started out as an Irish Gaelic song, and went through several adaptations (including mangling the English words for weaving tools up for sale) before slipping into the PP&M repertoire.

Joanne in Cleveland, with no aspirations whatsoever to sing in Gaelic of any flavor.

10 Aug 19 - 11:30 PM (#4004082)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation

The Macaronic (Irish chorus with Englush verses) I believe translates like

And may you go safely, my darling
Go, go, go, my love
?Go quietly and go peacefully
Go to the door and fly with me
And may you go safely, my darling

Shule, shule, shule aroon,
Shule go succir agus, shule go kewn,
Shule go dheen durrus oggus aylig lume,
Iss guh day thoo avorneen slawn.

09 Nov 21 - 03:30 AM (#4125603)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Catamariner

Shule, shule, shule aroon,
Shule go succir, agus shule go kewn,
Shule go dorrus agus ellee lum,
Iss guh djay t(h)oo mavorneen sla[i]wn <-- kind of like slah-een

Siúil, siúil, siúil a rúin         
Siúil go sochair agus siúil go ciúin
Siúil go doras agus éalaigh liom
Is go dté tú mo mhúirnín slán

walk, walk, walk (siúl) my [secret love] (a rún)
walk peacefully and walk quietly
walk to the door and escape with me!

The song is lovely. The "Gone the Rainbow" chorus and verses are a clear mangling or morphing of the song, "siúil a rúin" right down to cry my fill / every tear would turn a mill....

09 Nov 21 - 09:38 AM (#4125624)
Subject: RE: Gone the rainbow PP&M translation
From: Felipa

Peter, Paul and Mary didn't mangle the song; it had already been mangled in folk transmission in North America. The song was widely spread in the U.S.; I suspect it was brought in by Irish emigrants well before the Irish famine (hence the song Buttermilk Hill which is said to have been popular around the time of the American war of independence), and brought in again by successive waves of immigration - so there would have been lots of chances for the song to get around the N. American continent.

The Traditional Ballad Index doesn't give any 18th century sources but cites:"EARLIEST DATE: 1876 (Waite) (but five broadside prints are listed in Edwin Wolf 2nd, _American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads, and Political Broadsides 1850-1870_, Library Company of Philadelphia, 1963, p. 78); a partial text is reported from 1823"

Among the citations is a 1927 recording by Chubby Parker, "Bib-A-Lollie-Boo" and a version collected by Alan Lomax with the words ""Shoo, Shoo, Shoo-lye". It would seem more likely to me that Peter, Paul and Mary got their nonsense version of the chorus from a pre-existing collection rather than hearing an Irish language chorus and making something up themselves.

There is more than one version of the Irish language chorus as well, so you will find both "Siúl a Rúin" and "Súil a Ghrá", using different terms of endearment.