The Snowy Breasted Pearl by Turlough O’Carolan

 

These words are translated from the Irish by George Petrie (who wrote Ancient Music of Ireland (1855). The tune appears in A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music by Edward Bunting (1796). It is there credited to Turlough O’Carolan.

Some would say that the person writing/thinking/singing these words, in today’s world, would be very unusual, but when you think of them in the context of the time, they are beautiful.

There’s a colleen fair as May
For a year and for a day
I have sought by every way
Her heart to gain
There’s no art of tongue or eye
Fond youths with maidens try
But I’ve tried with ceaseless sigh
And tried in vain.
If to France or far off Spain
She crossed the watery main
To see her face again
The seas I’d brave
And if it’s heaven’s decree
That mine she’ll never be
May the Son of Mary
Me in mercy save.

But a kiss with welcome bland
And the touch of thy fair hand
Are all that I demand
Wouldst thou not spurn
For if not mine dear girl
My snowy breasted pearl
May I never from the fair
With life return.
If to France or far off Spain
She crossed the watery main
To see her face again
The seas I’d brave
And if it’s heaven’s decree
That mine she’ll never be
May the Son of Mary
Me in mercy save.

This sheet music is in very sad repair, as you can see…but, I have placed it against archival papers and have it behind plastic sheet protectors.

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