Green Linnet

Sung by Jerry O’Reilly

image of Jerry O’Reilly

sung by
Jerry O’Reilly
(Cullerlie 2007)

image of CD cover of Jerry O’Reilly

CDs available

Curiosity led a native of Erin
To view the gay banks of the Rhine,
Where an empress he spied and the robes that she was wearing
All over with diamonds did shine.
No goddess in splendour was ever yet seen,
To equal this fair maid so mild and serene,
In soft murmurs she whispered: “My linnet so green,
Sweet Boney, will I ne’er see you more?”
The cold, lofty Alps you freely crossed over,
Which Nature had placed in your way,
At Marengo, Bellona, around you did hover,
All Paris rejoiced the next day,
It grieves me the hardships that you did undergo,
The mountains you traversed all covered with snow
But the balance of power your courage laid low,
Sweet Boney, will I ne’er see you more?
The crowned heads of Europe they were in great splendour
And they swore they would have you submit,
But the Goddess of freedom soon made them surrender
And their standards were lowered to your wit,
Old Frederick’s colours to France you did bring,
The offspring found shelter all under your wing,
That year in Vienna how sweetly you did sing.
Sweet Boney, will I ne’er see you more?
Great numbers of men had sworn for to slay you,
But their malice you viewed with a smile,
Great gold throughout Europe was found to betray you,
And they joined the Mamelukes on the Nile.
Like ravenous vultures, their vile passions did burn,
The orphans they slew and caused widows to mourn,
But my Linnet is gone will he never return,
Sweet Boney, will I ne’er see you more?
I have roamed through the deserts of wild Abyssinia,
But can find no cure for my pain.
I will go and I ’ll enquire in the Isle of St Helena,
But soft murmurs whisper - ’tis in vain.
Come tell me you critics, come tell me in time,
What nations I’ll range, my Green Linnet to find,
Was he slain at Waterloo, in Spain or on the Rhine?
No, he’s dead on St Helena’s bleak shore.

The speaker in this, surely the most beautiful, and demanding, of Napoleonic ballads, is the Empress Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife.

On a garland printed in Waterford the song is sub-titled “Maria Louisa’s Lamentation for the Loss of her Lover”

The song dates from no later than 1830 and is usually set to the air given here, “The Bold Trainer-O”, which is also used for several other songs.

Edward Bunting collected a version of the air under the name “Uilleagán Dubh Ó” from the harper Hempson and published it in his 1809 collection.

Napoleon defeated an Austrian army at Marengo in Italy in June 1800.

Frederick (verse 3) was Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.

Napoleon died in St. Helena on the 5th of May 1821.

The illustration on page 207 shows the Empress Marie Louise with Napoleon II, the King of Rome.

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Folk Leads Publications 2008