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Alexander

[ Roud 6247 ; G/D 4:829 ; Ballad Index GrD4829 ; Bodleian Roud 6247 ; Mudcat 28723 ; trad]

Niamh Parsons sang Alexander in 1999 on her Green Linnet album Blackbirds & Thrushes. She noted:

I’ve always loved the sentiment of this song which was suggested to me by Terry Moylan. It comes from the singing of Eddie Butcher. I got it from The Thistle and Shamrock, a collection of folk songs from North Derry.

Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller sang Alexander in 2010 on their Greentrax album Shadows Tall. They noted:

This Irish lyric compares the trials of love with the exploits of Alexander the Great in conquering the then known world. Siobhan learned this from Norah Rendell at Limerick University. The girls love the suggestion of parental generosity!

Francy Devine sang Alexander on his 2020 album An Ownerless Corner of Earth. He noted:

Eddie Butcher, 1900-1980, was from Magilligan, his wide repertoire drawing extensively upon the north Derry area. He readily shared his songs and few singers, particularly within the Ulster tradition, do not sing one of them, though few possess his unique phrasing, accent and timbre, elements that reflected his area's topography and language. The ITMA (Irish Traditional Music Archive) issued a book and three-CD collection of Butcher's work in 2011 edited by Hugh & Lisa Shields, All the Days of His Life: Eddie Butcher in His Own Words, Songs, Stories and Memories of Magilligan, Co Derry.

I first heard Alexander sung not by Butcher but by two singers I greatly admire—Paddy and Caoimhin Branigan from Drogheda, a place—particularly in Carbery's—where I have long sung and, more importantly, heard many impressive songs and singers. When first contemplating the song, I thought of Graham Dunne, his guitar accompaniment a joy.

Lyrics

Jeana Leslie and Siobhan Miller sing Alexander

Oh it's don’t you know the reason this night that I am here?
It is in order to obtain the love of you, my dear.

Your sweet celestial charms, they've wounded quite my brain,
Your skin’s far whiter than a swan swims on yon purling stream.

You are tall, genteel and handsome, you're modest, mild and free
And as the lodestone varies, you draw the heart from me.

The reason my love slights me is because that I am poor
But I have what’s allowed for me and I can ask no more.

She thinks she comes of noble birth, me of a mean degree,
But I am called of Adam’s race, my dear, as well as thee.

Don’t place your mind on riches, love, none ours is worldly store
Just think on Alexander and you’ll love me even more.

When he hit luck on the whole world, he sat down and wept full sore
Because there were but one world, and he could gain no more.

I will travel to Mount Horeb where Noah’s ark does stand,
From that unto Mount Albereen where Moses viewed the land.

And I never will betroth him while I wear a shoe
But like a wounded lover, my dear, I will mourn for you.

From this sorrowful lamentation to her true love she came in,
She took him in her arms and embraced him as her dear.

And now they have been married, the truth I will unfold
Her father has bestowed on them five hundred pounds in gold.

(repeat first verse)

Francy Devine sings Alexander

Don’t you know the reason, love, this night that I am here?
It is in order to obtain the love of you, my dear.

Your sweet celestial charms, they have wounded quite my brain,
Your skin’s far whiter than the swan swims o’er yon purling stream.

You are tall, genteel and handsome, you are modest, mild and free
And as the lodestone varies, you draw the heart from me.

The reason my love slights me is because that I am poor
But I have what’s allowed to me and I may ask no more.

She thinks she’s come of noble birth, me of a mean degree,
– But I am come of Adam’s race, the same, my dear, as thee.

Don’t place your mind on riches, love, nor on some worldly store
Just think on Alexander and you will love me the more.

When he had conquered the whole world he sat and wept full sore
Because there were but one world and he could gain no more.

I will travel to Mount Horeb where Noah’s ark does stand,
And unto Mount Albareen where Moses viewed the land.

I never will quit roving while I may wear a shoe
But like a wounded lover, my dear, I'll mourn for you.

Till his sorrowful lamentation, to her true love she gave ear,
She held him in her arms and embraced him as her dear.

So now they are got married, the truth I will unfold
Her father has bestowed on them five hundred pounds in gold.