> Folk Music > Songs > By the Sweet Silver Light, Bonny Moon / Lament to the Moon

By the Sweet Silver Light, Bonny Moon / Lament to the Moon

[ Roud 906 ; Master title: By the Sweet Silver Light, Bonny Moon ; Ballad Index R800 ; Bodleian Roud 906 ; GlosTrad Roud 906 ; Wiltshire 82 ; Mudcat 51211 ; trad.]

Packie Manus Byrne sang Lament to the Moon in 1974 to Mike Yates. This recording was released in 1977 on his Topic album Songs of a Donegal Man. This recording was also included in 2002 on his Veteran CD Donegal & Back. Mike Yates noted on the original album:

Sweet Silvery Moon, or Lament to the Moon as Packie prefers to call it, possibly came from an early 19th-century stage play. The song appeared on an English broadside which was issued by Jackson of Birmingham and the version collected in Gloucestershire by Alfred Williams bears a striking similarity to the words on Jackson's sheet. Williams included the text in his Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (1923) and the English music scholar Ann Geddes Gilchrist noted in her copy of William's book that the music to the song was composed by J.W. Turner in 1847. According to Packie, there are at least a dozen airs to the song, including this one which, he believes, comes from the Glens of Antrim. Packie calls this a “round the fire song”, meaning that it is the sort of song which would be sung at home during the long winter evenings. And although several singers in his parish knew the song he recalls that he had the words from Sarah Hegarty of Donegal.

The Wrenboys of Listowel, Co. Kerry, performed a short fragment of the tune By the Bright Silvery Light of the Moon on St Stephen's Day, 26 December 1976. This recording by Doc Rowe was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs and dance tunes of seasonal events, You Lazy Lot of Bone-Shakers (The Voice of the People Volume 16).

Anni Fentiman sang Silvery Moon in 1998 on Dave Webber's and her CD Constant Lovers. They noted:

Anni learned this song from Packie Byrne, who learned it from his mother, although it is a variant of an English Parlour song. Anni was inspired to learn this song by the singing of Tim Edwards.

Alasdair Roberts learned Lament to the Moon from the singing of Packie Manus Byrne and sang it in 2015 on the Furrow Collective's EP Blow Out the Moon.

Jackie Oates sang Lament to the Moon on her 2022 album Gracious Wings. She noted:

A song that I picked up from Kath Parry of Sidmouth, singer of so many beautiful songs. The lyrics to this version of the song appear in Alfred Williams' Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (1923) and are said to have been collected in Gloucestershire, with the tune composed by J.W. Turner in 1847.

Lyrics

Packie Manus Byrne sings Lament to the Moon

As I strayed along at the close of the day,
About the beginning of June,
'Twas there in the glade I espied a fair maid,
As she sang her lament to the moon.

Chorus (after each verse):
Roll along, silv'ry moon; guide the traveller on his way,
Whilst the nightingale sings her sweet tune.
There is no time so sweet as when true lovers meet
By the bright silvery light of the moon.

My love he was young and a bold fisherman,
His arms were brawny and strong.
His voice was clear and a pleasure to hear
When singing an old shanty song.

But his boat went down, and my true love had found
A grave 'neath the deep angry sea,
Never more to return, and it's for him I'll mourn,
Till the day that the clay covers me.

He bought me a ring; we appointed the day;
For it's married we were to be soon.
But alas to my grief he now lies in the deep,
Cut down like a rose in full bloom.

(repeat chorus)

Jackie Oates Lament to the Moon

As I strayed along, at the close of the day
About the beginning of June,
By a jasmine shade I espied a fair maid
As she made her lament to the moon.

Chorus (after each verse):
Roll along, silvery moon
Whilst the nightingale's song is in tune.
There is a nothing so sweet
As when two lovers meet
By the bright silvery light of the moon.

My love he was young, and a bold fisherman,
His arms they were brawny and strong.
His voice it was clear and a pleasure to hear
When singing an old ballad song.

But alas to my grief, he now lies in the deep,
A corpse ‘neath the grey angry sea.
No more to return and it's for him I'll mourn
‘Till the day that the clay covers me.