Fare Thee Well (song)

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"Fare Thee Well" (sometimes known as "The Turtle Dove") is an 18th-century English folk ballad, in which a lover bids farewell before setting off on a journey. The lyrics include a dialogue between the lovers.


The first published version of the song appeared in Roxburghe Ballads dated 1710; the lyrics were there given the title "The True Lover's Farewell".

Lyrical content[edit]

"Fare Thee Well" shares several lyrics which parallel those of Robert Burns' "A Red, Red Rose". The lyrics are also strikingly similar to a folk song titled, "My Dear Mary Ann"[1][2][3][4][5][6] that dates back to the mid-19th century. Similarities include the meter and rhyme scheme, as well as the alternative title of "Ten Thousand Miles". Lyrical similarities include the opening line, "Fare thee well my own true love", "Ten thousand miles or more" (word-for-word matches), and the question of seeing a dove or other bird crying for its love. The subjects of the songs are practically identical: Lovers mourning their separation and longing to return to one another.

Musical arrangements[edit]

In 1919, the composer and folk-song scholar Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote an arrangement of the song, entitled "The Turtle Dove", for solo baritone (later re-arranged for solo and SATB choir).[7][8]

The song has been recorded, notably by Nic Jones as "Ten Thousand Miles", as well as by Joan Baez on her 1960 debut album, Mary Black, Eliza Carthy, Chad & Jeremy, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Liam Clancy, Marianne Faithfull and Kate Rusby and as "Ten Thousand Miles" by Michael Holliday, Burl Ives, Molina and Roberts, June Tabor and Marcus Mumford.

A version of the song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, entitled "10,000 Miles", was used in the movie Fly Away Home (1996).[9]


Fare thee well my own true love
And farewell for a while.
I’m going away, but I’ll come again
If I go ten thousand miles.

Ten thousand miles, my own true love,
Ten thousand miles or more,
And the rocks may melt and the seas may burn,
If I should not return.

Oh don’t you see that lonesome dove,
Sitting on an ivy tree,
She’s weeping for her own true love
Just as I shall weep for mine.

Oh come back my own true love
And stay a while with me
For if I had a friend all on this earth,
You’ve been a friend to me.

And fare thee well my own true love
And farewell for a while.
I’m going away, but I’ll be back
If I go ten thousand miles.


References 1-6 are transcribed from the Traditional Ballad Index website listed in "External Links" below

  1. ^ BrownIII 300, "My Martha Ann" (1 text)
  2. ^ Fowke/Johnston, pp. 142-143, "Mary Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. ^ Fowke/MacMillan 48, "Mary Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. ^ Lomax-FSNA 75, "Mary Ann" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. ^ Silber-FSWB, p. 147, "Mary Ann" (1 text)
  6. ^ Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 1111, "My Mary Ann," A. Ryle and Co. (London), 1845-1859; also Firth c.12(366), Firth
  7. ^ Frogley, Alain; Thomson, Aidan J. (2013). The Cambridge Companion to Vaughan Williams. Cambridge University Press. p. 141. ISBN 9781107650268. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  8. ^ Elliott, Rachel. Notes on four folk songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams (PDF). English Folk Dance and Song Society. p. 5. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  9. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (24 April 1999). "Carpenter Set offers her Favorites and Fans". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 77.

External links[edit]