The Parting Glass
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"The Parting Glass" is a Scottish traditional song, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. It has also long been sung in Ireland, enjoying considerable popularity to this day and strongly influencing the style in which it is often now sung. It was purportedly the most popular parting song sung in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne".
The "parting glass", or "stirrup cup", or "le coup de l'étrier" was the final hospitality offered to a departing guest. Once they had mounted, they were presented one final drink to fortify them for their travels. The custom was practised in several continental countries.
The earliest known printed version was as a broadside in the 1770s and it first appeared in book form in Scots Songs by Herd. An early version is sometimes attributed to Sir Alex Boswell. The text is doubtless older than its 1770 appearance in broadside, as it was recorded in the Skene Manuscript, a collection of Scottish airs written at various dates between 1615 and 1635. It was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as "Armstrong's Goodnight", by one of the Border Reivers executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March.
Exact lyrics vary between arrangements, but they include most, if not all, of the following stanzas appearing in different orders:
|The Parting Glass Lyrics|
|1||Of all the money that e'er I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm I've ever done
Alas it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be to you all
|2||So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befall,
And gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all
|3||Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They're sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They'd wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all
|5||If I had money enough to spend
And leisure time to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in this town
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips
I own she has my heart in thrall
Then fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.
|6||[First verse in the Scots version]
A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all
The earliest known appearance of the tune today associated with this text is as a fiddle tune called "The Peacock", included in James Aird's A Selection of Scots, English, Irish and Foreign Airs in 1782.
In 1800–1802, the song was incorrectly attributed to Joseph Haydn by Sigismund von Neukomm (1778-1858), who entered it in the Hoboken catalogue as "Good night and joy be wi' ye. Hob XXXIa 254. Mi mineur", which text has been wrongly attributed to Sir Alexander Boswell (1775-1822).
Patrick Weston Joyce, in his Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909), gives the tune with a different text under the name "Sweet Cootehill Town," noting, "The air seems to have been used indeed as a general farewell tune, so that—from the words of another song of the same class—it is often called 'Good night and joy be with you all.'" The celebrated Irish folk song collector Colm Ó Lochlainn has taken note of this identity of melodies between "The Parting Glass" and "Sweet Cootehill Town". "Sweet Cootehill Town" is another traditional farewell song, this time involving a man leaving Ireland to go to America.
The tune appeared, with sacred lyrics, in 19th century American tunebooks. "Shouting Hymn" in Jeremiah Ingalls's Christian Harmony (1805) is a related tune. The tune achieved wider currency among shape note singers with its publication, associated with a text first known in the 1814 Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, "Come Now Ye Lovely Social Band", in William Walker's Southern Harmony (1835), and in The Sacred Harp (1844). This form of the song is still widely sung by Sacred Harp singers under the title "Clamanda".
"The Parting Glass" was re-introduced to mid-20th century audiences by the recordings and performances of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Their rendition featured a solo vocal by youngest brother Liam and first appeared on their 1959 Tradition Records LP Come Fill Your Glass with Us as well as on a number of subsequent recordings, including the group's high-charting live performance album, In Person at Carnegie Hall. The rendition by the Clancys and Makem has been described as "by all accounts... the most influential" of the many recorded versions.
The song "Restless Farewell", written by Bob Dylan and featured on The Times They Are a-Changin' from 1964, uses the melody of the nineteenth century versions of "The Parting Glass" with Dylan's original lyrics. Dylan had learned the tune from the singing of the Clancys and Makem.
In 1998, the traditional words were set to a new, different melody (reminiscent of Mo Ghile Mear, another Irish traditional song) by Irish composer Shaun Davey. In 2002, he orchestrated this version for orchestra, choir, pipes, fiddle, and percussion to commemorate the opening of the Helix Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland. His version appears in the film Waking Ned Devine.
Film, TV and other media appearances
Actresses Emily Kinney and Lauren Cohan performed a rendition of this song in the season three premiere episode "Seed" of The Walking Dead. It also appears on the soundtrack, The Walking Dead: Original Soundtrack – Vol. 1.
|1959||The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem||Come Fill Your Glass with Us|
|1968||The Dubliners||Drinkin' and Courtin'|
|1979||Ronnie Drew (of The Dubliners)||Together Again|
|1981||Robin Williamson||Songs of Love and Parting|
|1982||Ryan's Fancy||Irish Love Songs|
|1985||The Pogues||"The Parting Glass" (single); 2004 re-release of Rum Sodomy & the Lash|
|1994||John McDermott||Old Friends||A cappella|
|1996||Poxy Boggards||Bawdy Parts - Original and Traditional Songs of Drinking and Revelry|
|1997||Sarah McQuaid||When Two Lovers Meet||Unaccompanied but double-tracked: not the tune most commonly used|
|1998||Steeleye Span||Horkstow Grange|
|1998||Liam O'Maonlai and The Voice Squad||Recording with an original melody by Shaun Davey for the closing titles of the movie Waking Ned Devine|
|1999||Jay Munly||Galvanized Yankee||Original album released in 1999; re-mastered and re-released in 2007|
|2002||Sinéad O'Connor||Sean-Nós Nua|
|2002||Stephen Fearing||That's How I Walk|
|2003||The Tossers||Purgatory||Hidden track|
|2004||The Wailin' Jennys||40 Days||A cappella|
|2007||Thea Gilmore||The Threads EP|
|2008||The Holy Sea||A Beginner's Guide to the Sea|
|2008||The High Kings||The High Kings|
|2008||Cara Dillon||Hill of Thieves|
|2009||Krister Henriksson||Snurra min jord||as "Ett sista glas", Swedish translation by Lars Forssell|
|2009||The Spooky Men's Chorale||Deep|
|2010||Luke Macfarlane||Brothers & Sisters – Season 4, Episode 23|
|2010||Loreena McKennitt||The Wind That Shakes the Barley|
|2011||Hannah Peel||The Broken Wave|
|2011||Celtic Woman||Celtic Woman: Believe|
|2011||Ed Sheeran||+||Hidden track|
|2011||The Felice Brothers||God Bless You Amigo|
|2011||Bruce Guthro||Celtic Crossing|
|2012||Emily Kinney and Lauren Cohan||The Walking Dead: Original Soundtrack – Vol. 1||Recorded for The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 1|
|2013||Face Vocal Band||How Was the Show Last Night|
|2013||Celtic Woman||Celtic Woman: Emerald - Musical Gems||The song is often sung in a multipart Harmony by the Celtic Woman group.|
|2013||Sarah Greene||Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag||Sung by Anne Bonny (played by Sarah Greene) during the game's end credits.|
|2014||Gregory Page||Gregory Page – One Way Journey Home|
|2014||Glen Hansard and guests||Ceiliúradh at Royal Albert Hall|
|2014||Sven-Bertil Taube||Hommage||as "Ett sista glas", Swedish translation by Lars Forssell|
|2015||Damien Leith||Songs From Ireland||No.11 album in Australia|
|2015||Scythian||Old Tin Can|
|2015||Tom Paxton||Redemption Road|
|2015||O'Hooley & Tidow||Summat's Brewin|
|2015||Miriam Bryant||Så mycket bättre 2015||as "Ett sista glas", Swedish translation by Lars Forssell|
|2016||Paul Kelly (Australian musician)||Death's Dateless Night|
|2016||Alexander Armstrong||Upon a Different Shore|
|2016||Antje Duvekot||"Toward the Thunder"|
|2017||Trey Anastasio Band||Live Phish Series||various 2017 live shows|
|2017||Ye Banished Privateers||First Night Back in Port||Hidden track|
|2017||Dermot Kennedy||Live performance|
|2018||Rosanne Cash||She Remembers Everything|
|2020||Hozier||The Parting Glass (Live from the Late Late Show) - Single||Performed and recorded on the Late Late Show in honour of those who died from COVID-19 in March 2020, with proceeds going to ISPCC.|
|2020||Henry Jamison and Darlingside||The Parting Glass (feat. Darlingside) - Single|
|2020||The Longest Johns feat. Natalie Holmes||Lockdown Edition |
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