Burke's Dream (Greenleaf and Mansfield)

Sadly but slowly one night in November,
I laid down my weary head for to repose
On my pillow of straw which I long shall remember,
I been weary for sleep, I fell into a doze.

I been tired from working hard
down in the foreign prison yard,
Night brought relief to my sad heart's should free;
I been locked in my prison cell,
surely an earthly hell,
I then fell asleep and commenced for to dream.

I dreamed I was sitting on a green hill of Erin,
With no hesitating and victory won;
Surrounded by comrades, no enemies fearing,
But then was the cry, "Every man to his gun."

It's on came the section then,
dread not, ye Fenian men,
Soon they fell back from their pike's volunteers;
I dreamed that I saw our brave noble commander,
Was mounted on steed and his guard did surrear.

He was brave-trimmed with gold
and his bright shining chevrons,
'Twas all dint with sunbeams of freedom that day;
Slam bang, the cannons slew,
lines they were all cut through,
Men on both sides lay dying and dead.

The green flag went waving high
that day beneath the battle sky,
Everyone there did sing out gloriously;
Every man, boy was on oath bound to die
that day or stand their ground,
And all from our vengeance the proud Briton fled.

Slam bang, the cannons slew,
lines they were all cut through,
Men on both sides lay dying and lay dead;
Jump out of your prison berth
for Irishmen have done their work,
God He is with us and old Erin is free.

I dreamed I was sleeping,
the night beams around me,
Whilst pitching their lights
upon that bloody plain;
When friends that I once knew
in soft sleep reposing,
Lay dead and in their gore.
Shall I e'er see them again?

With joy then I hastened
back over the mountain track,
My mother she fainted and gave a loud scream;
Surely when I awoke just as the daylight broke,
And found I was in exile and all but a dream.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a British broadside ballad [Laws J16] American Balladry From British Broadsides, G Malcolm Laws (1957) ....####
Collected in 1920 from James Conway with a tune from Patrick Lewis of Fleur de Lys, NL, and published as #71 (pp.146-148) in Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland, by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1933; Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA, 1968).

¹ For his role in the Fenian insurrection of 1867, General Thomas Burke was convicted of high treason and condemned to die. His sentence was eventually commuted.
² In Irish Com-All-Ye's (1901) by Manus O'Conor, line 2 of stanza 2 reads: "Night brought relief to my well-tortured frame."


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