MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
the Old Blackbird
Hannah O'Brien NFLD 2 Tape 2A Track 2
Tors Cove (?) Audio:

Leach: Try it Hannah

If l were a blackbird I'd whistle and sing
And follow the ship that my true love sails in
And on the top rigging I’ll there build my nest
And I’ll pillow my head on my fond lover’s chest

I am a young maiden and my story is sad
For once l was courted by a brave sailor lad
He courted me truly by night and by day
And now he has left me and gone far away

He promised to take me to Donnybrook fair
To buy me red ribbons to tie up my hair
And l know that someday he'll come back o'er the tide
And surely he' Il make me his own loving bride

My parents they _______ and will not agree
That l and my sailor lad married should be
But let them deride me and do what they will
One that's __________ is the one l love still

If I were a scholar and could handle a pen
Long private letters to my true love I’d send
I’ll him my misfortune my sore grief and woe
If I'd wings like a dove to my true love I’d go

If l were a blackbird...etc.


Sources: SHenry H79, 428-429; Meredith/Anderson, 170-171; Blondahl, 119DT; Roud #387; for more sources see The Traditional Ballad Index ( ).

History: Also known as "I Am a Young Maiden" or "If I Was a Blackbird" and was first found in the Sam Henry Collection in 1925 (see The Traditional Ballad Index ).

Text: The singer wishes that she were a blackbird so that she could fly to the ship that her true love sails on.   This ballad of love contains the conventional parental refusal of permission to marry.

Tune: This beautiful triple metre tune is characterized by chromatic passing tones in the 'b' phrase.   The form is ABAC and the tonality is major.

All material on this webpage is copyright © 2004, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No unauthorized copying or use is permitted. For more information, follow this link.