Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Night, And Joy Be With You All!

“The Parting Glass” was probably the most well-known farewell song among English-speaking peoples until Scottish poet Robert Burns penned the New Year’s Eve staple “Auld Lang Syne” in the late 18th century. A year or two ago, the former song was featured in a noteworthy commercial promoting a brand of Irish whiskey, which you might have caught sight of.

Of all the money 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 with you all!

Oh, all the comrades e’er I had,
They’re sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts 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 with you all!

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!

The tune associated with “The Parting Glass” is actually a variation on another old Celtic melody most commonly associated with the Irish lyrics “The Star of the County Down.” (For one fine version, check out this online video, beginning at about the 3:00 mark.) But the same tune has also been set to many other texts, including the hymn “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” The melody (appearing in both variations mentioned above) is used as a recurring motif in a recording that has really captured my fancy during the last couple of years: Perceval: La quête du Graal (The Quest for the Grail), Vol. 1, by the early music troupe La Nef. The album recounts, in French, the legend of the Arthurian knight Sir Perceval. (Although for other Tolkien fans out there, certain portions might just as easily be imagined as coming straight from the House of Elrond, telling the exploits of Beren and Luthien, or some other tale of Middle Earth.) Here is one extended excerpt, the latter half of which is exceptionally beautiful.

And so, on this New Year’s Eve, Anno Domini MMXIV, as we bid farewell to the year behind and anticipate the year ahead: Good night, and God be with you all!