This song is related to the ballad ‘Lord Randal’, which is one of a small number of the classic European ballads to have been translated into the Irish language. The fact that there are 615 versions of this ballad in the Roud Folksong and Broadside Indexes (www.vwml.org/search/search-roud-indexes) gives some indication towards the level of popularity which it once enjoyed. According to Frank Harte, ‘the Dublin man could not accept the beautiful, sad, slow, classical version, but produced instead this inelegant version which is unique as being the only variant in which poisoned beans and not eels and eel broth kill the unfortunate youth.’ From what we can gather, the song was sung in this ‘inelegant’ form by children (including our own parents) in different parts of Dublin. This popularity amongst children would seem to have some historical precedence: Dr Francis J. Child notes that his ‘G’ version of the ballad came from ‘an English gentleman’, who learned the ‘imperfect ditty’ as a child ‘from a playmate of his own age’, while an Italian version ‘was first recovered in 1865, by Dr G.B. Bolza, who took it down from the singing of very young girls at Loveno’. Thanks to Jerry O’Reilly for the third verse.
Where have you been all day, Henry my son?
Where have you been all day, my beloved one?
Away on the meadow, away on the meadow,
Make my bed I've a pain in my head, and I want to lie down.
And what did you have to eat, Henry my son?
What did you have to eat, my beloved one?
Poison beans, poison beans,
Make my bed.....
And what colour were those beans...
Green and yellow, green and yellow,
Make my bed...
What will you leave your mother?
A woollen vest.
What will you leave your father?
A watch and chain.
What will you leave your brother?
A blue suit.
What will you leave your children?
The sun and moon.
What will you leave your sweetheart?
A rope to hang her.