Search
  • Mary Lee Partington

Commonplaces ~ The Lyrics!

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Welcome to Commonplaces! It's the title of my inaugural CD project with Ed Sweeney, but a commonplace is also a type of saying or even the notebook it's recorded in. With a release-to-radio date coming up on Sunday, November 1, 2020, I am so excited that this first Partington & Sweeney project will launch on a Halloween weekend...when the veil parts between the worlds of past and present so that we can feel the subtle shifts in time. And we will--with a Blue Moon and Daylight Savings adding to the light and to the dark! And so for this first blog post, I present some of the original or traditional lyrics of my songs...with gratitude and thanks to my amazing music partner and producer Ed Sweeney.


THE MANCHESTER MULE SPINNER

I’ll not take you back across the wild water

I’ll not take you back to old Ireland, Kathleen

For the hills of New England are calling me over

There’s work for a spinner on whitewater streams.

Chorus: I’m sailing away on a cold English day

Where the sun strikes a shaft through the soot and the gray

Of the Manchester mills where a mule spinner’s years

Come to dust and to ash and to tears.

Old Ireland is hungry; her children are scattered

From Glasgow to London and Canada’s shore

While a whole generation of young English farmers

Have traded their land to be mill-working poor.

So marry me Katie right here by the dockside

Alike and as different as poitín and ale

We’re the stout heart of England, the spirit of Ireland

To the hills of New England heave away and set sail

Our lives will revolve round the spindles and shuttles

Our children will chase the bright thread ‘neath the frames

But there’ll come a time when young teachers and lawyers

Will fondly remember their grandparents’ names.



YOUNG BUT DAILY GROWING ~ Traditional

The trees they are tall and the meadows they are green

Roses are in bloom but one thing mars the scene

But I must be content for happy days I’ve seen

With my bonny boy Davy a growin’.

Father, father, much harm have you done

Four long years have passed since I was twenty-one

A lover of twelve years is surely much too young

Only a school boy a growin’.

Daughter, daughter, no harm have I done

I have promised you to a rich Lord’s son

And he will make a bed for you to rock upon

He is young but he’s daily a growin’.

As she sat a sewin’ at her father’s castle hall

She saw him with the young boys playing at the ball

She smiled as she thought, “He’s the flower of them all”

He is young but he’s daily a growin’.

She made him a shirt of the very finest lawn

Made it for her bonny lover to put on

She sighed as she longed for her wedding day to come

He is young but he’s daily a growin’.

At the age of thirteen, he was a married man

At fourteen, the father of a son

But at sixteen, his grave was growin’ green

He died in the youth of his growin’.

DEER ISLAND

I stand on the bluff looking out on the harbor

That measures the distance between you and me

’Tis naught did I know when I left my own country

I’d rest on Deer Island looking out on the sea.

Once I stood warm on a spring day in Kerry

Red roses and rain swept the big house and lawn

I worked in the chambers and learned of fine linen

And fancied myself but a poor Caitlín bawn.

Fortune and fate conspired hard against me

And all of my people once free, proud, and bold

One morn we awoke to the blight of betrayal

What nature had spared to the English was sold.

The choice that I made then I’ll rue to my judgement

My back did I show to the hunger grown wild

My face to the wind as I sailed far from Queenstown

Far away from the workhouse, my mother, and child.

I knew from your letters that Boston awaited

Her charity dry as the waves met her shore

My eyes sought your face as my ship turned from docking

Quarantine on Deer Island was the order she bore.

Twenty days' time as the sick and the dying

Were carried on shore to a cold, paupers grave

I stand on the bluff with my eyes set on Boston

My feet in the foam of a salt white-capped wave.

My house it is dark with the absence of sunlight

One smile from your face could cause for to glow

The walls of white limestone are cold with the knowledge

That here on Deer Island our love cannot grow.

My hand is the wind and my hair is the rapeseed

My voice is the call of the gull to the shore

My heart is the wave on the rocks of Deer Island

My hope cold and dashed in the gale’s icy roar.

Where is my mother, oh where is my baby

Where is the sorrow I should feel for my loss

I walk on the bluff when the cold moon glows crystal

To gaze on rough markers and a lone Irish cross.

I stand on the bluff looking out on the harbor

That measures the distance between you and me

’Tis naught did I know when I left my own country

I’d rest on Deer Island looking out on the sea.

NEW ENGLAND'S DAUGHTER

The town was shocked to hears news that Emmeline did wed the boy

Who trailed her age ten years or more and traded sadness for lover’s joy.

Refrain: Cold New England cold, cold New England cold.

She was New England’s daughter; Emmeline was her name,

And though I never knew her, I’ll tell her story just the same.

Some people say that Yankee land boasts a cold that chills desire,

But love that stirs a young girl’s heart can turn to broken ice…untended fire.

Emmeline was just fourteen when she joined the Lowell hoard

Of girls from farms and hungry towns who paid a weaver’s wage for room and board.

Emmeline was small and quick and learned to work with grown-up skill,

And with her nimble industry, she pleased the foreman of the mill.

A man of wealth and middle years, he had the means to treat her well;

In fact, his wife would one day own the Corporation’s ringing till.

So began a dark affair between the foreman and the maid;

The child she bore in secrecy became the forfeit that she paid.

The child was taken from her side before she knew a face or name

And given to a family who traveled westward to stake their claim.

A shattered but a wiser girl returned up north to Fayette, Maine

To take her childhood place once more amidst the pine trees and the pain.

A spinster’s life was Emmeline’s in all the years that tumbled past

Until one day a handsome lad rode into Fayette at the last.

The heart that Emmeline had hid from all her suitors and from the truth

Came rushing desperately to claim the handsome stranger despite his youth.

The town was shocked to hear the news that Emmeline did wed the boy

Who trailed her age ten years or more and traded sadness for lover’s joy.

New England cold is cruelty, New England cold is vengeance bound;

The cold rewarded Emmeline: a boy she married…her son she’d found.

Cold New England cold, cold New England cold.

LIKE BREAD UPON THE WATER (for Three Holes in the Chimney)

Like bread upon the water, I will return to you

Like bread upon the water, our journey is not through

For you are my tormentor and my salvation, too

Like bread upon the water, I will return to you.

My mama is in heaven and if I will be good

Then she will not forsake me if I tread the path I should

But how will she find me if I’m taken from my home

Like bread upon the water, I’ll return from whence I roam.

God bless the beasts of burden and all the laboring folk

God bless the little children that suffer ‘neath the yoke

Of cruel mistreatment, a lot in life to rue

For “bread upon the water” safe harbors are too few.

Like bread upon the water, I will return to you

Like bread upon the water, our journey is not through

For you are my tormentor and my salvation, too

Like bread upon the water, I will return to you.



17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All