Down by the Salley Gardens
William Butler Yeats, 1889
Down by the salley gardens, my love and I did meet.
She passed the salley gardens with little, snow-white feet.
She bid me take life easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.
In a field by a river, my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish and now am full of tears.
A Little Poetry—Yeats presented “Down by the Salley Gardens” (originally titled “An Old Song Resung”) as “an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman.”
The word ‘salley’ suggests a garden of weeping willow trees. A ‘weir’ is a dam built across a river to control water levels.
A Little Music—In 1909, Hubert Hughs set Yeat’s poem to the wistful air “The Maids of the Mourne Shore.” You can listen to Roisin Reilly sing it on YouTube. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=g5e8OJibhmI>