Down By The Sally Gardens

Down by the Sally Gardens was written by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who was highly reputed for his poetry and in 1923 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. It has been said that W.B. Yeats’ poetry feels lyrical to the ear as the felicity of language suggests a singing voice and the beauty and simplicity of music. I can sense this in Down by the Sally Gardens as the story is so delicate and bewitched by a lost romance of the past.  I find his choice of “snow-white hand” so graceful but frail too and perhaps this forebodes the fragility of their shared love.

I think the young man is lamenting the loss of a beautiful girl, whom he would meet at the Sally Gardens. I think that their romance wilted as he did not respect her plea to “take love easy”, thus suggesting that his advances were too fast and so frightened her away. He now looks back at his impatient ways of youth and regards them as foolish.

When I am preparing a song for a performance I like to create an imaginative world, which I can unpack around me, anchoring me to the story and aiding my ability to invite the listener to join me on a momentary journey. I think about the setting: where I am, the time of day, which season of the year, and what I can see. This leads me to wonder what the gardens looked like and what types of flowers I would be able to see there.  The word salley or sally comes from the Gaelic word saileach which means willow. This suggests that this is a garden of willow trees. It would be common to find small willow plantations close to villages in Ireland, as the slender shoots of willow were used to bind thatched roofs. As well as providing willow shoots for thatching, these willow gardens doubled up as a meeting place for young lovers.

Fun Fact, George proposed to me under a willow tree in Paris. Its delicate leaves enveloped us and provided a romantic and charming spot. Unlike in the story, George got a yes. This personal memory has made quite the impression on me and I don’t think I will forget anytime soon the details of the willow. The shades of green, the strands of leaves, like delicate necklaces dangling and its fairy-tale shade.

Saule Pleureur de la Pointe, Île de la Cité, Paris, France

Down By The Sally Gardens

Words by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

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 love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.
In a field by the 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.

74 thoughts on “Down By The Sally Gardens

    1. Thank you Patricia, my first singing teacher introduced me to lots of lovely folk songs and this is one of my favourites.
      Best wishes

  1. Ho, so cute !!! I don’t know for willow tree, Paris and You and George….
    One day we will have to make a movie in Paris with You two !!!!

    Wish you the best, always !!!! xx

    1. I was performing in BambinO and George had asked my parent’s for my hand in marriage then surprised me with a visit. It was a lovely surprise and a gorgeous day, eating macarons on the banks of the River Seine.
      Best wishes

    1. Thanks Gill, we celebrated our none-wedding anniversary this morning, oh well fingers crossed for August. Got our first jab booked for next week too.
      Best wishes

    1. Thank you Annette, We hadn’t set the video up quite right and laughed at the end when watching it back and we realised my head was chopped off the video.
      Best wishes

    1. Thank you John, it would have been our first wedding anniversary today had it not been for covid. Fingers crossed we stay out of lockdown for the end of August.
      Best wishes

    1. Thank you 😊 it seems a long while ago since that proposal.
      Best wishes

  2. I’ve a liking for Yeats’ poetry though I am most impressed by The Second Coming, a very different poem to this and no doubt less musical. If you ever attempted that, Charlotte, your imagination would be taking you somewhere far from romantic.

    1. Oo Heck, I’m tempted to go and check the poem out.
      All my best

  3. Like so many poems inspired by lost love, “Down By The Sally Gardens” is wonderful. I love the song. The photos of you by the water’s edge under the willow tree are fabulous. A perfect spot to propose. Why to go George. On a different subject, did you see Resa’s an my collaboration called “All Day and All Night Through? Resa wrote and sang the parody lyrics.

    1. I did Timothy, loved it. I don’t know how Resa is coping with all that din through the night, but it is fabulous she got her drawing pencils you sent to her.
      All my best wishes

      1. Oh good. I’m happy you saw it and liked. It’s really hard. We lived with a year of 24/7 construction on a new Metro stop about 100 feet from our apartment when we lived in Madrid, Spain. It was horrible. I really feel for Resa.

      2. I didn’t think they built near to homes after 10pm at night and before 7am

      3. That may be for private construction. Public infrastructure projects like metro and major sewer replacements are obviously exempt if rules like that exist.

  4. Whew! Thank goodness you said “yes”!
    What a beautiful song! I never get enough of your voice!
    Charlotte, as always, I love it when you present some history and tie it in with the music. I learn a lot here.

    To let you know, I made the post with Lala in it. It’s lots of fun, and I did a promo bit for your and George’s album.
    I hope you like the post! One thing for sure, I get better at drawing the Gowntoons (thanks for that name) characters the more I draw them!
    Thank you for being Lala!! ❦ 🎼❦

    1. Oh my goodness, what a fabulous post. I love the picture of ‘Lala’ my brother’s childhood name for me when he couldn’t say Charlotte I will send him the post. I took a quick glance and now I’m going to really study all the fabulous detail. It’s wonderful Timothy sorted this out for you. We really appreciate you sharing our album thank you so much.
      All my very best wishes Resa,
      Charlotte 😘

  5. I sang this for a voice recital many years ago, and it has always stayed with me. I think i mentioned it being a favorite in an earlier post.. Your engagement story was very sweet, such a great memory to have. All the best.

    1. I got told off once for singing ‘She Walked Through the Fair’ in a vocal competition the adjudicator said the song was for male voice and marked me down but I love that song and this one, I see myself more as a storyteller when singing folksongs. Glad its one of your favourites John.
      Best wishes

    1. Thank you Gwen, he was very romantic, we’ve just been told this week that weddings can’t go ahead as planned for the next four weeks, mine is re-booked for the 4th time to 28th August it is very stressful. I’ve had to go and fill the paperwork out twice as the first set lapsed. Re-booking everything takes so much time and now the lovely make up woman I booked can’t make it so I’ve had to find someone new.
      This time we will go ahead with only thirty if necessary and no dancing or singing, but I’m a bit concerned about whether George’s family will be able to make it. On the positive side both of us have had our first vax jabs and I read they are hoping all over 18’s will be vaccinated by the end of next week.

      Best wishes

      1. Oh Charlotte, you must be pulling your hair out. I’m so sorry for you, but I think you are doing the right thing to just go and do it! After all, you wish to be married, and that is the important thing. One of the nicest weddings I ever attended was forty people at a lunch, after the morning ceremony at a naval base with a harpist playing the guests and bride into the chapel.

    1. Thank you, and for sending me your new link. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we do get out of this wedding lock down mid-July, I’m feeling quite stressed about it.

      Best wishes

  6. Lovely post all around, Charlotte – your story, photos, and music. My daughter’s 1st year wedding anniversary is this Wednesday, but they married via Zoom as I told you last year. It was beautiful and we were happy, but we’re still waiting for the right time to have a “real” celebration. They had been together for awhile which is why they didn’t want to wait. But I think the “real” celebration may happen around their 2nd anniversary! Anyway, your proposal story is poetic, and I wish you both all the best. 💕

    1. Thank you Lauren, I remembered she went ahead with her wedding, there is part of me that wished I had too because I’ve had to re-book everything four times now. We get our hopes up to have them dashed. This time we will go ahead with only thirty if needs be.

      Best wishes and happy anniversary to your daughter.

      1. Everyone has to do what is right for them, so you’re doing that. 🙂 We’re still waiting for the time for a big celebration, which right now, we’re tentatively planning around their 2nd anniversary. 🙂 These are crazy times, but you and George have entertained with your beautiful music, and as long as we’re healthy, that’s what matters, right? Anyway, take good care. xo

    1. Thank you Don, we are hoping our wedding can go ahead at the end of August keep your fingers crossed for us. Our Prime Minister has just delayed opening up until Mid-July eek.
      Best wishes

  7. I have caught up with you again, Charlotte, and thoroughly enjoyed the history and music. The story of George’s proposal to you under the willow tree was beautiful, too! Wishing you both the best!

    1. I love to explore new places with local experts, we did that once as a family in Malta made things so interesting especially as my little brother Tom is such an history buff. Glad it triggered a happy memory for you and I hope you are well.

      Best wishes

    1. A working tour in Scotland, fingers crossed it goes ahead, not into Europe though sadly.

      1. That would be nice. Never been to Scotland. Nuch to my dismay. Actually only know London in the UK. Reasonably well. But never seemed to have the time to push any further. I need to spend six months in the UK at least.

      2. Do make a visit. I can recommend so many beautiful places from Oxford to Stratford upon Avon, Chester to York, Durham to Edinburgh, Glasgow and up to the Highlands.

      3. Oh, absolutely. I’d love to rent a car (stay on your left) and just drive from here to there. Oxford I hear is very nice. (Most of my English mates “read” at Oxford).

  8. I love the way you research your work and find all those interesting extra dimensions – it really makes a difference!
    [Cardiff Singer of the World happiness at the moment].

    1. Thank you Hilary, I will watch it on catch up, my vocal repertoire coach at the Royal College of Music is the pianist for the competition, Simon Lepper. I miss my lessons with him he is very knowledgeable especially on song and expanded my repertoire.
      Best wishes

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