SongNotes: Young Lad of the Braided Hair

Jamie O’Reilly
Young Lad of the Braided Hair, song
Ringeleted Youth of My Love, poem

Jamie Sings Irish Songs

Love is like a crown of thorns wrapped around my heart.”

Jamie sings this Irish folksong, accompanied by Michael Smith
and Peter Swenson on guitar.

Lyrics, based on a traditional Irish poem , anonymous
Music by Michael P. Smith. Bird Avenue, ASCAP
Recorded at WFMT Levin studio
From the CD “I Know Where I’m Going”
Album copyright J. O’Reilly Productions

SongNotes by Jamie
In the early days of Michael Smith and my collaboration, we were gigging a fair amount at the Lunar Cabaret in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. A hip, happening arts incubator that drew from a cross section of local and national talent. Its curators Miki Greenberg and Beau O’Reilly encouraged new work, and offered folks like us a chance to try out material for an intimate house, without the drink-pushing M.O. of the clubs. We were set to sing St. Paddy’s Day at Lunar.
Not one to squander my good fortune as a sudden muse to a world-reknowned songwriter, I asked Michael to set a 12th century Irish poem. Its storyteller was more spritely and strong-willed than the lady-done- wrong in many of the heart-breaking ballads for which I was known. His song, with a chorus crafted for folky harmonies, and fun alliteration that rolled off the tongue, became a regular offering in shows I later did with my daughters Meg and Nia.

In 2015, when I had my first album “I Know Where I’m Going” remastered, Midnight Special host Rich Warren welcomed us in the WFMT studio to add a few songs to the original recording. This one made the cut. Peter plays a lovely solo.

Fast forward to 2024, and my browsing through the book 1000 Years of Irish Poetry. It was my Great Aunt Mame’s book, with a dedication inside: “To Mame — who is still carrying the banners of Cúchulainn.” Peggy and Ernest, 1947. On page 234 is Douglas Hyde’s translation of the updated 19th century poem.

Ringeleted Youth of My Love
Ringeleted youth of my love,
With thy locks bound loosely behind thee,
You passed by the road above,
but you never came in to find me;

Where were the harm for you
If you came for a little to see me;
Your kiss is a weakening dew
were I ever so ill or so dreamy.

If I had golden store I would make a nice little boreen
To lead straight to his door,
The door of the house of my storeen;
Hoping to God not to miss

The sound of his footfall in it.
I have waited for days I have not slept a minute

I thought, O my love! you were so–
As the moon is, or sun on a fountain.
And I thought that you were snow,
The cold snow on top of the mountain;
And I thought after that you were more.
Like God’s lamp shining of knowledge before,
And the star of knowledge behind me.

You promised me high-heeled shoes,
And satin and silk, my storeen,
And to follow me, never to lose,
Though the ocean were round us roaring
Like a bush in a gap in a wall
I am now left lonely without thee,
And this house, I grow dead of, is all
that I see around or about me.

1000 Years of Irish Poetry, edited by Kathleen Hoagland, 1947

Here are the lyrics as Michael Smith refashioned them.

Young Lad of the Braided Hair
with whom I was a while together,
You went this way last night
and you did not come to see me.
I thought it would do you no harm
If you came to see me,

And a little kiss from you
Would give me comfort in my fever.

If I had wealth or money in my pocket,
I’d have me a shortcut made to order
Down to your door. Hoping to God to hear
the sweet sound of your shoe.
Never sleepin’ without hope of a little kiss from you

Love is like a crown of thorns
Wrapped around my heart.
Love is like a hawthorn in the heather.
And I’m waitin’ round my mother’s house
All morning, noon and night
For the one with whom I was a while together.

And I thought my darlin’ that you were the moon and sun.
And I thought after that, that you were snow upon the mountain.
And I thought after that you were lightening from God
Or the Pole star going before me.

You promised me silk. You promised me satin.
You promised me hoods and shoes with high heals.
And you promised after that that you would follow me swimming
But now it’s not like that. Let me tell you how it feels.

1 Comment

  1. Wonderful music! What a great combination of a superb vocalist and two incredible guitarists. This is beauty… made real.

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