Words & Melody: Tommy Makem
Arranged: Gay Liberation Quire and Miguel Heatwole
In Ireland there is a long tradition of using poetic metaphors in political songs, originally this was done with the intention of obscuring their meaning, thereby protecting the singer from arrest, but now even contemporary songs participate in the tradition. Thus, in Tommy Makem’s Four Green Fields the ‘fine old woman’ represents Ireland and her fields the provinces of Munster, Leinster and Connacht. Her fourth green field, the northern province of Ulster remains ‘in strangers’ hands.’
“What did I have?” said the fine old woman.
“What did I have?” this proud old woman did say.
“I had four green fields, each one was a jewel,
But strangers came and tried to take them from me.
I had fine strong sons. They fought to save my jewels.
They fought and died, and that was my grief,” said she.
“Long time ago,” said the fine old woman.
“Long time ago,” this proud old woman did say.
“There was war and death: plundering, and pillage.
My children starved by mountain, valley, and sea;
And their wailing cries, they shook the very heavens!
My four green fields ran red with their blood,” said she.
“What have I now?” said the fine old woman.
“What have I now?” this proud old woman did say.
“I have four green fields, one of them ‘s in bondage:
In strangers’ hands, that tried to take it from me.
But my sons have sons and daughters filled with courage.
My fourth green field shall bloom once again,” said she.