Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Folk Song for April 2025: When You And I Were Young, Maggie

“When You And I Were Young, Maggie” (sometimes called simply “Maggie”) sounds like it might be an old Irish or Scottish ballad, but it was actually written by a Canadian schoolteacher and poet, George Washington Johnson, for his sweetheart Margaret “Maggie” Clark, in 1864. They married that year, and the poem was published in Johnson’s book Maple Leaves. Sadly, however, Maggie died less than a year later. (A 2017 article in the Toronto Sun tells more of George and Maggie's story.)

An American composer named James Austin Butterfield set the poem to music, and it quickly became popular worldwide.  It was recorded as early as 1905, and has been sung  (or played) and recorded by artists as diverse as Slim Whitman, Gene Autry (check out this fun clip from the Gene Autry T.V. show), Perry Como, and Benny Goodman. There are also variations on the song: “When You And I Were Young, Maggie Blues” and “When You And I Were Young, Maggie Boogie.” 


1. I wandered today to the hill, Maggie,
To watch the scene below;
The creek and the creaking old mill, Maggie,
As we used to long ago,
The green grove is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where first the daisies sprung;
The creaking old mill is still, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.

And now we are aged and gray, Maggie,
And the trials of life nearly done;
Let us sing of the days that are gone, Maggie,
When you and I were young.
Let us sing,

2. A city so silent and lone, Maggie,
Where the young and the gay and the best,
In polished white mansions of stone, Maggie,
Have each found a place of rest,
Is built were the birds used to play, Maggie,
And join in the songs that were sung:
For we sang as gay as they, Maggie,
When you and I were young.


3. They say I am feeble with age, Maggie
My steps are less sprightly than then,
My face is a well-written page, Maggie,
But time alone was the pen.
They say we are aged and gray, Maggie,
As sprays by the white breakers flung;
But to me you’re as fair as you were, Maggie
When you and I were young.


(Source: Johnson, George W. and Butterfield, J A., "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" (1908). Historic Sheet Music Collection. 1723)


Video Links

John McDermott, with piano accompaniment. 

Foster and Allen, titled “Maggie” (vocals plus guitar and accordion, along with an interesting video)

The Alexander Brothers, also titled “Maggie” 

Anne’s pick: Donna Stewart and Ron Andrico, a.k.a Eulalie

Our helpful intro post is sure to liven up your folk song adventures.

For more information on our folk songs, and for Amazon affiliate 
links to purchase individual songs, see our AO Folk Songs page.
These affiliate links help support AmblesideOnline.

No comments:

Post a Comment