Saturday 16 December 2023

Good Drying Day, sung by Shannon Marie Harney

Good Drying Day

Sung by Shannon Marie Harney

Lyric and Melody by Patrick O'Sullivan

New song out there, doing nicely...

Yes, a song about Doing the Laundry...

The song will be visible and audible on every other streaming platform, in due course...

Has already turned up on Apple...

Good Drying Day


And Spotify...


And YouTube


Worth listening on a higher quality platform, if you have access - to hear the detail of the arrangement...

Note that through Musixmatch Pro I am able to slot in lyrics on the platforms that will accept lyrics, like Spotify.

Musixmatch will even have a stab at translating lyrics...


This is the French...

In tidying the lyric I left enough subtext and back story in place, I think, to satisfy those who like subtext and backstory.  Others will not notice.  

What the BBC calls 'a certain brand' of washing machine plays a little phrase from Schubert's Trout at the end of its cycle.  

It is Samsung.  

So...  We quote Schubert at the beginning of Good Drying Day...

...and the laundry is done...

Patrick O'Sullivan

December 2023

The Spirit of My Song, by Metta Victoria Fuller and Stephen C. Foster


This is the link to my YouTube recording of

The Spirit of My Song

poetry by Metta Victoria Fuller, music by Stephen C. Foster

Video link

In the weeks before Christmas, there is now a tradition that the members of UK Autoharps build an Advent Calendar - members develop and share a song, one member/one song per day, in the days leading up to Christmas.

It is a nice tradition.  It began in the days of lockdown and breakdown.

And The Spirit of My Song is my contribution, December 17, 2023...



From my point of view there are a number of sub-traditions.

It has become a tradition that my offering to the UK Autoharps Advent Calendar develops from my exploration of the song archives - specifically the archives of Stephen Foster.

The Autoharp has a special relationship with these nineteenth century 'parlour songs' - for the parlour was one of the places where the Autoharp found a niche. 

The case study is the nineteenth century 'parlour song' which escaped from the parlour and, through the Carter Family, became a 'folk song', and an Autoharp standard - Wildwood Flower/ I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets.

Stephen Foster songs are usually very Autoharp-friendly.



Often a feature of these parlour songs is their hard won 'poetic diction'.

We can take the discussion in any number of directions - one starting point is this note by the Academy of American Poets, on

But...  Search on, search on...

I see this turn to poetic diction as part of the expansion of education and printing in the late nineteenth century, especially in the USA.

With due deference to Wordsworth, it would be very odd if we defined poetry in a way that made poets use ONLY everyday language in their poems.  Poets who use heightened, elaborate language, with arcane and unusual words, are not making a mistake.  They are exploring a resource - in many cases a resource that is, through education, new to them.  They are demonstrating a developing skill.  And some human experiences ask for heightened language.



These thoughts arise from my work on...

The Spirit of My Song

poetry by Metta Victoria Fuller, music by Stephen C. Foster

This is the sheet music on the Library of Congress web site.

You can see that the LOC librarian wrote on the title page the date when the song entered the Library of Congress, 21 August 1850.

See also...

Foster's Complete Songs

In 1850 the poet, Metta Victoria Fuller, was 19 years old.

Let us see if we can find a way to treat her song with respect.



There is a Wikipedia entry on Metta Fuller

You can see that, with marriage, her full name became Metta Victoria Fuller Victor...

But that was only one of her many, many names.  She became a successful professional writer, publishing under at least a dozen names, often masculine names, some weird masculine names like 'Seeley Regester' .

So, very hard to research...

See also

Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth-Century Crime Fiction

The Mothers of the Mystery Genre

Lucy Sussex

Metta Fuller is sometimes credited with bringing the detective into American crime fiction - her Mr. Burton does seem like a nod to Dickens' Mr. Bucket.



I first came across the text of The Spirit of My Song in the sheet music of 1850.

The text is also visible on Google Books in

Poems of Sentiment and Imagination: With Dramatic and Descriptive Pieces

By Frances A. Fuller, and Metta V. Fuller

Published in 1851

Page 211


(The New York Public Library, and Google Books, have made a mistake - in attaching Metta's later married name, Victor, to both sisters...)

Metta and Frances - Frances is the older sister - describe their poems as 'the first fruit offering of young hearts...'

And say that the poems 'have before appeared through various literary mediums...'

I assume that Stephen Foster saw the text in a journal, or it might have been sent to him for consideration.

Note that Metta Fuller's text does not have a chorus.  She does top and tail the lyric with the same four lines

Tell me, have you ever met her

Met the spirit of my song?

Have her wave-like footsteps glided

Through the city's worldly throng?


Those are the first 4 lines of the poem and they are the last 4 lines.

I deduce that Stephen Foster wanted a song with a chorus.  He knew his audience.

So, the Composer decided that the first four lines of the song would become the Chorus - and that is set out in the sheet music.

As ever the Melody has two parts, Melody A on the first 4 lines of the 8 line stanza, Melody B on the second 4 lines.

The repeats of those 4 lines as Chorus with Melody A, and the structure of the song, are Composer decisions.

We respect the decisions of the Poet and the Composer.  So, we get those 4 lines a total of 8 times, once in stanza 1, once in stanza 6, and in the 6 choruses.

And in stanza 6, where those 4 lines are the last lines of the poem, we sing the same 4 lines first on Melody B and then, back into the Chorus, on Melody A.

This is hard.



Now, let me introduce another sub-tradition.  It turns out that my work for the UK Autoharps Advent Calendar becomes an investigation of the state of my health as the winter progresses...

There is a video from a previous year where you can see me, lashed to the microphone, determined to stay upright and give a performance.

This year, 2023...  Turns out I was having a slow motion health crisis.  I was ill throughout October - merely a Very Bad Cold.  Merely...  I lost October.

November was spent recovering and apologising.

I asked for extra time from the organisers of the Advent Calendar project - my thanks to Helen Slade and the other Autoharpers who stepped in to help.

In the video you can hear how ill I was.  We have left in some fluffs and spoonerisms.  We had to - there were so many.  Only sometimes do I hit that high note.

Have we invented the Raku Ware approach to the music video? - where the blemish is part of the process, and a part of the beauty?  Nah.



I wanted the video and the performance to keep the Autoharp-friendly nature of Stephen Foster' setting.  And to respect the text.

This young Poet is pushing Poetic Diction.  Hard.  You have to take this on its own terms, and enjoy its effects.

There are some splendid effects - eyes that 'magnificently flash'.

So...  what is the song about?  What did Stephen Foster hear?  Who is the Spirit of Metta Fuller's song?

At one level, it must be a song about our Muse - the bringer of inspiration.  Perhaps Euterpe, the Muse of Music and Lyric Poetry, often shown carrying a flute, or Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance and Choral Song, with her lyre.

And in Metta Fuller's poem the Spirit has a lyre, and tries to teach Metta how to play the lyre.

But Metta Fuller's Spirit can be clearly seen, and met, walking through the crowds.  The text follows the Sprit into the home, into the parlour.  Where she brings inspiration, yes - and comfort and education.

I think that Metta Fuller is writing about her older sister, Frances.

So there it is - my contribution to the UK Autoharps Advent Calendar 2023.

But is this a Christmas Song?

Again, following Dickens – Christmas is when we see Spirits, and learn from them.


Patrick O'Sullivan

December 2023


Saturday 25 February 2023

Shannon Marie Harney sings The Border...

Shannon Marie Harney sings The Border...

We have released a new recording of the O'Sullivan/Edwards song, The Border.

The setting, the melody, is by Sue Edwards - who is well known to the autoharp community, of course.

And it is a very autoharp friendly melody - chords are G C D.  We have added a little Middle 8 section, Chords Em C G D.

Sue took a lyric of mine from my song lyric book, Love Death and Whiskey, pages 44-45, and set it.  I have always really liked this setting, and its embrace of repetition.  The patterns of repetition in the lyric interweave with the patterns of repetition in the melody.  Highlighting different phrases - different words and different melodic phrases.  It is the kind of repetition you would exploit in a song lyric, but not in a poem.  Very much the whole being greater than the sum.

The singer is Shannon Marie Harney.  I have said that my stuff is not a typical part of Shannon Marie's repertoire.  And, at first, she sang this song almost in rock chick mode - which I liked, and might have been happy with.

But we gave Shannon Marie her studio time - the song asserted itself, and took its own direction. 

I hope Sue Edwards is happy with the result.

The obvious links are pasted in below - but the song can be found wherever you look for your music...

I have also pasted in the Chordify link, so that you can see the pattern of the chords.  And the Google Books link to the song lyric book.

My thanks to Sue Edwards, to Shannon Marie Harney, and to Danny Yates, City Sound Studios.




Provided to YouTube by CDBaby

The Border · Shannon Marie Harney

 ℗ 2023 Patrick Joseph O'Sullivan, Sue Edwards

 Released on: 2023-02-22

Auto-generated by YouTube.









Chordify, Shannon Marie Harney, The Border


Love Death and Whiskey - 40 Songs

By Patrick O'Sullivan · 2010

Patrick O'Sullivan

February 2023

Sunday 22 January 2023

Irish Diaspora Studies and... The Male


Irish Diaspora Studies and...

Versions of this message have appeared on various platforms, in connection with other parts of my lives...

This version is a compact tidy - I hope it is coherent...

One starting point might be an aside at the end of my Introduction to Volume 4 of The Irish World Wide, p15...

O’Sullivan, P. (1995) ‘Introduction: Irish Women and Irish Migration’, in O’Sullivan, P. (ed.) Irish Women and Irish Migration. London & Washington: Leicester University Press (The Irish World Wide), pp. 1–22.


'Yet you cannot deconstruct only one half of the dyad, woman/man. If I

can imagine a volume on Irish Women and Irish Migration quite other than

the one you have in your hands, I can equally well imagine a volume on

Irish Men and Irish Migration which would be the companion to this one.

That volume would bring into Irish Studies and Irish Migration Studies the

critical study of men and masculinities.  Certainly we now need studies of

Irish migration which give the variable of gender its proper due.'


So...  That thought has been in the back of my everchanging mind, as we have tracked Irish Diaspora Studies throughout the intervening years...

We can begin with two songs.  A drinking song.  And a temperance song.

As a little music project, before Christmas 2022, we did two Stephen Foster songs:  one a drinking song, and the other a temperance song...

There are notes here and here...

And little videos here and here...

Video link

Video link

Yes, I am not in good voice...  It is winter.

The drinking song, 'When the bowl goes round...', music by Stephen Foster, lyric by George Cooper, uses a strange phrase in the chorus,  'jolly fellows'.

'We'll all be jolly fellows'.  It felt like there was more to know...

I have now found a book by Richard Stott...

Stott, R. (2009) Jolly Fellows: Male Milieus in Nineteenth-Century America. Johns Hopkins University Press (Gender Relations in the America).

...which is a study, page 1, of 

'a distinctive male comportment that consisted of not just fighting but also heavy drinking, gambling and playing pranks. Men who engaged in such behavior were called “jolly fellows.” Although the jolly fellows were a subset of the male population, whenever men, especially young men, gathered in milieus that were all male or where women were rare, such conduct could occur. Such behavior was tolerated, even condoned, by men who were not themselves drinkers, fighters, or gamblers...'

Richard Stott does not seem to have been aware of this particular Stephen Foster song when he wrote his book, and picked its title.  It seems that Stephen Foster and George Cooper, writing in the 1860s, found that phrase, 'jolly fellows', still there in the ether.  And maybe by then - Richard Stott, the cultural historian, suggests - the age of the 'jolly fellows' was over...  He maps the development of a 'civilizing process' (Norbert Elias) that will, eventually, lead to Prohibition.  A drinking song, followed by a temperance song.

I find myself putting the, 'jolly fellows', from this Foster drinking song, alongside the 'boon companions' of 'Comrades, fill no glass...', the second Foster song I prepared for Christmas 2022.

The point for Irish Diaspora Studies is that Richard Stott has absorbed, seamlessly, the research and comment on Irish male violence into his study of nineteenth century American male violence - male violence, accepted, useful, controlled, directed?  There they are, the references we would expect, Carolyn Conley, “The Agreeable Recreation of Fighting,”, Patrick O’Donnell, Irish Faction Fighters of the Nineteenth Century,  William Carleton, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry.  Edward “Ned” Harrigan and Mulligan's Guards.  And so on...

In turn, Richard Stott's book should take its place alongside all those other studies of the Irish male, and the Irish-American...

It is worth searching for Richard Stott's book - because I found it Open Access.  It is readily available.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University

January 2022