Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya (also known as Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye or Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye ), is a traditional Irish songdenouncing the atrocities of war.

History

Originally called Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye , the song dates from the early xix th century when Irish troops were sent to help British soldiers in India , particularly to ensure the safety of commercial activities of the English East India Company .

Lyrics

There are many variations, more or less long, of this song. The storyline tells the story of a soldier from Kildare County sent to Sri Lanka . Upon his return, his wife deplores her mutilations, including the loss of her eyes and legs.

 

Original lyrics Approximate translation
Along the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo On the way to Athy , (ter)
Along the road to sweet Athy, hurroo, hurroo
Along the road to sweet Athy
A stick in my hand and a drop in me eye A stick in his hand, and a tear in his eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry, I heard a young woman cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye. “Johnny, I barely knew you.”
With your guns and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo (ter) With your drums and cannons, cannons and drums (ter)
The enemy almost slew ye The enemy has almost killed you
Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer Oh my dear, you look so (miserable / weird)
Johnny I hardly knew ye. Johnny, I hardly knew you.
Where are the eyes that looked so mild, (ter) Where are your eyes, which seemed so charming to me (ter)
When my heart you so beguiled When you have delighted my heart
Why did you scadaddle me and the child? Why did you run away from me and from our child?
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye. Johnny, I hardly knew you.
Where are your legacy that used to run (ter) Where are your legs that took you (ter)
When you went to carry a gun When did you run to take up arms?
Indeed your dancing days are done (Our) dances of yesteryear are well finished
Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye. Johnny, I hardly knew you.
I’m happy for you I’m happy to see you at home (ter)
All from the island of Sulloon Back from Ceylon
So low in the flesh, so high in the bone If emaciated, all in bone
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye. Johnny, I hardly knew you.
Do not have an arm, do not have a leg (ter) You no longer have arms or legs (ter)
Ye’re an armless, boneless, chickenless egg You are an empty shell, without arms, without bones
Ye’ll have to put a bowl out to beg You’ll have to go out and beg with a bowl
Oh Johnny I hardly knew ye. Johnny, I hardly knew you.
They’re rolling out the guns again (ter) And now they come out the cannons (ter)
But they’ll never take my sounds again But they will never take my sons
No they’ll never take my sounds again No, they will never take my sons
Johnny I’m swearing to you. Johnny, I swear to you.

Reversals

The melody of this song was taken up again in the song When Johnny Comes Marching Home , with a much more heroic theme, dating from the Civil War in the United States. It is more likely this second song that popularized the air.

The song melody Ghost rider in the sky is also very similar in this respect.

The band The Clash has resumed the melody in English Civil War , on his album Give ‘Em Enough Rope released in 1979.

In 1984, the band Bérurier noir also resumes the melody in the album Macadam Massacre , under the title Johnny returns from the war (instrumental).

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya was reinterpreted by the group Dropkick Murphys on the album The Meanest Of Times published in 2007 .

In 2012, Damien Saez resumes the melody for his Skateboard title from the album Messina (Damien Saez’s album)

The melody of this song can also be heard in the song Of Treasure by the metal pirate band Alestorm , on the album Captain Morgan’s Revenge (2008), and in the song Out in the Fields by Gary Moore , published on album Run for Cover (1985).