"So they've left taking memories with them."

Part of the Annotated Horslips Lyrics Pages on

There's a fire that you can't see burning.
There's a voice on the wind
And it's telling who's sinned.
It belongs to the sad lonesome stranger
Who's been cheated so long
He's forgotten the song.
And you can't see his eyes or his longing-
A hat pulled down low
Hides the price on his soul.
There's a ship and it won't be long coming;
So when he gets on board
Just whisper, just whisper the word.

There's a different plan
Time's gonna make you a different man.
They say that there's a country where the streets are paved with gold,
Where a man can find shelter far away from the cold.
And I'm sailing out to find it before I'm too old, come summer
Come summer.

Takes a last look over his shoulder,
Sees the sun going down
Watched by no one around
So where are his friends now he needs them?
'Cos it was all they could do
To start life anew
So they've left taking memories with them.
But with those who have cared
A sweet magic, magic is shared
And its charm will always, always be with us,
Clear and sharp as a sword, So just whisper the word.

There's a different plan
Time's gonna make you a different man.
They say there's a country where the streets are paved with gold,
Where a man can find shelter far away from the cold.
And I'm sailing out to find it before I'm too old, come summer
Come summer.

Recorded On:

  1. Aliens
  2. Horslips, The Best of

Source Tune:

Tiochfaidh An Samhradh, Summer Will Come, The Summer is Coming

Recordings (Before Horslips):

  1. Old Hag You Have Killed Me, The Bothy Band
  2. The Bothy Band performing Tiochfaidh An Samhradh circa 1977,

Recordings (After Horslips):

  1. Singing from Memory, The Cassidys
  2. Aisling Bhán, Robbie McMillen
  3. Another Sky, Altan

General Notes on Source Tune:

Lyrics for Tiocfaidh an Samhradh (with translations at link)
Tiocfaidh an samhradh
Agus fásfaidh an fhear
Tiocfaidh an duilliúr ghlas
Ar bharr na gcraobh
Tiocfaidh mo rún searc
Le bánú an lae
Agus buailfidh sí tiúin suas
Le cumhaidh i mo dhiadh

Is óg's is óg a chuir mé
Dúil i ngreann
Dhéanfainn súgradh
Le mo rún ar faill
Níl baile cuain ar bith
'A ngluaisfinn ann
Nach bhfaighinn maighdean óg
Deas a thrialladh liom

Splóid ar an fharraige
Ná is í atá mór
Is í atá a gabhail idir mé
Is mo mhíle stór
D'fhag sí ar an bhaile seo mé
A déanamh bróin
Is gan aon súil lena feiceál
Arís níos mó

Scairt mé aréir
Ag an doras ann
Scairt mé arís
Ar mo rún go teann
'Sé duirt a daidí liom
Nach raibh sí ann
Ná gur ealaigh sí aréir
Leis an buachaill donn

Celtic Lyrics Corner, "Tiocfaidh An Samhradh",

General Notes on Horslips Song:

"The chorus of this driving syncopated track is written around a traditional song Tiocfaidh An Samhradh, Summer Will Come. Though it was our constant wish, alas, we toured in driving rain for most of the 70s."

Notes on Horslips, The Best of..., Edsel Records

Annotated Lyrics:

"a fire that you can't see burning"

A connecting image with "We can't see the fire but we smell the smoke." from Trouble (With a Capital T).

"a country where the streets are paved with gold"

LT - I sometimes still associate this phrase with Dick Whittington's London, only because it was a favorite childhood story (inclusion of the cat guaranteed that), and the theme of a finding a new life of prosperity and success in a new place is also there. According to Cassell's Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, Dick Whittington "makes his way to London from Gloustershire because he hears the streets are paved with gold and silver...The popular legend does not appear to have been told before 1605." Cassell's Dictionary gives an even older source for the phrase in Revelation 21:21: "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass," a description of New Jerusalem (or Heaven, as I was taught).

In the mid-nineteenth century, however, both London and Heaven were pushed aside in the popular imagination by a new destination now universally associated with the phrase.

As illustrated by John Higham in his perceptive article, "The Transformation of the Statue of Liberty," the monument (which was a gift of the French government to commemorate the American centennial) represented a French political statement; one built upon admiration of political liberty in America. That it became something other in the minds of the world is due in large part to Americans, particularly those of late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigrant origin, who saw it as the symbol of a land of liberty where the streets were paved with gold.

John J. Grabowski, "Streets Paved With Gold: Immigration and The Image of America", Journal of American Studies of Turkey, 9 (1999) : 17-32.

"I showed the first section of the animated movie, An American Tail, in which Fievel's father explains his dream of going to America - a place where there were no cats, and the streets were paved with cheese!"

Brenda A. Dyck, "And the Streets Are Paved With Gold: Using Virtual Fieldtrips in the Classroom", Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal, Volume 8, Issue 1, Winter 2005

When news of the Gold Rush reached Canton in 1848, thousands of young Chinese mortgaged their futures and boarded boats to "Gum Shan," or "Gold Mountain," as California was known.

It was a dangerous gamble, but they had little to lose: Canton (Kwangtung) province was torn by civil war, floods, droughts, typhoons and other disasters.

By 1852, 25,000 Chinese had reached Gold Mountain. The 1852 census showed 804 Chinese males and 10 females in Sacramento.

Most had to work off the cost of their passage (between $30 and $125), and few struck it rich in the gold fields. But they would transform Gold Mountain, and America.

Stephen Magagnini, "Chinese transformed 'Gold Mountain'", Gold Rush: The Series, Sacramento Bee,

"Well, I came to this country because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here I found out three things. First, the streets weren't paved with gold; second, they weren't paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them."

Old Italian Story, University at Buffalo course site, Buffalo, New York, 2000

Also Recommended: THE STREETS WERE PAVED WITH GOLD: A Journey Through The Jewish Lower East Side of New York, PART 1, a podcast from the PBS radio series, featuring Jerry Stiller, Zero Mostel and host Larry Josephson.
"its charm will always be with us"

LT - The whole second-half of the verse, beginning with "so they left taking memories with them," is perhaps the most direct statement of the album's main theme. It may not have meant to echo Sword of Light intentionally, but (to me) it does in the phrase "clear and sharp as a sword." If only because "clear" suggests translucence or illumination and is not a typical adjective for an ordinary metal sword. The core idea is that emigrants also take intangible qualities of their culture and mythology with them when they are "driven to search for a new home." But it's also true these qualities do suffer a sea-change over time, as the band themselves discovered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Also recommended: American Gods, Neil Gaiman, Harper Perennial, 2003

First Posted: October 28, 2007
Last Revised: October 30, 2007