Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

The Parting Glass

Anonymous Scottish Song

The Parting Glass is a Scottish traditional song of farewell, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. It was purportedly the most popular parting song sung in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne".

The "parting glass", or "stirrup cup", or "le coup de l'├ętrier" was the final hospitality offered to a departing guest. Once they had mounted, they were presented one final drink to fortify them for their travels.

The earliest known printed version was as a broadside in the 1770s and it first appeared in book form in Scots Songs by Herd. An early version is sometimes attributed to Sir Alexander Boswell.

The text is doubtless older than its 1770 appearance in broadside, as it was recorded in the Skene Manuscript, a collection of Scottish airs written at various dates between 1615 and 1635. It was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as "Armstrong's Goodnight", by one of the Border Reivers executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March.

The earliest known appearance of the tune today associated with this song is as a fiddle tune called "The Peacock", included in James Aird's A Selection of Scots, English, Irish and Foreign Airs in 1782.

Robert Burns referred to the air in 1786 as "Good Night, And Joy Be Wi' Ye A'." when using it to accompany his Masonic lyric "The Farewell".


Related Scottish Country Dances

Joy Be Wi' Ye

The Parting Glass - Anonymous

Of all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm e'er I've done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
To mem'ry now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile,
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own she has my heart in thrall,
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.

First verse in the Scots version

A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all

The Parting Glass Song Video

The Parting Glass Song - Information Video
The Parting Glass
Parting Glass, British, Burslem, Staffordshire, Stirrup cup, Ceramics-Pottery, c. 1780


Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original The Parting Glass article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original The Parting Glass article on Wikisource.
Image copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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