Flowers in May

In Brief

"Welcome as the flowers in May" is a traditional expression, and also the title of a song published by Boston songwriter Dan J. Sullivan in 1902. It seems possible either that Kevin Egan is welcoming Stephen with these words, or that Stephen is thinking of the song as Egan welcomes him, or both.

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The original version of this sentimental ballad consisted of two stanzas and a chorus, one stanza of which can be heard in the 1905 recording at right. (The harmony voice, regrettably, overwhelms the melody line.) The lyrics below are reproduced from a copy of the Jos. W. Stern & Co. sheet music held in the Library of Congress.

Last night I dreamed a sweet, sweet dream;
I thought I saw my home, sweet home,
And oh! how grand it all did seem,
I made a vow no more to roam.
By the dear old village church I strolled,
While the bell in the steeple sadly tolled
I saw my daddy old and gray,
I heard my dear old mother say;

(Chorus)

You're as welcome as the flowers in May,
And we love you in the same old way;
We've been waiting for you day by day,
You're as welcome as the flowers in May.

I dreamed I saw my sweetheart Bess,
And once again we pledged our love;
I listened to her low sweet "yes,"
The moon was shining from above;
Then we talked of happy days of yore,
And the day that I left my home heartsore;
My thoughts are many miles away,
I long to hear my sweetheart say;

(Chorus)

The song has enjoyed popularity both in Ireland and in the U.S., where it became a staple of country music. At some point the country version underwent significant changes: the stanzas were shortened by two lines, two additional stanzas were added (at least they are not present in the older sheet music I have been able to locate), and the melody was altered. Many Irish performers have sung this version, as in the performance at right by Mick Foster and Tony Allen, two Irish artists from County Kildare and County Westmeath respectively.

Might Joyce have alluded to this song, in part, because of the low sweet "Yes" (changed to "voice" in the country version) that the singer has received from his sweetheart?

JH 2016