Will You Come to the Bower is a patriotic Irish song dating back to the early 19th century.
It is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a love song but in fact, it is political rather than romantic. The author is unknown but it’s thought to have been written as a rallying call to Irish exiles across Europe and America.
Many had fled Ireland to escape British retribution following the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the Emmet Rebellion of 1803, involving the United Irishmen. Many others had to escape over the next 50 years for their part in Nationalist activities and for campaigning for Irish independence. A bower is a leafy seated area found in country gardens and often used by lovers. In this song, however, the bower refers to Ireland itself.Will You Come to the Bower tries to reach out to Irish people who find themselves exiled from their country for one reason or another. It could be because they had to escape political persecution, or it may be that they had to leave for financial reasons.
Many who left Ireland in the 19th century sailed to the United States. The song invites them to come home to Ireland to help it assert its independence. The British were clamping down on nationalist activities so the phrase “will you come to the bower” acts like a kind of code, urging people to return to help the fight for Irish independence without stating it openly and arousing the suspicion of the authorities.
The lyrics tug at the heart strings of the exiles, reminding them of the beauty of “Erin the green”. It also appeals to their patriotism for the “land of our fathers”. It then further fans the nationalist flames by mentioning great Irish heroes like Brian Boru, who drove out the Vikings, and Owen Roe who fought successful battles against the British.
The O’Neills and the O’Donnells were prominent Irish clans. O’Connell probably refers to Daniel O’Connell who was a prominent Irish political leader in the first half of the 19th century.
Will You Come to the Bower is still performed on the folk circuit and has been recorded by several major artists including The Dubliners, Shane MacGowan and the Popes, and Andy Irvine of Planxty.