Bob Dylan never recorded the Parting Glass but, as he did with many traditional Irish songs.
He reworked both the words and the melody to create a song of his own.
The history of the Parting Glass
The song has been sung in Ireland since at least the early 18th century.
It shares its melody with another old Irish song called Sweet Cootehill Town, which also tells of departure as the singer prepares to leave for America.
The first official reference to The Parting Glass is in a printed broadsheet from 1770 but it is certainly much older than that.
The Parting Glass may have a dual Irish and Scottish heritage as there is a version of it in a collection of Scottish songs published in the Skene Manuscript in the mid 17th century.
A version of the song was also popular in Scotland
The song was also popular in Scotland which provides us with the first known written reference to at least some of the lyrics.
They were quoted in a farewell letter by a man call Armstrong, who was a reiver – a kind of raider-outlaw along the English and Scottish border. He was executed in 1605 for the murder of a Scottish noble. A portion of the first stanza is very similar to lines in the opening stanza of the Parting Glass.
This night is my departing night,
For here I must no longer stay;
There’s neither friend no foe of mine
That wishes me away.
What I have done through lack of wit,
I never, never can recall;
I hope you’re all my friends as yet;
Good night and joy be with you all.
Similarities to the Parting Glass
The similarity to the Parting Glass is quite striking, particularly the final four lines ending with the same refrain: Good night and joy be with you all.
This suggests that the song may have originated in Ireland or, perhaps more likely, travelled back and forth between the two countries. There was, of course, a lot of interchange between them at that time because of the Scottish settlers who were arriving in Ireland.