Monday, March 08, 2010

The Water Is Wide

I am currently doing research on music that would have been sung during the 1860s, and one of the songs I found is the traditional The Water Is Wide.

When I first heard the song the performer chose only a couple of the verses, and it seemed a very haunting love ballad. But after doing more research I discovered it's actually about the loss of love, not the joy of it.

Based on a 17th century song, O Waly, Waly, the song has a couple of titles. You might know it is as There Is a Ship. There seem to be many variations to the lyrics.

I've settled on this version of the lyrics.

The Water Is Wide

The water is wide, I cannot get o’er
Neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

A ship there is and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I'm in
I know not if I sink or swim

I leaned my back against an oak
Thinking it was a trusty tree
But first it bent and then it broke
So did my love prove false to me

I reached my finger into some soft bush
Thinking the fairest flower to find
I pricked my finger to the bone
And left the fairest flower behind

Oh love be handsome and love be kind
Gay as a jewel when first it is new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like the morning dew

Must I go bound while you go free
Must I love a man who doesn't love me
Must I be born with so little art
As to love a man who'll break my heart

When cockle shells turn silver bells
Then will my love come back to me
When roses bloom in winter's gloom
Then will my love return to me

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