Loreena McKennitt - The bonny swans

A farmer there lived in the north country
a hey ho bonny o
And he had daughters one, two, three
The swans swim so bonny o
These daughters they walked by the river's brim
a hey ho bonny o
The eldest pushed the youngest in
The swans swim so bonny o

Oh sister, oh sister, pray lend me your hand
with a hey ho a bonny o
And I will give you house and land
the swans swim so bonny o
I'll give you neither hand nor glove
with a hey ho a bonny o
Unless you give me your own true love
the swans swim so bonny o

Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam
with a hey ho and a bonny o
Until she came to a miller's dam
the swans swim so bonny o
The miller's daughter, dressed in red
with a hey ho and a bonny o
She went for some water to make some bread
the swans swim so bonny o

Oh father, oh daddy, here swims a swan
with a hey ho and a bonny o
It's very like a gentle woman
the swans swim so bonny o

They placed her on the bank to dry
with a hey ho and a bonny o
There came a harper passing by
the swans swim so bonny o

He made harp pins of her fingers fair
with a hey ho and a bonny o
He made harp strings of her golden hair
the swans swim so bonny o
He made a harp of her breast bone
with a hey ho and a bonny o
And straight it began to play alone
the swans swim so bonny o

He brought it to her father's hall
with a hey ho and a bonny o
And there was the court, assembled all
the swans swim so bonny o
He laid the harp upon a stone
with a hey ho and a bonny o
And straight it began to play lone
the swans swim so bonny o

And there does sit my father the King
with a hey ho and a bonny o
And yonder sits my mother the Queen
the swans swim so bonny o
And there does sit my brother Hugh
with a hey ho and a bonny o
And by him William, sweet and true
the swans swim so bonny o
And there does sit my false sister, Anne
with a hey ho and a bonny o
Who drowned me for the sake of a man
the swans swim so bonny o


Loreena writes in the CD booklet about this song:

October 1990 - Annaghmakerrig, Ireland ... have been striving to create the pieces and shape of The Visit. Brought various books of lyrics, poetry and other influences with me: the Unicorn Tapistries, The Golden Bough. Set some traditional lyrics to music; I am drawn to the harp motif and the essence of a fable in which a girl, drowned by her jealous sister, returns first as a swan and then is transformed into a harp ... The countryside of County Monaghan would make an ideal location for a visual interpretation, with its lakes, forests and rolling countryside.

Music by Loreena McKennitt
Lyrics traditional, arr. and adapted by Loreena McKennitt
From: The mask and mirror (1994).

A live version appears on Troubadours on the Rhine (2012).

Live versions: Live in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts (1995) and Live in Paris and Toronto (1999).

The song can also be found on The journey so far - The Best of Loreena McKennitt (2014).

 
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last modified: 25 January 2014