Ballads Of Eternity
Songs from the British Isles
‘Ballads Of Eternity’ is a collection of melodic psychedelic folk ballads and songs from the British Isles recorded by The Golden Frigate.
The Moorlough Shore
’The Moorlough Shore’ is an absolutely beautiful traditional Irish love song. It first appeared in print in an 1886 broadside (now at the Bodleian Library). Some sourses credit James Devine as the author of the song. The tune is also known as ‘The Maid of Mourne Shore’, ‘Moorlough Mary’, ‘Banks of the Moorlough Shore’ and others. The song is set in Strabane (County Tyrone) and by the River Mourne, where a young man praises the beauties of the countryside and the lady he has fallen in love with. But she casts him off as she’s in love with an Irish lad who is ‘her only joy’. He is the only one she does adore and ‘seven years she will wait for him by the banks of the Moorlough Shore’.
The Weeping Willow Tree
This exceptionally beautiful and melodic song that we took from ‘Eighty English Folk Songs’ by Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles is one of many variations of another well-known song called ‘The Sweet Trinity’, ‘The Golden Vanity’ or ‘The Golden Willow Tree’ which takes its roots in an earlier ballad ‘Sir Walter Raleigh Sailing In The Lowlands’ (1635).
In traditional versions of the song the captain of a ship fears that they will be taken by a Spanish (or Turkish) enemy and one of the crew, usually a cabin boy, promises to ‘swim alongside of the Spanish enemy and sink her in the Lowland Sea’… Having offered the boy gold and silver and the hand of his daughter as a reward, the captain breaks his promise and leaves the boy in the sea waters…
In our version of the song it is not specified that the one to sink the enemy ship was a little boy. It must have been a mature sailor and upon being left to die overboard he powerfully says his final words addressed to the captain: ‘If it wasn’t for the love I have for your girl, I’d do unto you as I did unto them. I would sink you in the low-de-lands deep’.
We recorded the main stanzas of the ballad as they were in the book. The chorus of the song (the baritone part) was written by Igor Haidenko.
The Daemon Lover
(Child #243, Roud #14)
This is a 17th century ballad also known under the titles ‘The House Carpenter’ and ‘James Harris’ and according to some folk music sources is believed to be of Scottish origin.
The ballad is very mysterious and powerful particularly due to the story that the song tells.
A woman runs away with her returned lover who ‘has three ships on the ocean and three hundred and sixty sailor men’. He begs her to leave her house carpenter and go away with him and promises to take her to ‘where the grass grows green’. She agrees and they put out to sea. She very soon finds herself totally heartbroken and starts weeping for ‘the love of her darling little babe she’ll never see anymore’. In some versions of the story the returned lover is a spirit or even the Devil and these ghostly overtones could probably be felt and detected in all versions. In the end a leak springs in her lover’s boat and they ‘sink to rise no more’. In the distance the woman sees the banks of heaven, ‘as white as any snow’. However they don’t belong there, and they approach other banks, ‘as black as any crow’, which are their destination…
The main stanzas of the song were taken from Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles’ version (‘Eighty English Folk Songs’), and the woman’s lament part was written by Igor Haidenko.
Fair Margaret and Sweet William
(Child #74, Roud #253)
This is a 17th century English ballad which appeared in Thomas Percy’s ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’ in 1765 and was quoted in ‘Knight of the Burning Pestle’ in 1611. The ballad is found in a variety of interpretations and under various titles, including ‘Lady Margaret and Sweet William’, ‘Pretty Polly and Sweet William’, ‘Sweet William’s Bride’, ‘Lady Margaret’s Ghost’, ‘Fair Margaret’s Misfortune’ and ‘William and Margaret’.
The ballad tells a sad story of two lovers, Fair Margaret and Sweet William, one of whom died of a broken heart. They were buried very close to each other in the old churchyard and ‘out of her there sprung a red rose and out of him a brier. They grew so tall and they grew so high, they scarce could grow any higher; and there they tied in a true lover’s knot, the red rose and the brier…’
‘Loch Lomond’ or ‘The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomond’ is a well-known Scottish folk song and an old Jacobite air. It was first published in 1841 in Vocal Melodies of Scotland and is believed to be based on an older folk tune ‘Robin Cushie’ (McGibbons Scots Tunes Book I, dated 1742).
Loch Lomond is the largest Scottish loch located between the counties of Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire.
The song allows a variety of interpretations and most of them are connected to the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. The song is believed to have been written by a young soldier to his true love who lived by the loch. Two Jacobite soldiers were captured in Carlisle Castle after the rising.
One wrote the song, the other was released and took it back to Scotland to give it to the soldier’s sweetheart.
‘O ye’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road, an’ I’ll be in Scotland afore ye…’
The low road refers to the soldier’s impending death and the path of his spirit, whilst the high road is either the sign of hope for which he sacrificed his life, or the actual road back to Scotland over the high rugged hills. Hence, his spirit would return via the low road and be back home first, whereas his friend will have to head for the hilltops, taking longer to get back to Scotland.
The Dear Companion
This is a folk song of unrequited love, the one that we found in ‘Eighty English Folk Songs’ by Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles. It was collected from Mrs Rosie Hensley at Carmen, North Carolina. It is a beautiful love song and on the site we have a guitar version of it with slightly changed lyrics.
(Child #209, Roud#90)
‘Geordie’ is an ancient ballad existing in many variants.
‘Geordie’ is believed to be a version of the air entitled ‘God be wi’ thee, Geordie’ which appears in Straloch Manuscripts (early 17th century). It also appears in Buchan’s Ancient Ballads and Songs (1828) as ‘Gight’s Lady’.
There are many suggestions as to the identity of Geordie and the story that takes place in the song. The version that we’ve recorded is from the songbook ‘Eighty English Folk Songs’ by Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles. Geordie is taken for a crime – stealing the king’s white steeds and selling them in Virginny – and must be executed. His wife or lady saddles a horse and rides to the king’s high court to plead for his life, but her attempts are in vain as it is too late…
Folk music sources interpret the story and the identity of Geordie in various ways. One English version mentions the execution taking place in London and this might refer to the Earl of Oxford; some mention Newcastle, which may refer to George Stoole who was executed in 1610.
The Scottish variants mention a different incident of Geordie being rescued from the scaffold and this may refer to Sir George Gordon of Gight, the 4thEarl of Huntly. In some sources the hero is named George Luklie.
(Child #13, Roud #200)
This ballad is probably of English origin and is generally known under the title of ‘Edward’. It is a traditional murder ballad which exists in several variants. Our version is from ‘Eighty English Folk Songs’ by Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles. According to the authors the name ‘Edward’ does not appear in any of the versions they noted, but one singer told them that the man’s name was Edward. As known from the other versions, the conversation is between a mother and her son. He has blood on his sword and — as it turns out – has killed his brother-in-law. He then declares that he ‘will set his foot in yonders ship, sail across the sea’ and will never return home.
A very similar song called ‘Edward’ originally appeared in print in Bishop Percy’s 1765 edition of ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry’. It is believed that the ballad was an incomplete version of another longer ballad (‘The Twa Brothers’ or ‘Lizie Wan’) of which there are variations in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany.
Ten Thousand Miles
Russian lyrics by Lilia Sobko
‘Ten Thousand Miles’ is an alternative title for the song ‘The True Lover’s Farewell’, which is on our ‘Mystique Boulevard’ album. It is a beautiful 18th-century English folk ballad. The tune is said to have been popular in both England and in America. Cecil Sharp collected nine variants of this song in the Appalachian Mountains. ‘The True Lover’s Farewell’ was first published in ‘Roxburghe Ballads’ in 1710. ‘The True Lover’s farewell’ is believed to be the song from which Robert Burns took many of the lines for his ‘A Red, Red Rose’.
In this collection of songs we have a version of this ballad with the Russian lyrics written by a Ukrainian poet Lilia Sobko.
References and thanks to:
- Cecil J. Sharp and Maud Karpeles ‘Eighty English Folk Songs’ (1968)
- Cecil J. Sharp ‘One Hundred English FolksongsFor Medium Voice’ (1916, 1944)
- William Cole ‘Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales’ (1961, 1969)
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The musical sites: sinclairgenealogy.info, mainlynorfolk.info, elyrics.net
- Child = ‘The English and Scottish Popular Ballads’ edited by Francis James Child (1882-1898. Reprinted, Dover Press, New York, 1966).
- Roud = ‘Roud Folk Song Index’ compiled by Steve Roud