Niamh Parsons‘ version of The Water is Wide just might be one of my favorites. This is one of those songs that is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget it’s traditional roots. The first texts that date back to the 1600s and the song has several precursors and cousins, including O Waly, Waly. Peter Seeger is credited with bringing the song back into popular culture during the Folk Revival.
The Water is Wide
The water is wide, I can’t swim o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I
There is a ship and she sails the sea
She sails so deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I’m in
I know not how to sink or swim
There is plenty of snow on the ground in my part of the Midwest USA, so this song comes to mind. Here are two version. One from Dick Gaughan and the other from Horslips.
The original lyrics as printed in Blackwood’s Magazine, 1821, are:
- O, the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing;
- And the corn it ripens fastest when the frosts are setting in;
- And when a woman tells me that my face she’ll soon forget,
- Before we part, I wad a crown, she’s fain to follow’t yet.
- The snow it melts the soonest when the wind begins to sing;
- And the swallow skims without a thought as long as it is spring;
- But when spring goes, and winter blows, my lass, an ye’ll be fain,
- For all your pride, to follow me, were’t cross the stormy main.
- O, the snow it melts the soonest when the wind begins to sing;
- The bee that flew when summer shined, in winter cannot sting;
- I’ve seen a woman’s anger melt between the night and morn,
- And it’s surely not a harder thing to tame a woman’s scorn.
- O, never say me farewell here -no farewell I’ll receive,
- For you shall set me to the stile, and kiss and take your leave;
- But I’ll stay here till the woodcock comes, and the martlet takes his wing,
- Since the snow aye melts the soonest, lass, when the wind begins to sing.