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
Let me just put this out there: Mary Dillon is one of my very favorite singers. So when I learned last year she was performing live again and that her new CD North was on its way, I was ecstatic.
Mary is a two-time All Ireland singing champion and former member of one of the greatest Irish traditional groups of the ’90s, Déanta. For the past fifteen years, however, Mary has put her focus on her family life, appearing only occasionally as a background singer on a few recordings.
Mary was kind enough to give SOTI a few minutes of her time and to talk about the new CD, her new group, and singing in general.
One of the great songs in the Irish tradition. A big song in only three verses. It commemorates the scores of Irish soldiers who have died in the service of other countries, particularly in the French army. According to one mudcast.org poster,
The tune is thought to be a variant of “An Caiptín Ó Catháin” composed by Toirbheallach Ó Cearbhalláin [Turlach O’Carolan] and the words are thought to have been composed by the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell.
I got the following version of the words from Frank Harte.I completely adore Niamh Parsons‘ version, and here she is singing it live in the Basque country.
The Wounded Hussar
Alone to the banks of the dark rolling Danube,
Fair Adelaide roamed when the battle was o’er.
“Oh where then” she cried, “have you wandered my true love?
Or where do you wither and bleed on the shore?”
She travelled a while the tears her eyes flooding,
Through the dead and the dying she walked near and far,
Till she found by the river all bleeding and dying,
By the light of the moon her poor wounded hussar.
From his bosom that heaved, the last torrent was streaming,
And pale was his visage deep marked with a scar,
And dimmed were the eyes once expressively beaming,
That had melted in love or had kindled in war.
How sad was poor Adelaide’s heart at the sight,
how bitterly she wept for the victim of war.
“Have you come then” he cried, “this last sorrowful night for,
To cheer the lone heart of your wounded hussar?”
“Thou shalt live then” she cried, “heaven’s mercy relieving,
Each anguishing wound shall forbid me to mourn.”
“Oh no then” he cried, “for my life is fast fading,
And no light of the morn shall to Henry return.”
“Thou charmer of life ever tender and true,
Take my love to my babes that await me afar.”
Then his faltering tongue could scarce bid her adieu when,
He died in her arms, her poor wounded hussar.