The Secret of Roan Inish

Cinematic transposition of the novel “Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry” by Rosalie K. Fry (1959) it tells of a blood bond between a family community of the island and the selkies. The version of the film is fairly faithful to the novel, but it transposes the story from the islands of Scotland to Ireland, both countries that still retain the same legendary tales about aquatic shapeshifters. (first part)
Trasposizione cinematografica del romanzo “Il segreto di Ron Mor Skerry” di Rosalie K. Fry (1959) si racconta di un legame di sangue tra una comunità familiare dell’isola e le selkie. La versione del film è abbastanza fedele al romanzo, ma traspone la storia dalle isole della Scozia all’Irlanda, paesi che conservano ancora le stesse storie leggendarie sui mutaforma acquatici.
(prima parte)

Selkie Song (An Mhaighdean Mhara)

The soundtrack curated by Mason Daring combines traditional pieces with compositions by the author, in particular “Selkie Song” is taken from a traditional Donegal song in Gaelic entitled “An Mhaighdean Mhara“.
La colonna sonora a cura di Mason Daring accosta brani tradizionali a composizioni dell’autore, in particolare Selkie Song è tratto da un tradizionale del Donegal dal titolo in gaelico “An Mhaighdean Mhara“.

Eileen Loughanne -Selkie Song 1994

Is cosuil gura bheath tu, No do rugadh tu an gcrann.
Ta an sneachta go freasach Fa a bhialainn ann.
Do shiuil bi deitil (1), Is do bhealain samh,
Suid thugaibh mEire chinnle (2), Is e an Eire naomh (3).
Mathairin mhilis, A duirt Maire Bhain,
Ar bharr na dtoinnti, Is ar bhruach na tra.
Mathair an bharr, Mo mhathair in ard,
Suid thugaibh mEire chinnle, Is e an Eire naomh.
Taimse tuirseach, Agus beidh go neal,
Mo bha ar a bhruinne, Is mo phadraic ban.
Ar bharr na dtoinnti, Is ar bhruach na tra,
Suid thugaibh mEire chinnle, Is e an Eire naomh.
English translation*
It seems that you have faded away
and abandoned the love of life
The snow is spread
about the mouth of the sea 
Your yellow curly hair
and your gentle mouth,
I give you Mary Kenny (2),
to swim in the Éirne (3)
“Sweet Mother” – said blonde Mary
On the crest of the waves,
And the opening of the strand
Maid of the Sea
my mother, my pride”
I give you Mary Kenny,
to swim in the Éirne
I am weary now
And soon it will be
my fair maiden
and my pale Pádraig
On the crest of the waves,
And the opening of the strand
I give you Mary Kenny,
to swim in the Éirne
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Sembra che ti strugga
e abbia perso il buon umore.
La neve si accumula
all’imboccatura del mare
i tuoi riccioli biondi
e la tua dolce boccuccia
ecco Mary Kenny
che nuota nell’oceano

“Cara Madre -grida la bionda Maria
sulla cresta delle onde
e l’imboccatura della spiaggia-
Fanciulla del mare
mia nobile madre”
ecco Mary Kenny
che nuota nell’oceano

Sono stanca 
e presto accadrà
la mia bella bambina
e il mio biondo Patrick
sulla cresta delle onde
e l’imboccatura della spiaggia
ecco Mary Kenny
che nuota nell’oceano

1) Do chúl buí daite= Your fair hair
2) la frase è una storpiatura di “Siúd chugaibh Máirí Chinidh”, Mary Cinidh= Mary Heaney or Kinney is the merrow or selkie
3) ‘s í ‘ndiaidh ‘n Éirne ‘shnámh= to swim forever in the Éirne; ) Eirne is an old word for the Atlantic [è una vecchia parola per l’Atlantico]


Tam Lin Movie 1972

Amazing movie by Roddy McDowall who in 1960’s decided to make a modern interpretation of Ballade of Tam Lin (for those times = Swinging London/trendy hippies/bohémien).
Stupefacente (in tutti i sensi) film di Roddy McDowall che negli anni 60 decide di realizzare una lettura in chiave moderna (per quei tempi= Swinging London/hippy chic/bohémien squattrinati/) della Ballata di Tam Lin. In italia il film viene distribuito con il titolo ammiccante di “Sapore di donna”.

Ava Gardner

Here is the story of Tom Lynn (a very young Ian McShane), a young man of high hopes who is seduced and enlisted as a toy boy by the “old” Michaela Cazaret (Gardner), a very rich and vicious woman who loves to surround herself with young people and entertain with them in his manor on the Scottish border. Everything is goings easy until the good Tom meets the daughter of the local vicar, and falls in love with her.
This unleashes the fury of the lady of the castle, ready to unleash her army of subjects / succubi / worshipers to prevent Tom from leaving
Is it a fantasy?
Is it a horror?
Is it a soft porn?
(translated from here)
Ecco quindi la storia di Tom Lynn (un giovanissimo Ian McShane), giovanotto di belle speranze che viene sedotto e arruolato come toy boy dalla “vecchia” Michaela Cazaret (Gardner), donna ricchissima e viziosa all’estremo, che ama circondarsi di giovani gaudenti ed intrattenersi con loro nel suo maniero sul confine scozzese. Tutto fila grossomodo scollacciatamente liscio finché il buon Tom non incontra la figlia del vicario locale, e se ne innamora.
Questo scatena la furia della signora del castello, pronta a sguinzagliare il suo esercito di sudditi/succubi/adoratori per impedire a Tom di andarsene

È un fantasy?
È un horror?
È un soft porn?
(Davide Mana tratto da qui)

What’s going on when the “dame sans merci” grow old? The young fatuous Swinging London run on its luxurious sports cars to the Scottish Border up to an ancient manor, where they spend the days just stoned (of drugs and drinks) and subjugated to the Queen; she resorts to witchcraft / magic arts to bind her today’s lover
Among them the daughter of the curate of the country, pure and innocent in her rural simplicity, dazzled by luxury and glamor, falls in love with Tom.
Della serie cosa succede quando le dame sans merci invecchiano? I sidhe (i giovani fatui della Swinging London) corrono sulle loro lussuose auto sportive verso il Border scozzese fino ad un antico maniero, dove passano le giornate strafatti (di droghe e drink) e soggiogati alla Regina che ricorre alla stregoneria/arti magiche per tener legato a sè l’amante di turno.
In mezzo a loro la figlia del curato del paese, pura e innocente nella sua semplicità campagnola, abbacinata dal lusso e dal glamour, s’innamora di Tom.

The footage of the meeting between Tam Lin and Janet on the music of the Pentangle. From the old Queen’s manor (Traquair House) and her entourage of young fatuous people, we pass to the love meeting near the river (shooting on the hills at the Ettrick river)
Gli spezzoni dell’incontro tra Tam Lin e Janet sulla musica dei Pentangle.
Dal maniero della vecchia Regina (Traquair House) e il suo entourage di giovani fatui si passa all’incontro presso il fiume  (le riprese sulle colline sono girate presso il fiume Ettrick)

Tom Lynn ( Ian McShane ) – Janet Ainsley ( Stephanie Beacham )

Ian McShane

The disturbing aspect of the film is the infernal hunting in the end, the whole situation is a reflection on the blood sacrifices (tributes) that the alfa people are willing to pay to exercise their dominion over the supernatural world. But in the movie the payment of life is a consequence of the abandonment of the Goddess / Lover, here the “mutation” of Tam Lin is interpreted as the process of detoxification from drugs (at the time the hallucinogens were the best)
Il risvolto inquietante del film è la caccia infernale nel finale, e tutta la situazione è una riflessione sui sacrifici di sangue (i tributi) che le persone di potere sono disposte a pagare per esercitare il loro dominio sul mondo soprannaturale. Ma nel film il pagamento della vita è conseguente all’abbandono della Dea/Amante. In questa s’innesta la “mutazione” di Tam Lin interpretata nel film come il processo di disintossicazione dal mondo delle droghe (all’epoca andavano forte gli allucinogeni)

Pentangle —The Time Has Come 1967-1973

Oh I forbid you maidens all
That wear gold in your hair
to come or go by Carterhall
For young Tam Lin is there.
Tam Lin went awalking one bright morning
Across the hills so green
And he cared nothing for where he’d go
Nor nothing for where he’d been
And he’s passed over the little foot bridge
And down to Carterhall
With steps so wide he passes by
you’d think he owned it all
So swiftly did the waters flow
as he came down beside
And you must go and greet him there
for now’s no time to hide
Oh I forbid you maidens all
who wear gold in your hair
to come or go by Carterhall
for young Tam Lin is there
As he stood so still by the church yard wall
He spied his lady fair
and they surely knew that they must live
and love without a care
Oh pleasant is the fairy land
but an eerie tale to tell
but at the end of seven years
we pay a tithe to hell
I am so young and fair of face
I’m feared it will be myself
She had not pulled a double rose
a rose but only two
When up then started young Tam Lin
says “Think what you mean to do”
Oh Why you pull the rose, Janet
Among the groves so green?
You must not kill the bonny babe
that we got us between”
Up Spoke the queen of the fairy land
and an angry woman was she
“She’s taken away the bonniest knight
in all my company
And adieu Tam Lin, but had I known
the secrets in your mind
I would have picked out your two fine eyes
and left you beggar blind”
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
E’ proibito a tutte le fanciulle
che portano l’oro nei capelli (1)
di venire o andare a Carterhaugh
che il giovane Tam Lin vi dimora!
Tam Lin andò a passeggiare un bel mattino
per le verdi colline
senza pensieri su dove andare
o di dove sarebbe stato
E oltrepassò il piccolo ponticello 
e giù verso Carterhaugh
incedeva con il passo del padrone
e avresti pensato che lo fosse per davvero
Il fiume scorreva rapido
mentr’egli scendeva il pendio
e tu devi andare e incontrarlo là
perchè non c’è tempo di nascondersi
E’ proibito a tutte le fanciulle
che portano l’oro nei capelli 
di venire o andare a Carterhaugh
che il giovane Tam Lin vi dimora!
Mentre stava immobile accanto al muro della chiesa/ osservava la sua bella dama
ed essi seppero per certo che avrebbero dovuto vivere senza paura d’amarsi
Bella è la terra delle fate,
ma una storia strana a dirsi (2)
è che alla fine di sette anni
si paga un tributo all’inferno
e io sono giovane e si bell’aspetto
e temo che toccherà a me
Aveva appena colto una rosa
una rosa soltanto
quando il giovane Tam Lin apparve
e dice: “Pensa a cosa vuoi fare”
Oh perchè cogli la rosa, Janet
tra i boschetti verdi?
Non devi uccidere il bel bimbo 
che abbiamo fatto”
A voce alta parlò la Regina della Terra Incantata/ e con rabbia
“Lei si è portata via il più bel cavaliere
di tutta la mia schiera
E addio Tam Lin, se avessi conosciuto
i tuoi pensieri più nascosti
ti avrei cavato i begli occhi
e lasciato a mendicare cieco”

1) Nel Medioevo era costume per le ragazze da marito portare dei fermagli d’oro (o retine dorate, cerchietti) nei capelli; il menestrello quindi si rivolge alle fanciulle vergini per avvertirle di non avventurarsi nel bosco di Carterhaugh perché è abitato da un elfo
2) Qui è citato, molto cristianamente, il tributo (la decima) che le fate devono versare al diavolo, un’allusione ai sacrifici umani che si credeva facessero i pagani alle divinità boschive! Si spiegano così, in un ottica cristiana, i rapimenti fatati: l’amore della dame sans merci porta dritto all’inferno!

Joanna Barnum
The Devil’s Widow 1970 The Ballad of Tam Lin

“What women really want” /“King Henry”

The centuries go by, but the big questions and the answers are still the same, so in the film directed by Nancy Meyers “What Women Want” (2000) it is revisited in a contemporary key the story of the medieval ballad  entitled “King Henry“.
[Passano i secoli ma le grandi domande e le risposte restano sempre le stesse, così nel film diretto da Nancy Meyers “What Women Want” (in italiano “Quello che le donne vogliono”) (2000) si rivisita in chiave contemporanea la storia della ballata medievale intitolata “King Henry”:]

This ballad to ask the question and give the answer, however, recalls the language of the fairy tale and so re-elaborates the story of “Beauty and the Beast“: it is King Henry who agrees to sleep next to a monstrous woman and she will transform in a beautiful lady.
In the ballad the magic is accomplished because the man submits completely to the will of a woman, and here is the answer to the question
“What do women want?”
-The power on men!
[La ballata medievale per porre la domanda e darsi la risposta ricorre tuttavia al linguaggio della fiaba e così rielabora al femminile la storia di “Bella e la Bestia”: è re Enrico ad accettare di dormire accanto ad una donna dall’aspetto mostruoso che si trasformerà in una bellissima fanciulla.
Nella ballata la magia si compie perchè l’uomo si sottomette completamente al volere della donna, ed ecco la risposta alla domanda
“Cosa vogliono le donne? “
Il potere sugli uomini!]
A similar story can be found in the scandinavian saga of Hrólfr Kraki and in the Celtic tale of Diarmuid and the daughter of the King of the Otherworld, while in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle the narration depicts a typically courteous and arturian context. Later also Chaucer claims the story in his novel “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” (Canterbury’s Tale)
[Un racconto analogo lo ritroviamo nella saga norrena di Hrólfr Kraki e nel racconto celtico di Diarmuid e la figlia del Re di Altrove, mentre nelle Nozze di Messer Galvano e Madamigella Raganella (The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle) la narrazione si cala in un contesto tipicamente cortese e arturiano. Più tardi anche Chaucer inserisce la storia nella sua novella “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”]

The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
[Messer Galvano e Madamigella Raganella]

King Arthur, chaising a deer, encounters Sir Gromer heavily armed and angry with him because he dared to give the lands belonging to his family to Sir Gawain. Instead of killing Arthur, Gromer subjects him with an enigma “What is the most desired thing for all women?” Arthur will have a year to find the answer and saving his own life.
[Artù nell’inseguire un grosso cervo s’imbatte in Messer Gromer armato di tutto punto e arrabbiato con il re perchè aveva avuto l’ardire di donare le terre appartenute alla sua famiglia a Messer Galvano. Gromer  invece di uccidere  Artù gli sottopone un enigma “Qual’è la cosa più desiderata da tutte le donne?” Artù avrà tempo un anno per trovare la risposta e avere salva la vita.]
The year passes and Arthur has many answers but none seems the right one, when he meets Dame Ragnelle, a woman horribly ugly and deformed, willing to solve the enigma only in exchange for the wedding with Sir Gawain, the most beautiful knight of the Realm.
[Passa l’anno e Artù ha tante risposte ma nessuna gli sembra quella giusta quando incontra Madamigella Raganella, una donna orribilmente brutta e deforme, disposta a risolvere l’enigma solo in cambio delle nozze con Messer Galvano, il più bel cavaliere del Reame.]
Gawain agrees to marry Ragnelle and all the courtiers are horrified by the ugliness and the voracity of the bride during the banquet. When it comes time to go to bed Ragnelle asks for a kiss and as soon as they kiss, the loathly dame turns into the most beautiful lady. Perplexed and dazed Sir Gawain asks her “Who are you?” and the lady answers “I am your loving bride”  But this isn’t over: Ragnelle explains she is the victim of a spell and she can keep her beautyful appearance only for half a day, it is up to her husband to decide if he prefers her beauty at night (in his bed) or her beauty during the day (for the all court ). And Gawain answers “You decide” and breaks the spell forever.
[Galvano accetta di sposarsi con Raganella e alle nozze sfarzose partecipa tutta la corte. Tutti inorridirono davanti alla sua bruttezza e alla voracità della sposina durante il banchetto. Arrivato il momento di andare a letto Raganella chiede un bacio e non appena si baciano la megera più brutta si trasforma nella più bella delle belle.  Perplesso e frastornato Galvano chiede “Chi siete” e la fanciulla risponde “Sono la vostra amorevole sposa”. Ma non finisce qui: Raganella spiega che essendo vittima di un incantesimo può mantenere il suo aspetto solo per metà giornata, spetta al marito decidere se la preferisce bella di notte (nel suo letto) o bella di giorno (davanti a tutta la corte). Ed ecco Galvano che risponde “Decidi tu” e spezza per sempre il maleficio.]

The answer to the riddle that only Ragnelle (that is, the woman made grotesque by the fear of men) knows: it is the women autonomy or the sovereignty of their lives. But since the male and female principles are interrelated, they depend on each other, so Ragnelle’s self-determination depends on Ragnelle’s relationship with Gawain.
As we can see the answer is not exactly the same as before, the autonomy and self-determination of the women does not necessarily mean that they have power over men, not as the patriarchal society has exercised male power over women.
[La risposta all’enigma che solo Raganella  (cioè la donna resa grottesca dalla paura degli uomini) conosce è: l’autonomia o la sovranità della propria vita. Ma poichè il principio maschile e quello femminile sono correlati tra loro, dipendono uno dall’altro, così l’autodeterminazione di Raganella dipende dal rapporto di Raganella con Galvano.
Come si vede la risposta non è esattamente la stessa data in precedenza, l’autonomia e l’autodeterminazione della danna non vuol dire necessariamente avere il potere sugli uomini, non come fino ad ora la società patriarcale ha esercitato il potere sulle donne.]

King Henry

Child #32

Professor Child reports only one version of this ballad from a late eighteenth-century transcription (Jamieson-Brown MS) classifying it to the number 32; it follows a Celtic tale collected by John Francis Campbell in “Popular Tales of the West Highlands” titled “The Daughter Of King Under-Waves “: story goes that at the time of the Fianna a wild woman went on a winter’s night to ask the most talented warriors to welcome her in their bed, but both Finn and Oisin cast out her, only Diarmuid welcomed her , first next to the fire and then allowing her to get under the covers with him. The woman turned out to be a beautiful girl who gave him a sumptuous palace stocked with servants and every good. It is obviously a fairy creature and the story goes on with the return to Otherword kingdom of the beautiful girl, her illness and her healing always because of Diarmuid who, however, will lose at the same time the love he felt for the fairy. (see)
[Il professor Child riporta una sola versione di questa ballata da una trascrizione tardo settecentesca (JamiesonBrown MS) classificandola al numero 32,  la quale ricalca un racconto celtico collezionato da John Francis Campbell in “Popular Tales of the West Highlands” dal titolo “The Daughter Of King Under-Waves”: si narra che ai tempi dei Fianna una donna  selvaggia andasse in una notte d’inverno a chiedere ai più valenti guerrieri di accoglierla nel loro giaciglio, eppure sia Finn che Oisin la scacciarono, solo Diarmuid l’accolse, prima facendole spazio accanto al fuoco e poi permettendole di entrare sotto le coperte con lui. La donna si rivelò essere una bellissima fanciulla che gli dona un sontuoso palazzo rifornito di servi e di ogni bene. Si tratta ovviamente di una creatura fatata e la storia prosegue con il ritorno ad Altrove della bella fanciulla, la sua malattia e la guarigione sempre a causa di  Diarmuid il quale però perderà nel contempo l’amore che sentiva per la fata. (vedi storia)]

So the ballad at first describes King Henry hunting in the woods and then feasting in his castle, when a ugly shrew comes in demanding to be fed with his hounds, his goshawk and his faithful horse; then she claims to sleep with Henry in his bed! Henry fulfils all her requests witout avoid that “kiss” (clearly in the dark of the night they did not just go to sleep) but in the morning the sun bathes the room and Henry, in his bed, sees a beautiful lady.
[Così la ballata descrive prima re Enrico che è andato a caccia nel bosco, poi riunito con la sua corte a banchettare quando irrompe nella sala una orribile megera, brutta come la fame, che esige di essere sfamata con gli animali da caccia nonchè animali d’affezione di un cavaliere (i suoi segugi, l’astore e il fedele cavallo) e pretende di dormire nel letto di Enrico con lui sdraiato al suo fianco, Enrico soddisfa tutte le richieste della dama arrivando anche al fatidico bacio (chiaramente nel buio della notte non si sono limitati a dormire) ma al mattino il sole inonda la stanza e al suo fianco nel letto Enrico vede una bellissima fanciulla.]

If on the one hand the ballad fits into the group of fairy encounters (with a troll or witch as in Her Mannelig) it is undeniable its connection with the Captain Wedderburn’s courtship: the woman subjects her knight to a series of impossible requests / tasks that are in fact some riddles to be solved.
[Se da una parte la ballata s’inserisce nel gruppo degli incontri fatati (con una trolla o strega come in Her Mannelig) è innegabile il suo collegamento con la Captain Wedderburn’s courtship: la donna sottopone il suo cavaliere a una serie di richieste/compiti impossibili che si trattano in realtà di enigmi da risolvere.]

The ballad has known a certain disclosure in the folk revival circuits with the version of Steeleye Span
[La ballata ha conosciuto una certa divulgazione nei circuiti del folk revival con la versione degli Steeleye Span]

Steeleye Span in Below the Salt 1972 (which recorded it again in 2002 on the occasion of their reunion tour) [che la registrano ancora nel 2002 in occasione del loro tour di reunion]

Martin Carthy, a former member of the Steeleye Span, also took up the ballad a few years later, but combined it with a melody (Bonaparte’s Retreat) which he thought was best matched with the verses
[Martin Carthy ex membro degli Steeleye Span ha ripreso anch’egli la ballata qualche anno più tardi abbinandola però a una melodia (Bonaparte’s Retreat) che secondo lui meglio si abbinava ai versi]

Let’s listen in a version of the Cloudstreet (2002)
[Ascoltiamola in una versione dei Cloudstreet
  del 2002 ]

Heather Alexander

The Furrow Collective in At Our Next Meeting 2014

Emily Portman commented in their sleeve notes: “A tale of bewitchment and metamorphosis with a moral to men that appearances can be deceptive and they shall reap great rewards if they give women what they want! I came across King Henry in Bronson’s The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads and, feeling like the first person to unearth such a gem in hundreds of years, I set about collating my own text, adapting the melody from Mrs Brown of Aberdeenshire.”
[Emily Portman ha commentato nelle note di copertina: “Una storia di incantesimi e metamorfosi con una morale per gli uomini che le apparenze possono essere ingannevoli e raccoglieranno grandi ricompense se daranno alle donne quello che vogliono! Ho conosciuto King Henry in The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads di Bronson e, sentendomi come se fossi la prima persona a portare alla luce una simile gemma dopo centinaia di anni, ho iniziato a mettere insieme il mio testo, adattando la melodia della signora Brown di Aberdeenshire. “]

Let never a man a-wooing (1) wend
That lacks these virtues three:
A routh of gold, an open heart,
A cup of charity.
King Henry’s taken him (2) to his hall
For to make burly cheer,
When loud the wind was heard to sound
An earthquake rocked the floor.
And darkness covered all the hall
Where they sat at their meat.
The greyhounds, yowling, left their food
And crept to Henry’s feet.
And louder howled the rising wind,
Burst the fastened door.
In there came a grisly ghost (3),
Stood stamping on the floor.
Her hair was hanging at her heels,
Streaming with the rain.
She said, “It has been seven long years
Since I felt fires flame.”
Her teeth were like the tether stakes (4),
Hideous was her form (5).
He’s thrown to her his mantle,
Saying, “Lady, come into the warm.”
“Some meat, some meat, King Henry,
Some meat you give to me!”
“Oh, what meat’s in this house, Lady,
That I can give to thee?”
“Oh, you can kill your good greyhounds
And bring them here to me!”
Oh, when he slew his good greyhounds
How his heart was sore.
She ate them up, both skin and bone,
Left nothing but hide and hair.
“More meat, more meat, King Henry,
More meat you give to me!”
“Oh, what meat’s in this house, Lady,
That I can give to thee?”
“Oh, you can kill your gay goshawk
And bring it here to me!”
Oh, when he slew his gay goshawk
How his heart was sore.
She ate it up, both skin and bone,
Left nothing but feathers there.
“More meat, more meat, King Henry,
More meat you give to me!”
“Oh, what meat’s in this house, Lady,
That I can give to thee?”
“Oh, you can kill your berry-brown steed
And bring it here to me!”
Oh, when he slew his berry-brown steed
How his heart was sore.
She ate it up, both skin and bone,
Left nothing but hide and hair.
“Now a drink, a drink, King Henry,
A drink you give to me!”
“Oh, what drink’s in this house, Lady,
That I can give to thee?”
“Oh, sew you up your horse’s hide
And bring a drink to me!”
So he sewed up the bloody hide,
A wine he has put in.
She drank it up all in one sip,
Ne’er a drop left in the skin.
“Now a bed, a bed, King Henry,
Now make for me a bed!
Pull from the heather so green
And over with your mantle spread.”
So he has pulled of the heather green,
Made for her a bed,
He’s taken his mantle gold,
And over he has spread.
“Now take off your clothes, King Henry,
And lie down by my side!”
“That I forbid,” King Henry said,
“That ever the like betide!
That ever a fiend from out of hell
Should lie down by my side!”
But as he spoke a bloody tear
Trickled from her eye,
Softer grew King Henry’s heart
And down he went with her side.
When night was gone and day was come
And the sun shone through the hall,
The fairest lady that ever was seen
Lay between him and the wall (6).
“Oh well is me,” says Henry,
How long will this vision last? (7)”
And up and spoke the lady fair,
“Till all your days are past.”
“For I was witched to a ghastly shape
By my step-mother’s skill
Till I should meet with a corteous knight
That gave me all I will.”
“And I’ve met many’s the gentle man
That’s given me such fill,
But never before with such a man
Who’s given me all I will.”

Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Che mai uomo vi corteggi
Che manchi di queste tre virtù:
Profusione d’oro, buon cuore,
Abbondanza di compassione.
Re Enrico lo portò nel suo castello
Per fare una gran baldoria
Mentre forte ululava il vento
E il terremoto squassava il pavimento
E l’oscurità copriva la sala
Dove si sedevano per il banchetto
I levrieri, mugolando, lasciarono gli avanzi
E strisciarono ai piedi di Enrico.
E più forte ululò la raffica del vento
Rompendo la porta chiusa.
Entrò un’anima dannata
Stava impalata sul pavimento
I capelli lunghi fino ai piedi
Gocciolavano di pioggia
e disse “Sono passati sette lunghi anni
Da quando sento il fuoco delle fiamme”
I suoi denti come rastrelliere
Orribile di forma.
Egli la coprì con il mantello
Dicendo “Madama venite dentro al caldo”
“Della carne, della carne, Re Enrico
Datemi da mangiare carne!”
“Oh quale carne in questa casa, madama,
Vi posso dare?”
“Potete uccidere i vostri buon levrieri
E portarli qui da me”
Oh quando lui uccise i suoi buon levrieri
Aveva il cuore addolorato.
Lei se li divorò, con la pelle e le ossa,
lasciando solo pelle e peli.
“Altra carne, altra carne, Re Enrico
Datemi altra carne da mangiare!”
“Oh quale carne in questa casa, madama,
vi posso dare?”
“Potete uccidere il vostro bell’astore
E portatelo qui da me”
Oh quando lui uccise il suo bell’astore
Aveva il cuore addolorato.
Lei se lo divorò, con la pelle e le ossa,
lasciando solo le penne.
“Altra carne, altra carne, Re Enrico
Datemi altra carne da mangiare!”
“Oh quale carne in questa casa, madama,
Vi posso dare?”
“Potete uccidere il vostro destriero morello
E portatelo qui da me”
Oh quando lui uccise il suo destriero morello
Aveva il cuore addolorato.
Lei se lo divorò, con la pelle e le ossa,
lasciando solo pelle e criniera.
“Ed ora da bere, da bere, Re Enrico,
datemi da bere!”
“Oh che bevanda in questa casa, Madama
Posso offrirvi?”
“Oh cucite la pelle del vostro cavallo
e portatemi da bere”
“Così egli cucì la pelle insanguinando
Il vino che ci mise dentro.
Lei lo bevve tutto in un sorso,
E nemmeno una goccia lasciò sulla pelle.
“Ora il letto, il letto, Re Enrico,
Ora preparate per me il letto”
Prendete dell’erica verde
E stendete il vostro mantello”
Così lui raccolse la verde erica
e le fece il letto,
Prese il suo mantello dorato
E sopra lo stese.
“Ora toglietevi i vestiti, Re Enrico
e coricatevi al mio fianco!”
“Questo lo proibisco -Re Enrico disse
“Che mai accada una cosa simile!
Che mai un demone dell’Inferno
Potrà giacermi accanto!”
Ma mentre lui parlava una lacrima di sangue
Spuntò dagli occhi di lei
Si addolcì il cuore di Re Enrico
E accanto a lei si stese
Passò la notte e venne il giorno
E il sole brillò nella stanza
La donna più bella mai vista
Giaceva tra lui e il muro.
“Oh beato me – Enrico dice-
Per quanto durerà questa visione?”
E così parlò la bella dama
“Finchè tutti i tuoi giorni saranno trascorsi
Perchè fui stregata in forma spaventosa
Dall’arte della mia matrigna
Fino a quando non avessi incontrato un cavaliere cortese
Che mi avrebbe dato tutto ciò che voglio.
E ho conosciuto più di un gentiluomo
Che mi ha dato della soddisfazione,
Ma mai prima d’ora un uomo simile
Che mi ha dato tutto ciò che voglio”

1) the first stanza puts the ballad inside the warning song and warns us that the following is a love courtship, a teaching on marital relations [la prima strofa colloca la ballata all’interno delle warning song e ci avvisa che cioè che segue è una schermaglia amorosa, un insegnamento sui rapporti coniugali]
2) probable mistake: the king was first hunting so him is the prey for the banquet; in reality, the game just killed usually was not consumed immediately, but left to hang in the cool place for a week [probabile refuso il re è stato prima a caccia e porta le prede al castello per il banchetto; in realtà la selvaggina appena uccisa non veniva consumata subito, ma lasciata frollare al fresco per una settimana]
3) here ghost means a damned soul, not exactly an incorporeal creature or a revenant and in fact in the next stanza she said “It has been seven long years
Since I felt fires flame.”
[qui s’intende un’anima dannata, non esattamente una creatura incorporea o un revenant e infatti nella strofa successiva dice che ha trascorso sette anni all’Inferno]
4) tether stake: the upright post in a stall to which a cow is fastened
5) more than describing an old one she is a wild and grotesque creature. In the Arthurian story, the name itself recalls in the features of the face a frog: low and receding forehead, large eyes and out of the orbits wide mouth without lips and toothless, stubby limbs and bent shoulders.[più che descrivere una vecchia si tratta di una creatura selvatica e grottesca. Nel racconto arturiano il nome stesso richiama nelle fattezze del viso i lineamenti di una rana, fronte bassa e sfuggente, occhi grandi e fuori dalle orbite bocca larga senza labbra e sdentata, membra tozze e spalle incurvate.]
6) in the Middle Ages the bed was an alcove in the wall more than a canopy in the middle of the room, it was the woman to sleep on the side of the wall, a sign of her submission to her husband see more [nel medioevo il letto era un alcova nel muro più che un isolato baldacchino al centro della stanza, era la donna a dormire dalla parte del muro, segno della sua sottomissione al marito continua]
7) in the Arthurian story the transformation is first temporary: the lady explains that the spell of which she is the victim allows her to have her true form only half the day and leaves to Gawain the power to decide if he wants her beauty only for himself or in front of others. Gawain leaves the decision to the lady. [nel racconto arturiano la trasformazione dapprima è temporanea: la dama spiega che l’incantesimo di cui è vittima le permette di avere la sua vera forma solo per metà del tempo e lascia a Galvano il potere di decidere se la vuole bella solo per sè oppure se la vuole bella davanti agli altri. Galvano lascia la decisione alla dama.]

Herr Heinerich

Faun translated the song into German as “Herr Heinerich” for their album Buch der Balladen [Faun traducono la canzone in tedesco con il titolo “Herr Heinerich” ]

Wenn einer um eine Fraue freit
Der braucht der Dinge drei
Ein offen Herz, ein Säcklein Gold
Und hohen Mut dabei

Herr Heinrich, er reitet im tiefen Wald
Trinkt Wasser statt kühlem Wein
Wohl sieben Meilen vor der Stadt
Denkt an die Liebste sein

Er jagt den Hirsch von Berg zu Tal
Er treibt ihn vor sich her
Hart fliegt sein heller Eschenspeer
Bringt jäh das Wild zu Fall

Er trägt die Beute in sein Haus
Sein Herz ist freudenvoll
Er setzet sich zum Mahle
Es wurde finstere Nacht

Da fängt der Hund zu heulen an
Schmiegt sich an Herr Heinrichs Knie
Es tritt ein Trollweib in den Saal
Ein graues, grausiges Ding

Elf Ellen hoch ihr Riesenrumpf
Zwei Säue breit ihr Leib
„Bedecket euch, Dame“, Herr Heinrich ruft
„Nehmt meinen Mantel als Kleid“

Die Zähne wie ein Zaun im Moos
Die Nase wie ein Baum
Kein Ding auf Erden, das ihr gleicht
Es sei denn der Höllengeist

„Schafft frisches Fleisch, Herr Heinerich
Schafft frisches Fleisch herbei“
„Sagt an, wo gibt es Fleisch im Haus
Das euch willkommen sei?“
„So schlachtet euer braunes Ross
Und bringt es her zu mir“

Er schlachtete das braune Ross
Das Herz ward ihm so schwer
Sie schlang es in ihr Maul hinein
Kein Knochen blieb zurück

„Mehr Fleisch, mehr Fleisch, Herr Heinerich
Mehr Fleisch schafft mir herbei“
„Sagt an, wo gibt es Fleisch im Haus
Das euch willkommen sei?“
„So schlachtet euern guten Hund
Und bringt ihn her zu mir“

Er schlachtete den guten Hund
Das Herz ward ihm so schwer
Sie schlang ihn in ihr Maul hinein
Kein Knochen blieb zurück

„Ein Bett, ein Bett, Herr Heinerich
Ein Bett schafft mir herbei
Ein Lager weich von Heidekraut
Soll unser Brautbett sein“

Er rupft und zupft das Heidekraut
Bereitet ein Lager fein
Er breitet seinen Mantel darauf
Die Hexe legt sich hinein

„Legt ab eure Kleider, Herr Heinerich
Und legt euch mir zur Seit“
„Gott sei davor“, Herr Heinrich spricht
„Dass jemals das geschieht
Dass ich mit einem Höllengeist
Des Nachts mein Lager teil“

Die Nacht verging, der Tag war da
Die Sonne durchs Fenster sah
Die schönste Frau im ganzen Land
Lag zwischen ihm und der Wand

„Ein guter Tag“, Herr Heinrich spricht
„O dass er doch immer so blieb“
Darauf die schöne Fraue:
„Er währt bis an euer End

Gar manchen Ritter fing ich mir
Ein jeder hat versagt
Ihr seid der erste, der mit mir schlief
Die liebe lange Nacht“

English translation *
When one courts a women,
There are three things he needs
An open heart, a little sack of gold
And a lot of courage, too
Sir Heinerich rides into the depths of the forest,/Drinks water instead of cool wine
About seven miles before the town,
He thinks of his beloved
He hunts the deer from the mountain to the valley,/He goes after it
Violently flies his ash tree spear,
Suddenly bringing the game to its fall
He carries the catch to his home,
His heart is filled with joy
He sits at the table
And the somber night falls
Then the dog starts to howl
And presses against Sir Heinerich’s knee
A troll woman walks into the room,
A gray, horrible thing
Eleven cubits high is her torso,
Two sows wide is her body
“Cover yourself, Lady”, calls out Sir Heinerich/”Take my coat by way of dress”
The teeth, a moss-covered fence
The nose, a tree
Nothing on this earth ressembles her,
She must then be the ghost of hell
“Bring some fresh meat, Sir Heinerich,
Bring some fresh meat over here”
“Tell me, where in this house is there flesh
To which you’d be welcomed?”
“Then slaughter your brown steed
And bring it here to me”
He slaughtered the brown steed,
His heart became so heavy
She threw it down her throat,
And there was not even a bone left
“More meat, more meat, Sir Heinerich
Bring some more meat over here”
“Tell me, where in this house is there flesh
To which you’d be welcomed?”
“Then slaughter your good dog
And bring it here to me”
He slaughtered the good dog,
His heart became so heavy
She threw it down her throat,
And there was not even a bone left
“A bed, a bed, Sir Heinerich,
Bring me a bed over here
A soft heather bed
Should be our wedding bed”
He plucks and pulls at the heather,
Prepares a good bed
He spreads his coat over it
And the witch lies down on it
“Remove your clothes, Sir Heinerich
And lay down by my side”
“Heaven forbid”, says Sir Heinerich
“That I would ever do such a thing,
To share my bed at night
With a ghost come from hell”
The night passed by, the day was here
Through the window, the sun saw
The most beautiful woman in this country
Lying there, between the wall and him
“What a nice day”, says Sir Heinerich
“May it forever stay that way”
To which the beautiful woman answers:
“It will stay that way until your end
I found myself many knights,
But every single one has failed
You are the only one who slept with me
Throughout the entire lovely night”
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Quando si corteggiano le donne
Occorrono tre cose:
Cuor sincero, un po’ d’oro
E anche molto coraggio.
Messer Enrico cavalca nel bosco più folto
Beve acqua invece di vino fresco
A circa sette miglia dalla città
Pensa alla sua innamorata
Caccia il cervo dal monte a valle
Lo insegue
Con forza vola la sua lancia di frassino
Facendo cadere di colpo la preda.
Trasporta la preda a casa
Con il cuore pieno di gioia
Si siede a tavola
E scende una notte oscura
Allora il cane inizia a ululare
E preme contro le ginocchia di Messer  Enrico/ Una trolla entra nella stanza/Una cosa grigia e orribile
Alto 11 cubiti il suo torso
Come due scrofe il suo corpo
“Copritevi Madama – grida Messer  Enrico
Prendete il mio mantello per vestirvi”
I denti, uno steccato ricoperto dal muschio
Il naso un albero
Niente sulla terra le assomigliava
Doveva essere uno spirito dell’Inferno
“Portate carne fresca, Messer  Enrico,
Portate un po’ di carne fresca qui”
“Ditemi, dove in questa casa c’è la carne
Che vi aggrada?”
“Macellate il vostro destriero morello
E portatelo qui da me”
Egli macellò il destriero morello
Con il cuore diventato pesante
Lei se lo ficcò in gola
E non ne rimase nemmeno un osso
“Altra carne, altra carne Messer  Enrico
Portate altra carne qui”
“Ditemi, dove in questa casa c’è la carne
Che vi aggrada?”
“Macellate il vostro buon cane
E portatelo qui da me”
Egli macellò il buon cane
Con il cuore diventato pesante
Lei se lo ficcò in gola
E non ne rimase nemmeno un osso
“Un letto, un letto Messer  Enrico
Portatemi un letto qui
Un soffice letto d’erica
Sarà il nostro letto nunziale”
Egli raccoglie e prende l’erica
Prepara un buon letto
Stende il suo mantello sopra
E la strega ci si sdraia dentro”
“Toglietevi i vestiti, Messer  Enrico
E coricatevi al mio fianco”
“Non voglia il cielo -dice Messer  Enrico-
“Che io faccia mai una cosa simile
Condividere il mio letto di notte
Con uno spirito venuto dall’Inferno”
La notte passò e venne il giorno
Dalla finestra il sole vide
La donna più bella del paese
Distesa lì, tra il muro e lui
“Che bella giornata -dice Messer  Enrico
Che possa restare così per sempre”
A cui la bellissima donna risponde
“Sarà così fino alla vostra fine
Mi sono ritrovata con molti cavalieri
Ma ognuno ha fallito
Voi siete il solo che ha dormito con me
Per un’intera notte d’amore”

* from here


Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain vs Jamie’s on the stormy sea

We find ourselves in the umpteenth case of similarity between Gaelic song and English song in which (wrongly) it is assumed that the first one is older than the second one.
So “Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A ‘Chuain” and “Jamie’s on the stormy sea” are the same song but the version in Gaelic is later than the English one that takes as a model. The author of the English version is of the American Bernard Covert who composed it for the Hutchinsons (of which he was also their agent) in 1847.
[Ci troviamo nell’ennesimo caso di somiglianza tra canzone gaelica e canzone inglese in cui si presuppone (erroneamente) che la prima sia più vecchia della seconda.
Così “Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain” e “Jamie’s on the stormy sea” sono la stessa canzone ma  la versione in gaelico è successiva a quella inglese che prende come modello. L’autore della versione inglese è dell’americano Bernard Covert che la compose per gli Hutchinsons (di cui era anche l’agente) nel 1847.]

Controversial still the opinion that the song had some Scottish origins for example Aindrias Hirt in applying his theory on the natural scale of the traditional European song does not find correspondence for this melody (see)
[Controverso ancora il parere che il canto avesse avuto delle origini scozzesi ad esempio Aindrias Hirt nell’applicare la sua teoria sulla scala naturale del canto tradizionale europeo non trova corrispondenza per questa melodia  (vedi) ]

Dr Emily McEwen-Fujita quotes “This song is thought to have originally been a Scottish pipe tune and the tune was used for an English song composed in the United States by Bernard Covert. One version of it, called, Jamie’s on the Stormy Sea, appeared in the journal of the whaling ship Euphrasia in 1849. The song crossed the Atlantic and was set to Gaelic words by Henry Whyte, who wrote under the pen-name Fionn. The Gaelic version came to Cape Breton in the St. Columba collection of Gaelic songs and used to be sung by Tommy MacDonald of the North Shore Singers. It was from Tommy’s singing that Julie Fowlis learned the song.” (from here)
[La dottoressa Emily McEwen-Fujita annota “si crede che questa canzone sia stata in origine una melodia scozzese per cornamusa, e la melodia fu utilizzata per una canzone inglese composta negli States da Bernard Covert [ndt: nel 1847]. Una sua versione, intitolata Jamie’s on the Stormy Sea, comparve nel giornale di bordo della baleniera Euphrasia nel 1849. La canzone attraversò l’Atlantico e venne trasposta in gaelico da  Henry Whyte, che scriveva con lo pseudonimo di Fionn. La versione gaelica finì a Capo Bretone nella collezione di canti gaelici di St. Columba e venne cantata da Tommy MacDonald dei North Shore Singers. E’ stato dalla versione di Tommy che Julie Fowlis imparò la canzone”]

Henry Whyte (1832–1915) known under the pseudonym Fionn was a fervent supporter of Gaelic traditions.
The pen-name of ” Fionn ” has been for many years recognised as authoritative on all subjects connected with the language, history, poetry, folk-lore, and music
of the Highlands, and the popularity which his various publications have enjoyed is best evidenced by the fact that they have either passed through more than one edition or are entirely out of print. His ” Celtic Lyre ” is, without doubt, the most popular collection of Gaelic song and music ever published, and his ” Martial Music of the Clans ” dealt exhaustively with a subject which has not hitherto been adequately treated by any previous writer. As a translator of Gaelic poetry he has few equals, and in his ” Celtic Lyre ” and ” Celtic Garland ” he has given to English literature translations from the Gaelic, not only beautiful and faithful to the original, but with the additional merit of being singable to their native Gaelic airs. (from here)
[“Henry Whyte(1832–1915) conosciuto con lo pseudonimo di Fionn era un fervido sostenitore delle tradizioni gaeliche.
Il nome di penna Fionn è stato per molti anni riconosciuto come autorevole su tutti gli argomenti connessi con il linguaggio, la storia, poesia, folklore e musica delle Highland, e la popolarità che le sue varie pubblicazioni hanno goduto è meglio evidenziata dal fatto che sono passate per più di una edizione o sono completamente esaurite. ” Celtic Lyre ” è, senza dubbio, la più popolare collezione di canti in gaelico e musica mai pubblicati, e  ” Martial Music of the Clans ” tratta esaustivamente un argomento che non è mai stato adeguatamente trattato da un altro studioso precedente. Come traduttore di poesia in gaelico non ha eguali e in  ” Celtic Lyre ” e ” Celtic Garland ” ha dato alla letterature inglese traduzioni dal gaelico, non solo belle e aderenti all’originale, ma con il merito aggiuntivo di essere cantabili sulle rispettive melodie nate in gaelico.”

Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain

Courtney O ‘Connell Carlson

It is a song of the sea in which a girl on the evening, complains and cries for the fiance away on the sea, her song has the beauty of twilight (it seems that the girl seeks comfort in the peace and quiet of nature , while on the contrary his heart is devastated), so the melody of his song is sweet and sad at the same time. The last stanza brings joy: the man has returned to her safe and sound!
[E’ una canzone del mare in cui una fanciulla sul farsi della sera, si lamenta e piange per il fidanzato lontano sul mare, il suo canto sommesso e dolce ha la bellezza del crepuscolo (sembra che la ragazza cerchi conforto nella pace e quiete della natura, mentre al contrario il suo cuore è devastato), così la melodia del suo canto è dolce e triste nello stesso tempo. L’ultima strofa porta la gioia: l’uomo è ritornato da lei sano e salvo!]

Julie Fowlis  in “Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe” 2005
In 2012 the song was included by Disney / Pixar in the trailer of the movie “Brave” decreeing a wide popularity
In 2017 Courtney O’Connell Carlson illustrated the whole song, here is the video

[Nel 2012 il brano è stato incluso dalla Disney/Pixar nel trailer del film Ribelle- The Brave ( in inglese Brave) decretandone una vasta popolarità.
Nel 2017 Courtney O ‘Connell Carlson ha illustrato tutta la canzone ecco il video]

Feasgar ciùin an tus a’chèitein
nuair bha ‘n ialtag anns na speuran
chualaim rìbhinn òg ‘s i deurach
seinn fo sgàil nan geugan uain’.
Bha a’ghrian ‘sa chuan gu sìoladh
‘s reult cha d’éirich anns an iarmailt
nuair a sheinn an òigh gu cianail
“Tha mo ghaol air àird a’chuain”.
Thòisich dealt na h-oidhch’ ri tùirling
‘s lùb am braon gu caoin na flùrain
Shèid a’ghaoth ‘na h-oiteag chùbhraidh
beatha ‘s ùrachd do gach cluan.
Ghleus an nighneag fonn a h-òrain
sèimh is ciùin mar dhriùchd an Òg-mhìos
‘a bha an t-sèisd seo ‘g éirigh ‘n còmhnaidh
“Tha mo ghaol air àird a’chuain”.
Chiar an latha is dheàrrs ‘na reultan,
sheòl an rè measg neul nan speuran.
Shuidh an òigh, ‘bròn ga lèireadh,
‘s cha robh dèigh air tàmh no suain.
Theann mi faisg air reult nan òg-bhean
sheinn mu ‘gaol air chuan ‘bha seòladh.
O bu bhinn a caoidhrean brònach
“Tha mo ghaol air àird a’chuain”.
Rinn an ceòl le deòin mo thàladh
dlùth do rìbhinn donn nam blàth-shùil
‘s i ag ùrnaigh ris an Àrd-Rìgh
“Bìon mo ghràdh ‘th’ air àird a’chuain”.
Bha a cridh’ le gaol gu sgàineadh
nuair a ghlac me fhèin air làimh i.
“Siab o dheòir, do ghaol tha sàbhailt,
thill mi slàn bhàrr àird a’chuain”.

English translation *
On a quiet evening at the beginning of May
When the bat was in the skies
I heard a tearful young maiden
Singing beneath the shadow of the green branches
The sun was setting in the sea
And no stars yet graced the sky
When the young girl sang sorrowfully
“My love is on the high seas”
The night’s dew began to fall
Each bloom yielding softly to the droplets
The wind blew in a fragrant breeze
Bringing life and renewal to each field
The girl tunefully sang her song
Quiet and peaceful like the June dew
And this chorus constantly repeated
“My love is on the high seas”
Day darkened and the stars shone
Setting their course amongst the clouds
The maiden sat, burdened by her sadness
Her singing could not have been more soothing
I moved closer to the young woman
Singing of her love sailing on the sea
Oh sweet was her sad lament
“My love is on the high seas”
The music enticed me
Nearer to the brown-haired maiden of the warm eyes
And she prayed to the King of Heaven
“Protect my love on the high seas”
Her heart was breaking with love
When I took her by the hand
“Wipe your eyes, your love is safe
I have returned to you from the high seas”
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
In una bella sera all’inizio di Maggio
quando il pipistrello vola nei cieli
ho udito una giovane fanciulla in lacrime
cantare all’ombra delle verdi fronde
Il sole stava tramontando sul mare
e ancora nessuna stella ingentiliva il cielo
mentre la giovane fanciulla cantava tristemente:
“Il mio amore è in alto mare”
L’umidità della notte iniziava a cadere
ogni bocciolo si piegava delicatamente sotto le gocce
il vento soffiava una profumata brezza
portando vita e rinnovamento in ogni campo
La ragazza cantava la sua canzone melodiosamente
quieta  e placida come la rugiada di Giugno
il cui coro ripeteva costantemente
“Il mio amore è in alto mare”
Il giorno si fece buio e le stelle splendevano
seguendo il loro cammino tra le nuvole
la fanciulla sedeva, oppressa dal dolore
il suo canto non poteva essere più dolce
Mi sono avvicinato alla giovane
che cantava dell’amore che navigava in mare,
oh dolce era il suo triste lamento
“Il mio amore è in alto mare”
La musica mi richiamava
più vicino alla morettina dagli occhi caldi
e lei pregava al Signore del Cielo
“Proteggi il mio amore in alto mare”
Il suo cuore si stava spezzando per amore
mentre la prendevo per mano
“Asciugati gli occhi, il tuo amore è al sicuro
sono ritornato da te dall’alto mare”



Jamie’s on the stormy sea (Bernard Covert)

Bernard Covert (1805-1885)  American singer and songwriter. His career in music flourished during the 1840s and 50s, when he published many of his songs in a variety of magazines. Early in his life he lived in Franklin, New York, but later frequently worked in Albany, New York. He was best known for his temperance songs, which he sang as part of a duo with Ossian Dodge (from here)
Not only did Bernard Covert write a number of songs that the Hutchinsons performed, he also served as their advance agent in 1863 and sang with them in 1876 and probably at other times, as well. (from here)
[Bernard Covert (1805-1885) era un cantante e cantautore americano. La sua carriera nella musica fiorì negli anni ’40 e ’50, quando pubblicò molte delle sue canzoni in una varietà di riviste. All’inizio della sua vita visse a Franklin, New York, ma in seguito lavorò spesso ad Albany, New York. Era meglio conosciuto per le sue canzoni di temperanza, che cantava come parte di un duo con Ossian Dodge (tradotto da qui)
Bernard Covert non solo ha scritto un certo numero di canzoni eseguite dagli Hutchinson, ha anche prestato servizio come loro agente nel 1863 e ha cantato con loro nel 1876 e probabilmente anche in altre occasioni. (tradotto da qui)]
“Jamie’s on the stormy sea!” it was his most famous song
[“Jamie’s on the stormy sea!” fu il suo brano più famoso]
Jane Cassidy

English translation *
Ere the twilight bat was flitting,
In the sunset, at her knitting,
Sang a lonely maiden, sitting
Underneath her threshold tree;
And, ere daylight died before us,
And the vesper stars shone o’er us,
Fitful rose her tender chorus
“Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
Warmly shone the sunset glowing;
Sweetly breath’d the young flow’rs blowing;
Earth, with beauty overflowing,
Seem’d the home of love to be;
As those angel tones ascending,
With the scene and season blending,
Ever had the same low ending
“Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
Curfew bells remotely ringing,
Mingled with that sweet voice singing
And the last red ray seemed clinging
Lingeringly to tower and tree;
Nearer as I came, and nearer,
Finer rose the notes, and clearer;
Oh! ‘twas heaven itself to hear her
“Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
“Blow, ye west winds! blandly hover
O’er the bark that bears my lover;
Gently blow, and bear him over
To his own dear home and me;
For, when night winds bend the willow,
Sleep forsakes my lonely pillow,
Thinking of the foaming billow
Jamie’s on the stormy sea!”
How could I but list, but linger,
To the song, and near the singer,
Sweetly wooing heaven to bring her
Jamie from the stormy sea;
And while yet her lips did name me,
Forth I sprang – my heart o’ercame me
“Grieve no more, sweet, I am Jamie,
Home returned to love and thee!”
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Il pipistrello volava nel crepuscolo
al tramonto, lavorando a maglia
cantava una fanciulla solitaria seduta
sotto al pergolato (1)
e prima che morisse la luce del giorno dietro a noi, e le stelle della sera brillassero su di noi,
a tratti si alzava il suo canto delicato
“Jamie è sul mare in tempesta!”
Splendeva caldo il raggiante tramonto
soavemente respiravano i giovani fiori in boccio,
la terra di una bellezza traboccante
sembrava essere la casa di Amore;
mentre quelle note angeliche salivano
mescolandosi con l’atmosfera della stagione
tuttavia avevano lo stesso finale basso
“Jamie è sul mare in tempesta!”
Le campane del coprifuoco suonavano in lontananza, mescolandosi con quel dolce canto
e l’ultimo raggio rosso sembrava aggrapparsi a lungo alla torre e all’albero
mentre mi avvicinavo sempre più
belle salivano le note e più chiare,
oh era il cielo stesso ad ascoltarla
“Jamie è sul mare in tempesta!”
“Oh soffia vento dell’ovest! Librati gentile
sul legno che porta il mio amore;
soffia dolcemente e portalo
alla sua cara casa e a me;
perchè quando i venti della notte piegano il salice,
il sonno abbandona il mio cuscino
al pensiero dei marosi schiumanti
Jamie è sul mare in tempesta!”
Come potevo tuttavia elencare la canzone,
ma indugiare vicino alla cantante,
dolcemente corteggiava il paradiso per portarle
Jamie dal mare in tempesta;
E mentre ancora le sue labbra mi chiamavano,
in avanti scattai , sopraffatto dal sentimento
“Non piangere più, amore, io sono Jamie,
ritornato a casa  per amarti ”

1) ho preferito tradurre con pergolato ma threshold tree è letteralmente l’albero davanti all’uscio, in genere nelle case di campagna si stratta di un rampicante che dona ombra alla facciata e sparge il suo soave profumo.



Amhrán Na Farraige (Song of the Sea)

“Song of the Sea” (La canzone del Mare) è un film d’animazione del regista irlandese Tomm Moore uscito nel 2014 (per la Cartoon Saloon), seguito nell’anno successivo dalla versione in gaelico irlandese e distribuito nelle sale italiane solo nel 2016.
E’ la storia di Ben e della sorellina Saoirse che vivono su un isola nel Mare d’Irlanda. La loro madre era una selkie e toccherà alla sorellina nata muta a portare il fardello della sua eredità e in particolare la lotta contro Macha e i suoi gufi. (Nel film Macha è la stega-gufo madre di MacLir il dio del Mare trasformato in pietra.)
La musica del film è di Bruno Coulais e del gruppo irlandese Kila.

Moore ha scelto di narrare una storia di formazione molto più complessa di ciò che potrebbe sembrare in apparenza, numerosi sono infatti i richiami a letteratura, mitologia celtica, storia della
religione e del folklore, psicologia evolutiva, il tutto sapientemente dosato, in una narrazione delicata e per nulla banale.
La scelta più importante è quella di un’animazione 2D in stile vintage, sulla scia del grande Hayaho Miyazaki, forse il più famoso fumettista e regista di animazione giapponese, unita ad un occhio a Van Gogh e Pollock.
La poetica di Miyazaki è infatti basata sul rispetto per la natura, le memorie, il mondo onirico dei bambini e la loro purezza, “Anime eredi della memoria storica delle generazioni precedenti”, che vede con immenso affetto e che mette al centro di tutti i suoi lavori. Allo stesso modo, il pool di venti disegnatori europei, crea un mondo evocativo e fantastico, pregno di una luce umida che
avvolge il cielo e i colori di una magica Irlanda (Sarah Nussenblatt scheda del film qui)

[“Song of the Sea” is an animated film by the Irish director Tomm Moore released in 2014 (for the Cartoon Saloon), followed in the following year by the Irish Gaelic version and distributed in Italian theaters only in the 2016.
It’s the story of Ben and his mute little sister Saoirse living on an island in the Irish Sea. Their mother was a selkie and her daughter will carry the burden of her inheritance and in particular the fight against Macha and her owls. (In the film Macha is the Owl Witch, mother of MacLir, the god of the Sea turned into stone.)
The music of the film is by Bruno Coulais and the Irish group Kila]

Nella canzone si descrivono luoghi e tempi liminari, veri e propri ingressi dell’Altro Mondo e ai Miti d’Irlanda

[The song describes liminal places and times, real entrances of the Other World, recalling the myths of Ireland ]

Between the here,
between the now
between the North,
Between the South
between the West,
between the East
between the time,
between the place
From the shell
the Song of the Sea
neither quiet nor calm
searching for love again
Mo ghrá
Between the winds,
between the waves
between the sands,
between the shores
Between the stones,
between the storms
between belief,
between the seas
Tá mé i dtiúin
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Fra il qui
e l’ora
fra il nord
e il sud
fra l’ovest
e l’est
al tempo
e luogo (1)
Dalla conchiglia (2),
la canzone del mare,
per niente calma e serena,
di nuovo alla ricerca d’amore

amore mio
Fra i venti
e le onde
fra le sabbie
e le coste
Fra gli scogli
e le burrasche
fra la fede
e il mare
Sono connessa (3)

1) ho preferito tradurre con un espressione “at the proper time and place”
2) è la conchiglia che trova Seoirse nella notte di Halloween del suo sesto compleanno, la conchiglia che la madre aveva regalato a Ben custodita gelosamente nel suo armadio; nella conchiglia si sente cantare il mare e la bimba trova il mantello di foca della madre. E’ in questo momento che inizia la fiaba e la magia
3) nel senso mi sento bene, sono in sintonia

Amhrán Na Farraige

Idir ann is idir as
Idir thuaidh is idir theas
Idir thiar is idir thoir
Idir am is idir áit
Casann sí dhom
Amhrán na farraige
Suaimhneach nó ciúin
Ag cuardú go damanta
Mo ghrá
Idir gaoth is idir tonn
Idir tuilleadh is idir gann
Casann sí dhom
Amhrán na Farraige
Suaimhneach nó ciúin
Ag cuardú go damanta
Idir cósta, idir cléibh
Idir mé is idir mé féin
Tá mé i dtiúin

Between in,
between out
between the North,
Between the South
between the West,
between the East
between time,
between space
She sings to me

the Song of the Sea
quiet and calm
Searching fiercely for
my love
Between the wind,
between the wave
Between More
Between Scarce

Between coast,
between chest (1)
between me,
between myself
I am in tune
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Fra il dentro
e il fuori
fra il nord
e il sud
fra l’ovest
e l’est
tra il tempo
e lo spazio
(il mare) mi canta
la sua canzone,
calma e serena,
alla valorosa ricerca

dell’amore mio
Fra i venti
e le onde
fra il più
e il meno
Fra la costa
e il cuore
fra me
e me
Sono connessa

1) cheast nel senso di gabbia toracica e quindi “heart”

Saoirse Song


Auld Lang Syne: melodies in search of an author


Leggi in italiano

At New Year’s Eve the most widespread song in Scottish homes is Auld Lang Syne, a song sung all over the world on many occasions.
The song is accompanied by a collective ritual: in a circle we hold each other’s hands during the first verse. Then the arms must be crossed by grasping the hands of the neighbor during the last verse.

The title is composed of three terms in Scottish that mean old, long, since three words to indicate the past time, “the good old days”. This is an old song that Robert Burns says he heard from an elderly singer, Burns also states that the song had been passed down only orally. Here is the correspondence between Burns and the publisher George Thomson (1793): “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man’s singing, is enough to recommend any air”

Similar rhymes and melodies date back to 1500: in particular two, the ballad Auld Kyndnes Foryett -in Bannatyne Manuscript 1568- and the ballad attributed to the court poet Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) published in 1711 by James Watson in “Choice Collection of Scots Poems” collection; for the latter some verses are the same that are found in the Burns’ ones.
Should auld Acquaintance be forgot,
nd never thought upon,
The Flames of Love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
s thy kind Heart now grown so cold
n that Loving Breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old-long-syne?

In 1724 Allan Ramsay wrote in his “A Collection of Songs” the song entitled “Should auld acquaintance be forgot” (perhaps taken from the sixteenth-century ballad Auld Kyndnes Foryett) and the song was then published in Vol 1 of the “Scots Musical Museum” 1787, with the title “Auld Lang Syne” but the verses are light years away from those of Burns!

"O Can Ye Labor Lea" 
"For old long Gine my jo"  
(from Playford in "Original Scotch Tunes" 1700)

Johnson publishes “Auld Lang Syne” from the first version of Burns in the Scots Musical Museum, vol 5, 1796; but Robert Burns sent his writings about this song even to the publisher George Thomson, and in particular his third version. Later, Thomson learns from Stephen Clarke that Johnson already had a copy of Burns’ song and that the melody was always transcribed by Johnson in the version of Ramsay. Burns, so he replies:‘The two songs you saw in Clarke’s are neither of them worth your attention. The words of ‘Auld lang syne are good, but the music is an old air, the rudiments of the modern tune of that name. The other tune you may hear as a common Scots country dance.’ Burns 1794.

So the first melody that Robbie calls “an old air” is that published by Johnson “O Can Ye Labor Lea“, while the second melody “For old long Gine my jo” is the one in Playford.


Burns’ merit was to write a couple of verses and to modify and arrange the others. A fragment written by Robert Burns in 1793 is kept at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (see)


WhenGeorge Thomson published “Auld Lang Syne” in the “Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs”, 1799 replaced the first melody with the much more popular one in the eighteenth century called “The Miller’s Wedding” (formerly in “Scots Reels”, Bremner 1759) and commonly called ‘Sir Alexander Don’s Strathspey’ because also played by the famous violinist Niel Gow: a typically Scottish dance melody the strathspey!


George Thomson republished “Auld Lang Syne” in 1817 with a new arrangement by the Czech composer Leopold Kozeluch

Burns had already reused the same melody in two songs: “O can ye labor lea” ( “I fee’d a man at Martinmas”) and “Coming thro ‘the rye.


Lately on the web (of course only on Italian sites) in the wake of Jesse Blackadder’s novel “The Raven’s Heart”, 2011 they have spread the attribution of the melody to Davide Rizzo (or David Riccio as they called in Scotland ). The journalist and writer Renzo Rossotti (in “Assassinio in Scozia” da “Piemonte magico e misterioso”, Newton Compton Editori, 1994 see) in his “Assassinio in Scozia” reports an italian legend according to which David Riccio is the author of “Auld Lang Syne”, but this is indeed a legend.

Two old friends, meeting after many years of separation, remember the youth and toast to the old days! 

Robert Burns 1799 (George Thomson)

Dougie MacLean in Tribute– 1996
Velvety voice, pronounced seductively scottish, guitar background, a delicate arrangement

AULD LANG SYNE Robert Burns in SMM vol 5 1796 (James Johnson)

 Jim Malcolm  in Acquaintance
Velvety voice, pronounced seductively scottish, a splash of notes on the piano, guitar and violin background. The melody is slightly different as the sequence of strophes I, IV, II, III, V and the theme of the Waltz is recorded in the final played by the guitar alone

Paolo Nutini

Eddi Reader

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear(1),
For days auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For days auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes(3)
And pou’d the gowans(4) fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit(5),
Sin days auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid(6) hae roar’d,
Sin days auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp(2)
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o kindness(8) yet,
For days auld lang syne!
And there’s a hand my trusty fiere(7),
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught(8),
For days auld lang syne
1) or “jo”
2) stowp= vessel, 
3) braes= hills,
4) gowans= daisies,
5) monie a weary fit= many a weary foot,
6) braid= broad
7) fiere= friend,
8) right guid-willie waught= “cup of kindness” good toast, friendly draught, 



The song has been translated all over the world (in at least forty languages). The popularity of “Auld Lang Syne” derives most probably from its inclusion with the title “Farewell Waltz” in the film “Waterloo bridge” (1940) directed by Mervyn LeRoy, with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor. This film was the prototype of the typical Hollywood melodrama.

The famous scene of the waltz.

The Farewell Waltz version was arranged by Cedric Dumont (1916-2007) Swiss composer, author and conductor and it was translated / arranged in Italian by the authors Larici & Mauri in 1943 like danceable. At the time, the Anglo-Saxon melodies were forbidden in Italy by the war censorship, but it was enough to change the title and arrangement and here is “Il valzer delle candele”!


Tati Casoni 

Domani tu mi lascerai
e più non tornerai,
domani tutti i sogni miei
li porterai con te.
La fiamma del tuo amor
che sol per me sognai invan
è luce di candela che
già si spegne piano pian.
Una parola ancor
e dopo svanirà
un breve istante di
Ma come è triste il cuor
se nel pensare a te
ricorda i baci tuoi
che non son più per me.
Domani tu mi lascerai
e più non tornerai,
domani tutti i sogni miei
li porterai con te.
La fiamma del tuo amor
che sol per me sognai invan
è luce di candela che
già si spegne piano pian.

Nini Rosso.

The melody has finally become a new song titled “Il Canto dell’Addio” well know by all those who have been scouts, or have spent their summer in the italian colonies, or at the shelters run by priests and the like.

È l’ora dell’addio, fratelli,
è l’ora di partir;
e il canto si fa triste; è ver:
partire è un po’ morir.
Ma noi ci rivedremo ancor
ci rivedremo un dì
arrivederci allor, fratelli,
arrivederci sì.
Formiamo una catena
con le mani nelle man,
stringiamoci l’un l’altro
prima di tornar lontan.
Perché lasciarci e non sperar
di rivederci ancor?
Perché lasciarci e non serbar
questa speranza in cuor?
Se attorno a questo fuoco qui,
l’addio ci dobbiam dar;
attorno ad un sol fuoco un dì
sapremo ritornar.
Iddio che tutto vede e sa
la speme di ogni cuor;
se un giorno ci ha riuniti qui,
saprà riunirci ancor.
Ma non addio diciamo allor
che ancor ci rivedrem:
arrivederci allor, fratelli,
arrivederci insiem!
Fratello non dolerti se
la fiamma langue già:
doman la stessa fiamma ancor
fra noi risplenderà.

second part

LINK online/AuldLangSyne/default.asp?id=4

Bidh clann Ulaidh versus Song of the Exile (We will go home)

Leggi in italiano

Bidh clann Ulaidh (in English “The Clan of Ulster”) is a lullaby from the Hebrides, where the mother sleeps the baby (I imagine the baby is a female), telling her about the great wedding her family will organize when she arrives in the marriageable age. She mention the names of important Clans and also of the illustrious Irish relatives who will go to the wedding to celebrate the couple and honor the family .
Weddings between upper class families were famous events that people talked about and remembered for years, on which they wrote songs (here), in which the clan chiefs displayed their liberality and magnificence. Marriages allowed for alliances (though not always lasting) between clans and were contracts that involved the exchange of livestock, money and property, called tochers for the bride and dowry for the groom.


The melody is something magical, there is a version that outclasses – in my opinion – all the others, that of the virtuoso (as well as Scottish) Tony McManus, the “Celtic fingerstyle guitar legend”

Tony McManus live

(I suppose the melody brings something to your mind … who has not seen King Arthur’s film?)
and if we add the violin too?
Alasdair Fraser & Tony McManus

and now we add the song..

Catherine-Ann MacPhee 2014

Can Cala 2014

English translation
My love, my darling child
The Clan of Ulster(2) will be at your wedding
My love, my darling child
The Clan of Ulster will dance at your wedding
The king’s clans, the king’s clans
The king’s clans will be at your wedding
The king’s clans playing the pipes
Wine will be drunk at your wedding
Clan MacAulay(3), a lively crowd
Clan MacAulay will be at your wedding
Clan MacAulay, a lively crowd
Will dance at your wedding
Clan Donald(4), who are so special(5)
Clan Donald will be at your wedding
Clan Donald, who are so special
Will dance at your wedding
Clan MacKenzie(6) of the shining armor(7)
Clan MacKenzie will be at your wedding
Clan MacKenzie of the shining armor
Will dance at your wedding

Bidh clann(1) Ulaidh luaidh ‘s a lurain
Bidh clann Ulaidh air do bhanais
Bidh clann Ulaidh luaidh ‘s a lurain
Dèanamh an danns air do bhanais
Bidh clann a’ rìgh, bidh clann a’ rìgh
Bidh clann a’ rìgh air do bhanais
Bidh clann a’ rìgh seinn air a’ phìob
Òlar am fìon air do bhanais
Bidh Clann Amhlaidh nam feachd greannmhor
Bidh Clann Amhlaidh air do bhanais
Bidh Clann Amhlaidh nam feachd greannmhor
Dèanamh an danns air do bhanais
Bidh Clann Dhòmhnaill tha cho neònach(5)
Bidh Clann Dhòmhnaill air do bhanais
Bidh Clann Dhòmhnaill tha cho neònach
Dèanamh an danns air do bhanais
Bidh Clann Choinnich nam feachd soilleir(7)
Bidh Clann Choinnich air do bhanais
Bidh Clann Choinnich nam feachd soilleir
Dèanamh an danns air do bhanais

1) the word “clan” derives from the Scottish Gaelic “clann” = “child” to underline the strong bond of blood between the chief and the families (descendants). The clans are territorial extensions controlled by the chief who lives in an ancient castle or fortified house. Not all members of the clan are also descendants of blood, because they could also have “affiliated” to the clan in exchange for protection. At Hogmany or at the time of the election of the new chief all the respective heads of the family swore loyalty to the clan leader. The leader is a Laird, a clan leader and a legal representative of the community
2 ) in Ireland the Ard Ri, the king of kings comes from the North, from the Ulaidh, the land of the warriors and the Clan of the O’Neils always remained a prestigious clan even after the English conquest.
3) Clan MacAulay is a Scottish clan of Argyll, among the oldest in Scotland that boasted its descendants from the king of the Picts: they are located on the border between Lowland and Highland
4) the Clan Donald is one of the most numerous Scottish clans and divided into numerous subdivisions. The Lord of the Islands is traditionally a MacDonald (Hebrides)
5) also written “tha cha neonach” = “it’s no wonder”
6 )Clan MacKenzie is a Highlands clan whose coat of arms reproduces a mountain in flame and the motto says “Luceo non uro”
7) also translated as “bright clothing”


The song titled “The song of Exile” is sung by Vanora (wife of Bors) to the men of Arthur – of the people of the Sàrmati, (but in reality it is addressed to the child in his arms and therefore it is to him, but also to the warrior-husband, who sings a lullaby -anna) in the imminence of the departure for a “suicide” mission; men want to return home, they have the safe conduct that frees them from servitude in Rome, but choose to stay alongside their commander, the Roman-Briton Artorius (the plot here).

This is how Caitlin Matthews writes“I am the arranger/translator of “Song of the Exile” which appeared in the film and wasn’t recorded on the CD. Disney won’t allow me to sing or record it as they now own the copyright

These are the words sung in the film:

Land of bear and land of eagle
Land that gave us birth and blessing
Land that called us ever homewards
We will go home across the mountains
We will go home, we will go home…
When the land is there before us
We have gone home across the mountains
We have gone home, we have gone home
We have gone home singing our songs

A whispered lullaby, sweet-sad together, short but with an intense emotional charge, not included in the soundtrack CD “King Artur.” As an author there are those who thought to credit (wrongly) Hans Zimmer who actually signed the soundtrack of the film and we have seen a lot of complaints from the fans for the exclusion of the song. Hans Zimmer (here) writes “Song of the Exile” is composed and performed by Caitlin Matthews” (see more)


Land of freedom land of heroes
Land that gave us hope and memories
Hear our singing hear our longing
We will go home across the mountains
Land of sun and land of moonlight
Land that gave us joy and sorrow
Land that gave us love and laughter
We will go home across the mountains

So there’s a song (Bidh clann Ulaidh?) in Scottish Gaelic at the beginning, arranged / translated by Caitlin Matthews and an avalanche of super-charged versions have come out (and keep going out) on YouTube!



Maria van Selm


Anna Cefalo

Stephanie Hill  Norse version (here)

Belle Dame sans Merci, by John Keats in music and film

Leggi in italiano

John Melhuish Strudwick

In 1819 the English poet John Keats reworked the figure of the “Queen of Faerie” of Scottish ballads (starting with Tam Lin and True Thomas) in turn writes the ballad “La Belle Dame sans Merci”, giving rise to a theme that has become very popular among the Pre-Raphaelite painters, that of the vamp woman who has however already a consideration in the beliefs of folklore: the
Lennan or leman shee – Shide Leannan (literally fairy child) that is the fairy who seeks love between humans. The fairy, who is both a male and a female being, after having seduced a mortal abandons him to return to his world. The lover is tormented by the love lost until death.
Fairy lovers have a short but intense life. The fairy who takes a human as lover is also the muse of the artist who offers talent in exchange for a devout love, bringing the lover to madness or premature death.
The title was paraphrased from a fifteenth-century poem written by Alain Chartier (in the form of a dialogue between a rejected lover and the disdainful lady) and became the figure of a seductive woman, a dark lady incapable of feelings towards the man the which falls prey to its spell. We are in reverse of the much older theme of “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight

John William Waterhouse – La Belle Dame sans Merci (1893)


In the ballad there are two seasons, spring and winter: in spring among the meadows in bloom, the knight meets a beautiful lady, a forest creature, daughter of a fairy, who enchants him with a sweet lullaby; the knight, already hopelessly in love, puts her on the saddle of his own horse and lets himself be led docilely in the Cave of the Elves; here he is cradled by the dame, who sighs sadly, and he dreams of princes and diaphanous kings who cry out their slavery to the beautiful lady.
On awakening we are in late autumn or in winter and the knight finds himself prostrate near the shore of a lake, pale and sick, certainly dying or with no other thought than the song of the fairy.
The keys to reading the ballad are many and each perspective increases the disturbing charm of the verses

There are two pictorial images that evoke the two seasons of the heart and ballad, the first – perhaps the most famous painting – is by Sir Frank Dicksee, (dated 1902): spring takes the colors of the English countryside with the inevitable roses in the first plan; the lady has just been hoisted on the fiery steed of the knight and with her right hand firmly holding the reins, with the other hand she leans against the saddle to be able to lean towards the beautiful face of the knight and whisper a spell; the knight, in precarious balance, is totally concentrated on the face of the lady and kidnapped.

Sir Frank Dicksee La Belle Dame sans merci

The second is by Henry Meynell Rheam (painted in 1901) all in the tones of autumn, which recreates a desolate landscape wrapped in the mist, as if it were a barrier that holds the knight prostrate on the ground; while he dreams of pale and evanescent warriors (blue is a typical color to evoke the images of dreams) that warn him, the lady leaves the cave perhaps in search of other lovers.

Curiously, the armors of the two knights are very similar, but both are not really medieval and more suitable for being shown off in tournaments that on the battlefields. Elaborate and finely decorated models date back to the end of the fifteenth century.

Henry Meynell Rheam La Belle Dame sans merci

BELLE DAME SANS MERCI: a “live action short” by Hidetoshi Oneda

The ballad could not fail to inspire even today’s artists, here is a cinematic story a “live action short” directed by the Japanese Hidetoshi Oneda. The short begins with giving body to the imaginary interlocutor who asks the knight “O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms …” so we find ourselves in 1819 on an island after the shipwreck of a ship and we witness the meeting between the castaway and an old decrepit kept alive by regret ..

THE PLOT (from here) 1819. The Navigator and the Doctor survive a shipwreck only to find themselves lost in a strange forest. The Navigator is challenged by the gravely ill Doctor into pursuing his true passion – art. While he protests, the ailing Doctor dies. Later, the Navigator is beside a lake, where he finds an Old Knight who tells him his story: once, he encountered a mysterious Lady, and fell in love with her. But horrified by her true form – an immortal spirit and the ghosts of her mortal lovers – the Young Knight begged for release. Awoken and alone, he realized his failure. Thus he has waited, kept alive for centuries by his regret. The Navigator considers his own crossroads. What will he be when he returns to the world?

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Hidetoshi Oneda – 2005


The first to play the ballad was Charlse Villiers Stanford in the nineteenth century with a very dramatic arrangement for piano but a bit dated today, although popular in his day.
The ballad was put into music by different artists in the 21st century.

Susan Craig Winsberg from La Belle Dame 2008

Jesse Ferguson

Giordano Dall’Armellina from “Old Time Ballads From The British Isles” 2007

Penda’s Fen (Richard Dwyer)

Loreena McKennitt from “Lost Souls” 2018

 Ben Whishaw

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is wither’d from the lake(1),
And no birds sing.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest ‘s done.
I see a lily(2) on thy brow thy
With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.’
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful — a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild(3).
I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.
I set her on my pacing steed
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sideways would she lean, and sing
A faery’s song(4).
She found me roots of relish sweet
And honey wild and manna(5) dew,
And sure in language strange she said,
“I love thee true (6)
She took me to her elfin grot(7),
And there she wept and sigh’d fill sore(8);
And there I shut her wild, wild eyes
With kisses four.
And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dream’d — Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.
I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”
Hath thee in thrall!”
I saw their starved lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.’

1) not by chance the landscape is lacustrine, the waters of the lake are beautiful but treacherous, but it is a desolate landscape and more like the swamp
2) the lily is a symbol of death. The knight’s brow of a deadly pallor is bathed in the sweat of fever and the color of his face is as dull as a dried rose. The symptoms are those of the consumption: the always mild fever does not show signs of diminution, turns on two “roses” on the cheeks of the sick. It is also said that Keats was a toxic addict to the use of nightshade that in the analysis of Giampaolo Sasso (The secret of Keats: The ghost of the “Belle Dame sans Merci”) is represented in the Lady Without Mercy
3) the whole description of the danger of the lady is concentrated in the eyes, they are as wild but also crazy. The rider ignores the repeated signs of danger: not only the eyes but also the strange language and the food (honey wild)
4) the elven song leads the knight to slavery
5) the manna is a white and sweet substance. It is well known that those who eat the food of fairies are condemned to remain in the Other World
6) the fairy is expressed in a language incomprehensible to the knight and then in reality could have said anything but “I love you”; yet the language of the body is unequivocal, at least as far as sexual desire is concerned
7) the elf cave is the Celtic otherworldly (see more)
8) why the fairy is sorry? Would not want to annihilate the knight but can not do otherwise? Does she know that a man’s love is not eternal and that sooner or later his knight will leave her with a breaking heart? Is love inevitably destructive?


To the disquieting fascination of the ballad could not escape Angelo Branduardi the Italian Bard, the final part of the melody of each stanza takes the traditional English song “Once I had a sweetheart.”

Angelo Branduardi from La Pulce d’acqua 1977

Guarda com’è pallido
il volto che hai,
sembra tu sia fuggito dall’aldilà…
Vedo nei tuoi occhi
profondo terrore,
che bianche e gelide dita tu hai…
Guarda come stan ferme
le acque del lago
nemmeno un uccello che osi cantare…
“è stato in mezzo ai prati
che io la incontrai
e come se mi amasse lei mi guardò”.
Guarda come l’angoscia
ti arde le labbra,
sembra tu sia fuggito dall’aldilà…
“E`stato in mezzo ai prati
che io la incontrai…”
che bianche e gelide dita tu hai…

“Quando al mio fianco
lei poi si appoggiò
io l’anima le diedi ed il tempo scordai.
Quando al mio fianco
lei poi si appoggiò…”.
Che bianche e gelide dita tu hai…”
Al limite del monte
mi addormentai
fu l’ultimo mio sogno
che io allora sognai;
erano in mille e mille di più…”
Che bianche e gelide dita tu hai…”
Erano in mille
e mille di più,
con pallide labbra dicevano a me:
– Quella che anche a te
la vita rubò, è lei,
la bella dama senza pietà”.


Faun from “Buch Der Balladen” 2009.

“Was ist dein Schmerz, du armer Mann,
so bleich zu sein und so gering,
wo im verdorrten Schilf am See
kein Vogel singt?”
“Ich traf ein’ edle Frau am Rhein,
die war so so schön – ein feenhaft Bild,
ihr Haar war lang, ihr Gang war leicht,
und ihr Blick wild.Ich hob sie auf mein weißes Ross
und was ich sah, das war nur sie,
die mir zur Seit’ sich lehnt und sang
ein Feenlied.Sie führt mich in ihr Grottenhaus,
dort weinte sie und klagte sehr;
drum schloss ich ihr wild-wildes Auf’
mit Küssen vier.
Da hat sie mich in Schlaf gewiegt,
da träumte ich – die Nacht voll Leid!-,
und Schatten folgen mir seitdem
zu jeder Zeit.Sah König bleich und Königskind
todbleiche Ritter, Mann an Mann;
die schrien: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci
hält dich in Bann!”Drum muss ich hier sein und allein
und wandeln bleich und so gering,
wo im verdorrten Schilf am See
kein Vogel singt.”
English translation (from here)
“What ails you, my poor man,
that makes you pale and humbled so,
among the withered seashore reeds
where the song of no bird is heard (1)?”
“I met a noble lady on the Rhine,
so very fair was she – a fairy vision,
her hair was long, her gait was light,
and wild her stare.I lifted her on my white steed
and nothing but her could I see,
as she leant by my side and sang
a song of the fairies.She led me to her cave house
where she cried and wailed much;
so I closed her wild deer eyes (2)
with four kisses of mine.
She lulled me to sleep then,
and I dreamt a nightlong song!
and shadows follow me since
be it day or night (3).I saw a pale king and his son
knights pale as death, face to face;
who cried out: “The fair lady without mercy
has you in her spell!”Thus shall I remain here alone
to wander, pale and humbled so,
among the withered seashore reeds
where the song of no bird is heard”

1) lit “(where) no bird sings”
2) I assume it’s “Aug(en)” instead of “Auf'”
3) the original says “all the time” but I opted for (hopefully) more colorful English


Hanging Johnny : hang, boys, hang

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“Hanging Johnny” is an halyard shanty in which we talk about the hangman who hangs all those who bother him! Immediately, the scholars wanted to find a historical figure who incarnated this executioner in Jack Ketch notorious executioner in the seventeenth century London.

But for the sailors the phrase “hanging Johnny” has a whole other meaning.


In order to hoist the heavier sails, they followed a strange procedure : the younger and nimble sailors (and less paid as they were apprentices) climbed up on the masthead and, after grabbing a halyard, jumped in the air, hanging like so many hangers. As they descended, they were helped by the efforts of the remaining sailors to slowly reach the deck.
Joys explained that “hanging Johnny” did not refer to a sheriff’s hangman, but instead to nimble young sailors who, when a topsail was to be hoisted, would climb to the masthead and “swing out” on the proper halyard. They would then ride to the deck as the men at the foot of the mast brought them down by their successive pulls. Joys recalled one chanteyman who would always tell the boys when to swing out by shouting up to them, “Hang, you bastards, hang!” Then, while the boys were hanging on the halyard fifty feet or more above the deck, he’d start his song and the crew would make two pulls on each chorus. When the boys hit the deck, they would tail on behind the other men and pull with them until the work was finished.
Joys added that the word “hang” was “the best goddamn pullin’ word in the language, especially on a down haul.” Ashley said the tune was “a bit mournful, but a good one for hoisting light canvas,” noting that the words enabled the sailors to find fault, good-naturedly, with all their real and fancied enemies, “if the work lasted long enough.”
 (from “Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors” by Ivan H. Walton and Joe Grimm, 2002 here)

So on Mudcats a heated debate has opened up: “The words “Hang, boys, hang,” are used in a topsail-halliard hoist, when sweating up the yard “two blocks” where, in swaying off, the whole weight of the body is used. The sing-out, from some old shellback, usually being words such as “Hang, heavy! Hang, buttocks! Hang you sons of ——-, Hang.” After setting the topsails, we gave her the main-topgallant sail, which was all she could carry in a heavy head-sea. The decks were awash all day. “…. the chantey was sung with a jerk and a swing as only chanteys in 6/8 time can be sung. While the words were of Negro extraction, yet it was a great favorite with us and sung nearly every time the topsails were hoisted.” (from Frederick Pease Harlow, 1928, The Making of a Sailor, Dover reprint of Publication Number 17 of the Marine Research Society, Salem, MA here)

Definitely a perfect “pirate song”! I found this piece of film about the golden age of the great vessels in which the song is sung.

Oh they call me hanging Johnny.
Away, boys, away.
They says I hangs for money.
Oh hang, boys, hang.
And first I hanged my Sally
and then I hanged my granny.


Sharp publishes a set of words in which the shantyman does not himself hang people and indeed sings, I never hung nobody. Hugill is adamant (as is Terry) that no shantyman ever claimed that anyone other than himself was the hangman, and that “Sentimental verses like some collectors give were never sung – Sailor John hanged any person or thing he would think about without a qualm.” Checking these ‘some collectors’, one finds several who elect only to hang the bad guys – liars, murderers, etc. – are these the verses Hugill means by ‘sentimental’ or is he having a go at Sharp for the shantyman not being the hangman himself? Sharp’s notebooks show that he recorded from Short the same as he published. It could be that Short is self-censoring but it seems unlikely given that Short seems happy, in various other shanties, to sing text that might not be regarded as genteel (e.g. Nancy, Lucy Long, Shanadore). Short was, however, a deeply religious man and, if this is not simply an early and less developed form of the shanty, then he may have deliberately avoided casting himself as hangman – we will never know! Notwithstanding, and contrary to Hugill’s assertion, there was at least one shantyman who actually sang I never hung nobody.

Collectors’/publishers’ reactions to the shanty are curiously mixed: Bullen merely notes that “shanties whose choruses were adapted for taking two pulls in them… were exceedingly useful”, Fox-Smith that it had an “almost macabre irony which is not found in any other shanty”, and Maitland that “This is about as doleful a song as I ever heard” but, in an almost poetic description points out that “there’s a time when it comes in. For instance after a heavy blow, getting more sail on the ship. The decks are full of water and the men cannot keep their feet. The wind has gone down, but the seas are running heavy. A big comber comes over the rail; the men are washed away from the rope. If it wasn’t for the man at the end of the rope gathering in the slack as the men pull, all the work would have to be done over again.” – Horses for courses! (from here)

Tom Brown from Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor vol 1

They called me hanging Johnny,
urrhay-i-, urrhay-i-,
They called me hanging Johnny
so hang, boys, hang
They hanged me poor old father
They hanged me poor old mother
Yes they hanged me mother
Me sister and me brother
They hanged me sister Sally
They strung her up so canny
They said I handeg for money
But I never hanged nobody
Oh boys we’ll haul and hang the ship
oh haul her ropes so neat
We’ll hang him forever,
We’ll hang for better weather,
A rope, a beam, a ladder,
I’ll hang ye all together


Stan Ridgway from  Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI 2006. Masterful interpretation that transforms the shanty into a melancholy folk song

The Salts live in a jaunty version

 Stan Ridgway lyrics
They call me hanging Johnny,
yay (away )-hay-i-o
I never hanged nobody
hang, boys, hang
Well first I hanged your mother
Me sister and me brother
I’d hang to make things jolly
I’d hang all wrong and folly
A rope, a beam, a ladder,
I’ll hang ye all together
Well next I hanged me granny
I’d hang the wholly family
They call me hanging Johnny,
I never hanged nobody
Come hang, come haul together,
Come hang for finer weather,
Hang on from the yardarm
Hang the sea and buy a big farm
They call me hanging Johnny,
I never hanged nobody
I’d hang the mates and skippers,
I’d hang ‘em by their flippers
I’d hang the highway robber,
I’d hang the burglar jobber;
I’d hang a noted liar,
I’d hang a bloated friar;
They say I hung a copper,
I gave him the long dropper


Row me bullies boys row (Alan Doyle)

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The most recent version of this popular sea shanty comes from the movie “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” by Ridley Scott (2010), and was written for the occasion by Alan Doyle (front man of the Canadian band Great Big Sea), recalling the melody and the structure of the Liverpool Judies refrain, with a text that remind the typical phrases of these seafaring songs; so obviously everyone adds the verse that he likes.

russel crow crew
I’ll sing you a song, it’s a song of the sea
I’ll sing you a song if you’ll sing it with me
While the first mate is playing the captain aboard
He looks like a peacock with pistols and sword
The captain likes whiskey, the mate, he likes rum
Us sailers like both but we can’t get us none
Well farewell my love it is time for to roam
The old blue peters are calling us home

In Taberna  

Strangs and Stout

And it’s row me bully boys
We’re in a hurry boys
We got a long way to go
And we’ll sing and we’ll dance
And bid farewell to France
And it’s row me bully boys row.
I’ll sing you a song,
it’s a song of the sea
Row me bully boys row
We sailed away
in the roughest of waters
And it’s row, me bully boys, row
But now we’re returning
so lock up your daughters
And it’s row, me bully boys, row
Well farewell my love
it is time for to roam
Row me bully boys row
The old blue peters
are calling us home
And it’s row me bully boys row

Barnacle Buoys

When we set sail for Bristol
the sun was like crystal
And it’s row, me bully boys, row
We found muddier water
when passing Bridge Water
And it’s row, me bully boys row
And it’s row, me bully boys,
we’re in a hurry, boys
We’ve got a long way to go
And we’ll drink as we glance
– a last look at France
row, me bully boys, row
We sailed away
in the roughest of waters
But now we’re returning
so lock up your daughters
So we’ve been away
for many a day now
So we’ll fill out our sails
and drink all the ale now
So we’ll drink and we’ll feast
with no care in the least
And soon, as we’re craving’,
we’ll sail up to Avon
As we tied up in Bristol,
me heart was a-thumpin’
Then I found my girl Alice,
who took me a-scrumpin’

and so on!


here is the italian versione in the movie

Voga voga, voga un po’ di più (amico)

un altro po’, dove si va non lo so
Balliamo cantiamo e la Francia lasciamo
voga un altro po’ vai
Voga voga, voga un po’ di più
Voga un altro po’ dove si va non lo so
La Francia non la rivedremo giammai
Voga amico mio vai
E’ tardi oramai voi siete già nei guai
Voga amico mio vai
O voi non scherzate oppure rischiate
Voga voga un po’ di più
Ma non si può stare troppo via dal mare
Voga voga, voga un po’ di più
Partiamo di nuovo per non ritornare
Voga amico mio vai

Liverpool judies (Row bullies row)
New York
from Robin Hood (Alan Doyle)