The Shaking Of The Sheets: a macabre dance

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Clusone, Bergamo (Italy): fresco of the Shaking of the Sheet

In the Middle Ages to exorcise the fear of death, they danced with her, the living and the keletons are depicted all in a row in an endless farandola to leave life at dance step.
The most widespread theme in the early Middle Ages, however, was the Universal Judgment, a Memento Mori (As I am, you will be) that passed to the theme of the “Triumph of Death” as Danse Macabre. In the Danse Macabre all the social categories of the time are represented, starting with the powerful and the rich bourgeois and then gradually the artisans, the peasants and the poor.
With death crowned to direct the great ball and its attendants to throw the darts (or to shoot with the rifle as in the fresco of Clusone) or to play some musical instruments. Perhaps a sort of social satire, but it was rather a reflection on vanitas (of power and wealth)

Corvus Corax “Saltatio Mortis A.D.Mm” from “Mille anni passi sunt“, 2000

Angelo Branduardi  “Ballo in fa diesis minore” from “La pulce d’acqua” 1997: if the text follows the motif of the medieval macabre dance, the music is instead a medieval tune reported by Giorgio Mainerio in his “Il primo libro dei balli accomodati per cantar et sonar d’ogni sorte de instromenti ” (1578) and it was more properly a “rain dance” here
Guest of the album, the Sardinian musician Luigi Lai, virtuoso of the “launeddas“, very ancient wind instrument (here).

Sono io la Morte, e porto corona
Io son di tutti voi signora e padrona
E così sono crudele,
così forte sono e dura
Che non mi fermeranno le tue mura
Sono io la Morte, e porto corona
Io son di tutti voi signora e padrona
E davanti alla mia falce
il capo tu dovrai chinare
E dell’oscura morte al passo andare
III (2)
Sei l’ospite d’onore del ballo che per te suoniamo
Posa la falce e danza tondo a tondo
Il giro di una danza e poi un altro ancora
E tu del tempo non sei più signora
English translation *
I am Death and wear a crown,
I am for all of you lady and mistress
and I am so cruel,
so strong and harsh
that your walls won’t stop me.
I am Death and wear a crown,
I am for all of you lady and mistress
and in front of my scythe
you’ll have to bow your head
and walk to the gloomy Death’s pace.
You are the guest of honor
at the dance we are playing for you,
put your scythe down and dance round and round
a round of dancing and then one more,
and you’ll be no longer the lady of time.

from here
1) The text partly reproduces the inscription frescoed in the macabre dance of the Pinzolo Cemetery in Val Redena
Io sont la Morte che porto corona
Sonte Signora de ognia persona
At cossi son fiera forte et dura
Che trapaso le porte et ultra le mura
Et son quela che fa tremare el mondo
Revolgendo una falze atondo atondo
Ovvio taco col mio strale
Sapienza, beleza forteza niente vale
2) men invite Death to dance so that he forget about his mission

Thomas Rowlandson – The English Dance of Death, 1815-1816


“Shaking of the Sheets” was published in 1568 in “Popular Music of the Old Time” (Chappell) (cf). In the English Dancing Master, Playford transcribed the melody, let’s hear it performed by the Baltimore Consort

The song, however, re-proposed in a folk-rock key by the Steeleye Span follows some sixteenth-century stanzas but the music was composed by Robert “Bob” Johnson and mixed with a country dance titled Black Joke (Joack) from the village of Adderbury in Oxfordshire. Black Joak was transcribed by Cecil Sharp from the bearer John Mason of Stow-on-the-Wold, a traditional melody of the Morris Dance with the sticks of the same name.

Lester Bailey

Steeleye Span (Robert “Bob” Johnson voice) from “Tempted and Tried” 1989

Faran Flad live 

Dance, dance the shaking of the sheets,
Dance, dance when you hear the piper playing,
Everyone must dance
The Shaking of the Sheets with me.
Bring away the beggar,
bring away the king,
And every man in his degree.
Bring away the oldest
and the youngest thing,
Come to death and follow me.
Bring away the merchant
who made his money in France,
And the crafty banker too,
When you hear the piper,
you and I must dance
The dance that everyone must do.
I’ll find you in the courtrooms,
I’ll find you in the schools,
When you hear the piper play.
I’ll take away the wise men,
I’ll take away the fools
And bring their bodies all to clay.
All the politicians of high and low degree,
Lords and ladies, great and small.
Don’t think that you’ll escape
and need not dance with me,
I’ll make you come when I do call.
[Chorus X 2]
It may be in the day, it may be in the night,
Prepare yourselves to dance and pray.
That when the piper plays
“The Shaking of the Sheets”
You may to Heaven dance the way.


The spread of so many depictions of macabre dances on the walls of all Europe is traced back to the passage of the great plague of 1348 which decimated the populations without knowing boundaries. Never before had Europe known such a pestilence, though devastated by war and famine: entire villages disappeared and the fields filled with weeds because there was no one left to cultivate them. The chroniclers of the time wrote “A third of the world died”.
On the other hand, a “street” liturgical drama functional to preaching and perhaps related to the “Dance of the Maccabees” (chorea machabaeorum) in which the participants danced holding hands was already widespread at the level of the Sacred Drama (Morality Play). and they were taken away one by one by disturbing characters wrapped in a sheet.

Ad mortem festinamus

oratorio dei Disciplini, Clusone (Bergamo, Italy)


La farandola is a medieval dance with a single basic step (mostly skipped), in which the row leader chooses the changes of direction, he makes and undoes just like the Norns with the thread of destiny. And therefore the farandola is the ritual dance in the celebrations of Samahin because it is the dance of death: everyone must travel the same path abandoning themselves to the will of those who lead the dance, to symbolize chained humanity that can only follow the path traced, and however a sort of collective journey through the experiences of life, towards its mysterious center. The farandola is probably the oldest dance so tied to the primitive agrarian rites: it is the dance of the labyrinth with its snail and snake figures, the dance around the fire, the sacred center of village life. Thus the labyrinth always has an exit and the dance is a dance of death and rebirth to symbolize the concept of eternal return.

Tomba delle Danzatrici, Ruvo di Puglia (Bari – Italy), V sec. a.C. – Napoli, Museo Archeologico Nazionale

The farandola is probably the oldest dance in the world dedicated to the Lady of the Labyrinth which we find in the Minoan culture of 1400 BC, a dance connected to the mysteries of fertility and described by Homer in the shield of Achilles.

carola-medioevoIn the figure (from the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti- Palazzo del Buonconsiglio, Siena – Italy) the two women leaders raised their arms in an arc to let pass below the rest of the chain (which was already drawing a sinuous serpentine movement), just a tambourine and the voice to cadence the rhythm and from the lightness with which the dancers move it would seem that they dance on tiptoe without lean their heel.

The dance has kept its legacy in Provence as the traditional dance par excellence (for every occasion).

Su ballo tondo- from Sardigna (Italy)

Ad Mortem Festinamus


River Come Down (Bamboo)

Not a traditional Caribbean song but written by Dave van Ronk who has recorded this song as ‘River Come Down’ on his 1961 Folkways album FA 2383 called ‘Van Ronk Sings Earthy Ballads And Blues’. A rewrite of “River, river she come down” by Dick Weissman. Covered by Peter, Paul & Mary, Ry Cooder (naming it ‘River Come Down Aka Bamboo‘) 
The only song I ever wrote that made me any money, and I hate it. It started out as a guitar exercise, but since I usually taught songs in those days, I needed lyrics. Vaguely remembering a piece that Dick Weissman used to do on the banjo, I carelessly flung together some nonsensical doggerel and used Dick’s chorus – “River, river she come down.” My students seemed happy enough, and that should have been that, except that Peter, Paul & Mary, who were in the process of getting their act together, took a fancy to it. Renamed ‘Bamboo,’ PP&M performed it on their first album, which sold seven trillion copies. Particularly embarrassing was the way some of the pop music critics homed in on the lyrics. I cringed when they called them ‘surrealist.’ One erudite soul (I forget who) compared them with Garcia Lorca. Fortunately, the Muzak version was an instrumental. I shared the royalties (and the chagrin) with Dick.’ (from Dave’s liner notes to The Folkways Years 1969-61)” (from here)
Non è una canzone caraibica tradizionale, ma è stata scritta da Dave van Ronk che ha registrato questa canzone come “River Come Down” nel suo album intitolato “Van Ronk Sings Earthy Ballads And Blues” (1961). Una riscrittura della”River, river she come down” di Dick Weissman. Fatta come cover anche da Peter, Paul & Mary e Ry Cooder (“River Come Down Aka Bamboo”)
L’unica canzone che abbia mai scritto che mi ha fatto guadagnare dei soldi. L’ho cominciata come un esercizio di chitarra, ma dato che in quei giorni solitamente insegnavo canzoni, avevo bisogno di testi. Ricordando vagamente un pezzo che Dick Weissman faceva sul banjo, ho sbadatamente buttato giù delle  battute senza senso e ho usato il coro di Dick – “River, river she come down”. I miei studenti sembravano abbastanza felici, e sarebbe finita lì, sennonchè è piaciuta a Peter, Paul e Mary, che stavano per suonare insieme. Intitolandola ‘Bamboo’, PP & M la eseguirono nel loro primo album, che ha venduto sette trilioni di copie. Particolarmente imbarazzante il modo in cui alcuni critici della musica pop si sono concentrati sui testi. Un’anima erudita (ho dimenticato chi) li ha paragonati a Garcia Lorca, ma fortunatamente la versione Muzak è stata strumentale. Ho condiviso i diritti d’autore (e il dispiacere) con Dick. ” (dalle note di copertina di Dave a “The Folkways Years 1969-61”)

Dick Weissman vs Dave van Ronk

The Journeymen (John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, Dick Weissman)) 1961

River oh river She come down
River oh river She come down
I (x2)
My gal’s across the river,
my gal’s across the river
My gal’s across the river,
Won’t you come over
Head on, won’t you come home
Build a raft of bamboo,
Build a raft of bamboo
Build a raft of bamboo
Float it across the river
Head on, float it across the river
Floating across the river
Floating across the river
Floating across the river
See her come over
Head on, see her come over
Will dance on the bank side
Will dance on the bank side
Will dance on the bank side
Glad you come over
Head on, glad you came over
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Fiume, oh fiume lei scende 
Fiume, oh fiume lei scende 
La mia ragazza è sul fiume
La mia ragazza è sul fiume
La mia ragazza è sul fiume
non passerai,
a testa alta verso casa?
Costruisci una zattera di bamboo,
Costruisci una zattera di bamboo,
Costruisci una zattera di bamboo,
falla galleggiare sul fiume
a testa alta, falla galleggiare sul fiume
Galleggiare sul fiume,
Galleggiare sul fiume,
Galleggiare sul fiume,
guardala passare,
a testa alta, guardala passare
Balleremo sugli argini
Balleremo sugli argini
Balleremo sugli argini
sono contento che tu sia venuta
a testa alta, sono contento che tu sia venuta

Dave van Ronk in “Van Ronk Sings” album (1961)

Son Of Rogues Gallery

Beth Orton in Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys ANTI 2013

I (x2)
You take a stick of bamboo,
you take a stick of bamboo
You take a stick of bamboo
and you throw it in the water
Oh oh Hanaah (1)
River oh river
She come down
River oh river
She come down
II (x2)
You travel on the river,
you travel on the river
You travel on the river,
you travel on the water
Oh oh Hanaah
III (x2)
My home’s across the river,
my home’s across the river
My home’s across the river,
my home’s across the water
Oh oh Hanaah
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Prendi un bastone di bamboo,
prendi un bastoni di bamboo
prendi un bastone di bamboo
e gettalo in acqua
oh, oh Hanaah
Fiume, oh fiume
lei scende (tramonta)
Fiume, oh fiume
lei scende (tramonta)
Viaggi sul fiume,
viaggi sul fiume
viaggi sul fiume
viaggi sull’acqua
oh, oh Hanaah
La mia casa è sul fiume
La mia casa è sul fiume
La mia casa è sul fiume
La mia casa è sull’acqua
oh, oh Hanaah

1) the sun (see go down, old Hannah)


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

Herr Mannelig, merry me!

Leggi in italiano

A red thread connects the various countries of Europe, which once was united, if not politically, at least culturally, from the stories sung by the jesters and wandering minstrels. Thus we see how the subject of the Concealed Death that started from the North of the Scandinavian countries has reached the Romance languages in the South and in the West, in a plethora of variants. (first part)


One of these variants starts in the same Scandinavian countries, around a mythical creature typical of Norse folklore: the trolls.

A mythical creature also shared by the Anglo-Saxon culture and in the Tolkenian imagery described as crude and wicked, dedicated to the destruction of villages, the theft of cattle and the capture of unwary travelers, who are then often cooked. The troll fears the sunlight because he transforms him into stone.


soledadThe creature of this story is a female troll and she is convinced that by marrying a prince she can turn into a beautiful princess, and so she lures the unfortunate knights with sumptuous gifts. Sir Mannelig refuses her hand and the ballad ends here, but surely the story does not have a happy ending even for the human!
In the collective imagination, death is a woman dressed in black with a scythe, and Orcum in Latin is the god of the Underworld, hence of death. His appearance in the Roman pantheon is attributable to the Etruscans and outclassed by Hades he remained in the popular peasant consciousness under the figure of the Wild Man.

On the false line of Shreck (trolls are a bit like orcs) we can imagine that our troll is a princess under the spell of a witch, and only with the kiss of true love she will be able to resume her human form.
But we are in the Middle Ages and Mannelig is a Christian knight who does not let himself be subjugated by the temptations of the devil and therefore no kiss!
But “bergatrollet” is a witch of the mountains, a wild creature with magic, who practices rituals linked to the cult of the ancient gods, while Ser Mannelig is the knight converted to Christianity.

The ballad has been interpreted by many metal-folk groups with slightly different textual versions.

Garmarna  from “Guds spelemän” 1996 live version

Annwn from Orbis Alia with more medieval accents

Bittida en morgon innan solen upprann
Innan foglarna började sjunga
Bergatrollet (1) friade till fager ungersven
Hon hade en falskeliger tunga
Herr Mannelig herr Mannelig
trolofven i mig
För det jag bjuder så gerna
I kunnen väl svara endast ja eller nej
Om i viljen eller ej
Eder vill jag gifva de gångare tolf
Som gå uti rosendelunde
Aldrig har det varit någon sadel uppå dem
Ej heller betsel uti munnen
Eder vill jag gifva de qvarnarna tolf
Som stå mellan Tillö och Ternö
Stenarna de äro af rödaste gull
Och hjulen silfverbeslagna
Eder vill jag gifva ett förgyllande svärd
Som klingar utaf femton guldringar
Och strida huru I strida vill
Stridsplatsen skolen i väl vinna
Eder vill jag gifva en skjorta så ny
Den bästa I lysten att slita
Inte är hon sömnad av nål eller trå(2)
Men virkat av silket det hvita
Sådana gåfvor toge jag väl emot
Om du vore en kristelig qvinna
Men nu så är du det värsta bergatroll
Af Neckens(3) och djävulens stämma
Bergatrollet ut på dörren sprang
Hon rister och jämrar sig svåra
Hade jag fått den fager ungersven
Så hade jag mistat min plåga
English translation (from Wiki)
Early one morning before the sun rose up/Before the birds began to sing
The mountain troll (1) proposed to the handsome young man
She had a false tongue
(ref.) Herr Mannelig, herr Mannelig, will you be betrothed to me?
For that, I offer you gifts very gladly
Surely you can answer only yes or no
If you wish to or not
To you I wish to give the twelve horses
That go in the grove of roses
Never has there been a saddle upon them
Nor a bridle in their mouths
To you I wish to give the twelve mills
That are between Tillö and Ternö
The stones are made of the reddest gold/ And the wheels are covered in silver
To you I wish to give a gilded sword
That chimes of fifteen gold rings
And fight however you fight
The battle you would surely win
To you I wish to give a shirt so new
The best you will want to wear
It was not sewn with needle or thread(2)
But crocheted of white silk
Such gifts I would surely accept
If thou[wert a Christian woman
However, thou art the worst mountain troll
The spawn of the Nix (3) or the Devil
The mountain troll ran out the door
She shakes and wails hard
If I had got the handsome young man
I would have got rid of my plight.

1)  bergatrollet is a  she-wizard (in the ballade “Bergatrollet”, often erroneously translated as “she-troll”)
2) on the symbolism of the fine silk shirt woven in one piece without using needle and thread see also Scarborough fair
3) the nix is shown in the form of frog or toad or small fish or a strange fish to human form. Wanting to make a distinction between Kelpie and Nix we can say that the first prefers to attract the victims in the form of a horse to get them on the back and carry them to the abyss; the second instead attracts them in human form with sweet melodies (they are sirens / nymphs with a beautiful singing or mermen skilled musicians) see

Haggard from “Eppur si muove”, 2004, they sing it in Italian on a rock metal sound (symphonic metal or neo-classic metal). The German group is basically composed of about twenty musicians with Asis Nasseri as composer, who translated the text of the Swedish ballad into Italian

All’alba, prima che il sole sorgesse
E gli uccelli cantassero la canzone
La donna del troll con lingua falsa
Et ingannevole propose al signore:
“Herr Mannelig, herr Mannelig mi vorrai sposare
Per tutto quello che io ti darò?
Se vorrai, rispondi solo si o no
Farai così o no?
Ti darò i dodici mulini
Che stanno tra Tillo e Terno
Le macine sono fatte del più rosso rame
E le ruote sono cariche d’argento
Herr mannelig, herr mannelig mi vorrai sposare
Per tutto quello che io ti darò?
Se vorrai, rispondi solo si o no
Farai così o no?”
“Se tu fossi una donna cristiana
Riceverei volentieri regali così,
Ma io so che sei il peggiore troll
Figlio degli spiriti maligni.”
“Herr mannelig, herr mannelig mi vorrai sposare
Per tutto quello che io ti darò?
Se vorrai, rispondi solo si o no
Farai così o no?”

Tibetréa a folk rock that is not too techno but relies on the acoustic sound of the hurdy-gurdy and the harp and they also put the trumpet on it

And I could go on with more medieval-metal versions: In Extremo (here),  Othlan (here), Psalteria (here),  Cromdale (here)

Many also transcriptions in other languages see for example Sir Mannelig played by Brian Kay, at the Anglo-Saxon lyra


Staines Morris to the Maypole haste away

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In the TV series “The Tudors” an outdoor May Day has been set up, with the picturesque dancers of the Morris Dance, their rattles and handkerchiefs, the archery, the fight of the roosters, the dances with the ribbons around the May pole, performed by graceful maidens with flower crowns in their hair. The background music is titled “Stanes Morris”, in the video follow two reproductions, the first of  Les Witches group, the second a little slower of The Broadside Band.

The May poles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were very tall and decorated with green garlands, ribbons or two-color striped paintings: the tradition is rooted in England, Italy, Germany and France, a real focal point of the rousing activities at his feet , symbolic fulcrum of the group of dancers.

John Cousen: Ballando intorno al palo del Maggio in epoca elisabettiana


The melody is a dance reported in “The English Dancing Master” by John Playford, first edition of 1651, but already danced at the court of Henry VIII or in the Elizabethan era. In the video it is a Morris Dance while Playford describes it as a country dance (for instructions see)
Morris Dance version
It was William Chappell in his “Popular Music of the Old Time” of (1855-56) to combine the Tudor melody with the text “Maypole song” written in 1655 by Robert Cox for the comedy “Actaeon and Diana” . So Chappell writes “This tune is taken from the first edition of The Dancing Master. It is also in William Ballet’s Lute Book (time of Elizabeth); and was printed as late as about 1760, in a Collection of Country Dances, by Wright.
The Maypole Song, in Actæon and Diana, seems so exactly fitted to the air, that, having no guide as to the one intended, I have, on conjecture, printed it with this tune.

The text invites young people in following Love to dance and sing around the May Pole.
Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick from ‘Prince Heathen.’ 1969 (simply perfect!)

Shirley Collins from Morris On, 1972, the folk rock experiment of a group of excellent trad musicians John Kirkpatrick, Richard Thompson, Barry Dransfield, Ashley Hutchings  and Dave Mattacks.

Lisa Knapp & David Tibet from Till April Is Dead ≈ A Garland of May 2017  (amazing version with a further step ahead of the 70s rock rework)

Come, ye young men, come along
with your music, dance and song;
bring your lasses in your hands,
for ‘tis that which love commands.
Then to the Maypole haste away
for ‘tis now a holiday,
Then to the Maypole haste away
for ‘tis now a holiday
‘Tis the choice time of the year,
For the violets now appear:
Now the rose receives its birth,
And pretty primrose decks the earth.
Here each bachelor may choose
One that will not faith abuse
Nor repay, with coy disdain
Love that should be loved again
And when you are reckoned now
For kisses you your sweetheart gave
Take them all again and more
It will never make them poor
When you thus have spent your time,
Till the day be past its prime,
To your beds repair at night,
And dream there of your day’s delight.

second part: JOAN TO THE MAYPOLE

Traditional Music (con spartito)

Lovely On The Water

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Lover’s separation is a theme widespread in the english balladry and that of a sailor and a young maid it’s probably originated in the eighteenth century, as we find it in the illustrations of the time.


The ballad “Lovely on the water”, collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the early 1900s, come from a broadside titled “Henry and Nancy, or the Lover’s Separation“. The story begins in the idyll of spring with two lovers walking, but that’s their farewell, the sailor has enlisted in the Royal Navy and wants her to stay home waiting for him. Although he professed to face the war for his country, the need for a wage is certainly the primary cause of his patriotism.

The Sailor’s Farewell, Charles Mosley (mid-eighteenth century) in National Maritime Museum .

Steeleye Span recorded Lovely on the Water in 1971 for their second album, “Please to See the King” and the sleeve notes commented”Certain folk songs had great popularity, and have been reported over and again, from end to end of the country. Others—including some masterpieces—seem to have had but tiny circulation. So Lovely on the Water, with a gorgeous melody and significant words, has been found only once, by Vaughan Williams at South Walsham, a few miles from Norwich. The song starts idyllically and ends ominously, like a sunny day that clouds over. The singer, a Mr Hilton, had fourteen verses, but Vaughan Williams, often a bit careless about texts, mislaid some. Missing verses probably concerned the familiar situation in which the girl volunteers to disguise herself as a seaman, in order to sail with her lover, but is hurriedly dissuaded.” (from here)
We find those missing verses in the text of the broadside “Henry and Nancy” (here)
Steeleye Span in “Please to See the King” 1971

Ken Wilson in “Not Before Time

Dhalia`s Lane in Hollymount 2005

Martha Tilston & Maggie Boyle in The Sea 2014 in  

As I walked out one morning
in the springtime of the year
I overheard a sailor boy
likewise a lady fair
They sang a song together
made the valleys for to ring
While the birds on the spray in the meadows gay
Proclaimed the lovely spring
Said Willy unto Nancy
“Oh we soon must sail away
For its lovely on the water
to hear the music play.
For our Queen she do want seamen
so I will not stay on shore
I will brave the wars for my country
Where the blund’ring cannons roar
Poor Nancy fell and fainted,
but soon he brought her to,
For it’s there they kissed and they embraced
and took a fond adieu.
“Come change your ring (1) with me my love
For we may meet once more;
but there’s One above that will guard you, love,
Where the blund’ring cannons roar
Four pounds it is our bounty
and that must do for thee
For to help the aged parents
while I am on the sea
For Tower Hill[2] is crowded
with mothers weeping sore (3)
For their sons are gone to face the foe
Where the blundering cannons roar” 

1) the ring will be the proof of identity of the lovers who will sometimes remain separated for long years
2) Tower Hill in in London,London Borough of Tower Hamlets
3) while the men go to fight the enemy, the women greet them weeping because they know that many of them will never return home

Ralph Vaughan Williams: LOVELY ON THE WATER
american/irish version: ADIEU MY LOVELY NANCY
sea shanty: HOLY GROUND


A warning old song: Maiden Never Wedd An Old Man!

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A Scottish humorous song, “Maids When You’re Young Never Wed An Old Man” discourages young women in marrying men who are too old, and its song, between irony and bitterness, is a warning to all.
The great difference in age between the two spouses was still a custom until the mid-1900s: older men married to twenties girls, who played the role of ante litteram carers!

The humor of the song springs from the allusive but never explicit language and the most obscene words are beeped maidenas “faloorum” and “ding doorum”: at first the young woman is courted by the older man and agrees to marry him, but when it’s time for going to bed she discovers that unfortunately her old man is impotent. So as soon as the old man falls asleep the girl, she throws herself into the arms of a young and manly lover.

Nowaday this song makes us smile but in the nineteenth century it was considered rather spicy: the simple allusion to sex was vulgar but the reference to impotence and adultery had to be outrageous! Despite everything, it became a popular song in Scotland, England, Ireland and America. The first publication dates back to 1869 in “Ancient Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads” by David Herd under the title “Scant of Love, Want of Love”.

The Dubliners (Verses 1-3-4-5-6-7) The song was seen to be offensive due to its sexualized themes and was banned by RTÉ and the BBC

Mairi  Morrison & Alasdair Roberts in Urstan, 2012 (verses 1-2-4-3) for a more sober version. The CD was commissioned by Scotland’s Center for Contemporary Arts as a tribute to Gaelic music and culture. An artistic collaboration increasing freshness and creativity.

Lucy Ward in “Adelphi Has to Fly” 2011, nominated Best Traditional Track BBC Folk Awards 2012.

For he’s got no faloorum,
fadidle eye-oorum

He’s got no faloorum,
fadidle  all day
He’s got no faloorum,
he’s lost his ding doorum
so maids when you’re young,
never wed an old man

An old man  came courting me,
hey ding dooram day (1)
An old man came courting me,
me being Young(2)
An old man came courting me,
all for to  marry me(3)
Maids, when you’re young
never wed an old man

When we sat down to tea,
hey doo me darrity
When we sat down to tea, me being young
When we sat down to tea, he started teasing me
Maids when you’re young
never wed an old man

When we went to church,
hey ding dooram day
When we went to church,
me being young
When we went to church,
he left me in the lurch (4)
Maids when you’re young,
never wed an old man

When we went to bed,
hey ding doorum day
When we went to bed, me being young
When we went to bed,
he lay like he was dead (5)
Maids when you’re young
never wed an old man

So I threw me leg  over him ,
hey ding dorum da
I flung me leg over him, me being young
I flung me leg over him, damned nearly smothered him
Maids when you’re young
never wed an old man.

When he went to sleep,
hey ding doorum day
When he went to sleep, me being young
When he went to sleep, out of bed I did creep
Into the arms of a handsome young man
And I found his faloorum,
fadidle eye-oorum
I found his faloorum,
fadidle all day
I found his faloorum, he got my ding doorum
So maids when you’re young
never wed  an old man

I wish this old man would die,
hey-ding-a  doo-rum
I wish this old man would die, me being Young
I wish this old man would die, I’d make the  money fly
Girls, for your sake,
never wed an old man

A young man is my delight,
hey-ding-a  doo-rum
A young man is my delight, me being Young
A young man is my delight, he’ll kiss you day  and night
Maids, when you’re young,
never wed an old  man

1) or “Hey do a dority”
2) or Hey-do-a-day
3) or Fain wad he mairry me
4) or ” I left him in the lurch”
5) or “he neither done nor said”, and” he lays like a lump of lead”


Outlander chapter 24: Up Among the Heather

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Diana Gabaldon

A traditional Scottish song that Jamie sings as he leaves Claire one morning at Leoch to go off to work in the stables.
“.. singing rahter loudly the air from “Up Among the Heather”. The refrain floated back from the stairwell:
Sittin’ wi’ a wee girl holdin’ on my knee
When a bumblebee stung me, weel above the kneeee
Up among the heather, on the head o’ Bendikee

There are a lot of Scottish folk songs that tell of romantic encounters “amang the heather” this one is set over Bennachie Hills, the most famous and well-known of northeastern Scotland.
Located in the Garioch between the Don and the Gadie, Bennachie are a range of hills in Aberdeenshire. A destination for excursions, along many paths and running races like the Bennachie Hill Race. On the Mither Tap (the mother’s breast that takes its name from its shape) you can still visit the ruins of a Pitti fortress.

“Mither Tap” of Bennachie (Ian Johnston) -(see also here  and here)


“Up Amang The Heather” or “The Hill of Bennachie” shares its melody with another traditional scottish song “Come All Ye Fisher Lasses”.

The song is a classic bothy ballad with bawdy lyrics! The poet talks the talk, but doesn’t walk because first he tells of having had fun (all day long) with a fine girl, but then he advises ladies not to give more than a kiss to a soldier!

From the Highlands of Robert Burns  to the Moorlands of Emily Bronte, and up to the Baraggia of Vercellese (Northern Italy), heather and erica populate the moorlands. “Calluna is differentiated from erica by its corolla and calyx each being in four parts instead of five, Calluna is sometimes referred to as Summer (or Autumn) heather to distinguish it from winter or spring flowering species of Erica.” (from wiki)
A branch of wild white heather is a lucky charm in Scotland and is donated to wish a happy marriage. Once upon a time the Scottish girls who ventured alone on the moor always wore a sprig of heather to protect themselves from rape and robbery (or to make a lucky encounter).

The Irish Ramblers in The Patriot Game (1963) ( II and IV) -aka the Clancy Brothers

The Irish Rovers  the group has repeatedly recorded the song, this version is taken from “Still Rovin’” 1968

Up among the heather on the hill o’ Bennachie(1)
rolling with a wee lass (2) underneath a tree
A bum-bee stung me well above the knee
Up among the heather on the hill o’ Bennachie
As I went out a-roving on a summer’s day
I spied a bonnie lassie (3) strolling on the brae (4)
she was picking wild berries (5) and I offered her a hand
saying “Maybe I can help you fill your wee tin can(6)”
II (7)
Says “I me bonnie lass are you going to spend the day
up among the heather where the lads (8) and lassies play
they’re hugging and they’re kissing and they’re making fancy free
among the blooming heather on the hill o’ Bennachie”
We sat down together and I held her in me arms
I hugged her and I kissed her taken by her charms then
I took out me fiddle(9) and I fiddled merrily
among the blooming heather on the hill o’ Bennachie
IV (10)
Come all you bonnie lessies and take my advice
and never let a soldier laddie kiss you more than twice.
For all the time he’s kissing you he’s thinking out a plan
To get a wee bit rattle at your ould (11) tin can.

1) (Irish Ramblers)
Up among the heather on the hellabenafee
It was there I had a bonny wee lass sitting on my knee
A bungbee stung me well above the knee
We rested down together on the hellabenafee
2) wee lass= tiny girl
3) bonnie lassie= fine girl
4) brae= hill
5)  a midsummer party called Bilberry Sunday (in Scotland “Blaeberry” in Ireland “Fraughan”). It was mostly celebrated in July, when the blueberry berries ripen or in August, often combined with the Lughnasa Celtic festival or on Sunday (or Monday) closest to the party. Once upon a time the youths and the young girls were up the hills on the moor from morning to evening gathering blueberries and making friends, it was therefore a party dedicated to courtship and to combine marriages (under the good offices of Lugh).
6) wee tin can =  female sexual organ
7) (Irish Ramblers)
Said I me bonny wee lassie are ya going to spend the day
Up amongst the heather on the hellabenafee
Where all the lads and lassies they’re having a sobree
Up among the heather on the hellabenafee
8) lads= boys
9) fiddle= male sexual organ
10)  (Irish Ramblers)
Said I me bonny wee lassie please take my advice
Don’t ever let a soldier laddie love you more than twice
For all the time you do, he’s a fixing how to plan
How to get a wee-be rattle at your old tin can
11) ould= old

Mary Mac
 Bennachie (“Gin I Were Where The Gadie Runs”)
O’er the moor amang the heather


“Up, ride with the kelpie” by Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson in 1979 wrote “The Kelpie” for the concept album Stormwatch of Jethro Tull : with this song returns to its roots and the common legends in some Scottish loch about the “water horse”, a sort of aquatic demon that takes the form of a horse but also the human form, they are called “kelpie”, “each uisge” (in English water-horse), “eich-mhara” (in English sea horse); wanting to be picky “kelpie” lives preferably near the rapids of the rivers, fords and waterfalls, while “each uisge” prefers lakes and the sea, but kelpie is the most used word for both (see)
[Ian Anderson nel 1979 scrisse “The Kelpie” per il concept album Stormwatch: con questo brano ritorna alle sue radici e alle leggende comuni nei loch scozzesi sul “cavallo del mare”, una sorta di demone acquatico che prende la forma di cavallo ma anche la forma umana, “kelpie“, “each uisge” (in inglese water-horse),  “eich-mhara” (in inglese sea horse), cavalli d’acqua e del mare; a voler essere pignoli il kelpie vive preferibilmente nei pressi delle rapide dei fiumi, dei guadi e delle cascate, mentre l’each uisge preferisce i laghi e il mare, ma kelpie è la parola più usata per entrambi.(continua)]

Scotland paid to the myth a steel sculpture consisting of two gigantic horse heads of the artist Andy Scott, inserted in a monumental context in Falkirk.
[La Scozia ha tributato al mito una scultura di acciaio consistente in due gigantesche teste di cavallo dell’artista Andy Scott, inserite in un contesto monumentale a Falkirk.]

The Kelpies in Falkirk (

Jethro Tull in “Stormwatch” 1979

Kelpie (Kersting Blodig & Ian Melrose) in “Kelpie” 2002 (here is all the CD, the song of Kelpie is track 3 and starts at 8:00 min) [qui è riportato tutto il cd , la canzone del Kelpie è la track 3 e inizia a 8:00 min]

There was a warm wind
with the high tide
On the south side of the hill
When a young girl
went a-walking (1)
And I followed with a will
“Good day to you,
my fine young lady
With your lips, so sweetly full”
“May I help you comb (2)
your long hair?
Sweep it from that brow, so cool (3)”
Up, ride with the kelpie (4)
I’ll steal your soul to the deep
If you don’t ride with me
while the devil’s free
I’ll ride with somebody else
“Well, I’m a man when I’m feeling
The urge to step ashore
So, I may charm you, not alarm you
Tell you all fine things and more (5)
Say goodbye to all your dear kin
For they hate to see you go
In your young prime (6)
to this place of mine
In the still loch far below”
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
C’era un vento caldo
con l’alta marea
Sul lato sud della collina
quando una giovane fanciulla
andò a passeggiare
e la seguii con un proposito
“Buon giorno a voi,
giovane e bella Madama
dalle labbra così turgide.”
“Posso aiutarvi a pettinare
i vostri capelli lunghi?
Vi nascondono una fronte tanto fredda”
Su cavalca con il kelpie
ti ruberò l’anima nell’abisso.
Se non cavalcherai con me,
mentre il diavolo è in libertà,
cavalcherò con qualcun altro
“Beh, sono un uomo quando sento
il bisogno di fare un passo a terra
così vi affascino, per non allarmarvi,
vi racconto tutte le cose più belle
Dite addio ai vostri cari parenti
perchè odiano vedervi andare
nella vostra gioventù in fiore
in questo mio luogo lontano
sotto all’immoto lago”

1) Kerstin Blodig modifies the context instead and says that the girl is intent on collecting berries
“There was a young girl,
off-picking brambles. “
[Kerstin Blodig modifica invece il contesto e dice che la ragazza è intenta a raccogliere delle bacche putrebbe trattarsi di prugnoli o di mirtilli]
2) The girl is not as naive as it seems, in fact being alone along the shores of a mountain lake (clearly the story is set on the high pastures of the Highlands) she suspected that it may be the kelpie: therefore she asks permission to comb his wet hair because the only way to recognize the demon is to look for sand and seaweed caught in the comb!
La fanciulla non è così ingenua come sembra, infatti trovandosi sola lungo le rive di un lago di montagna (chiaramente la storia è ambientata sugli alti pascoli delle Highlands) le viene il sospetto che possa trattarsi del kelpie: gli chiede quindi il permesso di pettirargli i capelli bagnati perchè l’unico modo per riconoscere il demone è quello di  cercare della sabbia e alghe impigliate nel pettine!
3) Kerstin Blodig sings
“Good day to you my young lady, let me show you where to go
To where the berries, they grow much sweeter, at the quiet loch side shore”
(traduzione italiano dei versi cantati da Kerstin: Buon giorno mia giovane madama, permettetemi di farvi vedere dove andare, dove le bacche più dolci crescono, sulla riva del lago)
4) the Kelpie is considered an evil creature a kind of demon that hunts victims to seduce and drown (and devour) them in the abyss (a memory of ancient sacrifices to the spirits of the waters?) So popular wisdom first recommended not to climb incautiously on the back of a lonely horse (because once we climbed on a kelpie there is no possibility of going down) and secondly if we have climbed and we are going to end up dragged in the deep water, we have to look for bridles to tame it (easier said than done naturally).
[il Kelpie è considerata una creatura malvagia una sorta di demone che va a caccia di vittime da sedurre e far annegare (e divorare) negli abissi (un ricordo di antichi sacrifici agli spiriti delle acque?) Così la saggezza popolare raccomandava per prima cosa di non salire mai incautamente in groppa ad un cavallo solitario (perchè  una volta saliti su un kelpie non c’è più possibilità di scendere) e per seconda cosa se proprio ci siamo saliti e stiamo per finire trascinati nelle acque profonde, di cercare le briglie per domarlo (più facile a dirsi che a farsi naturalmente).]
5)  Kelpie is often looking for a companion and it is described as a “leannan-sith” or a “fairy-lover”; Mary Mackellar in her essay ‘The Shieling: Its Traditions and Songs‘ (Gaelic Society of Inverness 1889) writes of the many enchanted seductions to the summer pastures, when the shepherds carried the sheep on the highlands.
[il Kelpie  è spesso in cerca di un compagno/compagna e viene descritto come un “leannan-sith” ovvero una “fata-amante” Mary Mackellar nel suo saggio ‘The Shieling: Its Traditions and Songs’ (Gaelic Society of Inverness 1889 qui) scrive delle molte seduzioni fatate ai pascoli estivi, quando i pastori portavano le pecore sugli altopiani.]
6) the last stanza puts this song in the context of the warning song: the kelpie is the sexual predator but also the sexual call that awakens in the body of a girl when she blooms starting to feel curiosity and desires mostly repressed by the society of adults
[l’ultima strofa colloca la canzone nel contesto delle warning song: il kelpie è il predatore sessuale ma anche il richiamo sessuale che si sveglia nel corpo delle fanciulle quando sbocciano e iniziano a provare curiosità e desideri per lo più repressi dalla società degli adulti]

Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Nøkken_som_hvit_hestARCHIVE (ARCHIVIO CANTI)
Skye Water Kelpie’s Lullaby
Dh’èirich mi moch, b’ fheàrr nach do dh’èirich
Òran Tàlaidh An Eich-Uisge
A Mhór, a Mhór, till ri d’ mhacan
Cronan na Eich-mhara
Song of the Kelpie
Up, ride with the kelpie



L’alchimista Paracelso descrive l’ondina nel suo libro “De Nymphis, Sylphis, Pygmaeis et Salamandris et coeteris spiritibus” chiamandola ninfa e catalogandola tra gli spiriti elementari (elementali): è lo spirito dell’acqua che vive nelle polle e nei laghi, nei rivi e nei fiumi, sorta di genio protettore o guardiano, una ninfa dalla voce melodiosa e incantatrice. Il nome evoca l’onda, le increspature dell’acqua generate dalla corrente o dal vento, e si manifesta nella spuma che cavalca le onde. Viene raffigurata in genere come una bella donna dai lunghi e fluenti capelli biondi, dalle forme sinuose e dall’incarnato di perla. (una nutrita raccolta di immagini qui).

Nel dipinto di Jacques Laurent Agasse una misteriosa creatura “velata” dai lunghi capelli biondo-oro gocciolanti acqua, emerge dal fiume/lago in un’ambientazione palustre. Non a caso una farfalla le si posa sul capo, simbolo della Dea Madre in veste di Dea della Rigenerazione.

Jacques Laurent Agasse, Undine, 1843

Entità collegata all’acqua Ondina è governata dalla luna e associata con la direzione dell’Ovest.

Così Goethe intravide al tramonto di una sera d’estate tra le gocce
nebulizzate della cascata Staubbach (Valle del Lauterbrunnen, Svizzera) accarezzate dal vento, corpi e visi di ondine, e scrisse il suo “Canto degli spiriti sopra le acque

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Zur Erde muß es,
Ewig wechselnd
Strömt von der hohen
Steilen Felswand
Der reine Strahl
Dann stäubt er lieblich
In Wolkenwellen
Zum glatten Fels,
Und leicht empfangen
Wallt er verschleiernd
Zur Tiefe nieder.
Ragen Klippen
Dem Sturz’ entgegen
Schäumt er unmutig
Zum Abgrund
Im flachen Bette
Schleicht er das Wiesental hin
Und in dem glatten See
Weiden ihr Antlitz
Alle Gestirne
Wind ist der Welle
Lieblicher Buhler;
Wind mischt vom Grund aus
Schäumende Wogen.
Seele des Menschen
Wie gleichst du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wind!
L’anima dell’uomo
somiglia all’acqua:
viene dal cielo,
risale al cielo
e ancora alla terra
deve tornare,
vicenda eterna.
Di roccia dall’alta
parete rupestre
la pura sorgente
per poi frantumarsi leggiadra
in nubi flottanti
sul levigato masso
che benigno l’accoglie,
fluttua in un velo,
mormora lieve
giù nel profondo(1).
Contrastano rupi
il flutto precipite,
spumeggia irosa
a grado a grado
verso l’abisso.
Disteso il suo corso
scorre lenta per la valle erbosa,
e nello specchio del lago
tutte le stelle
bagnano il volto.
Vento è dell’onda
tenero amante;
vento sommuove
gorghi spumanti.
Anima dell’uomo
come somigli l’acqua!
Destino umano,
come somigli il vento!

1) l’acqua si muove verso il basso e verso il più profondo, le emozioni


L’acqua è l’elemento per eccellenza della purificazione, che lava e rigenera, perchè è la sorgente della vita, il principio di tutte le cose. Le leggende celtiche narrano di acque magiche che danno la saggezza, che curano le malattie e riportano la giovinezza o donano l’immortalità, un pozzo miracoloso posto alla Fine del Mondo riporta in vita i morti e restituisce la vita ai corpi pietrificati da un incantesimo. Così ogni pozzo o ruscello ha la sua ondina-guardiana che tiene alla larga le persone indegne e che lo difende, mantenendo intatto il suo equilibrio energetico.
I Celti consideravano i fiumi come donatori di vita, salute e abbondanza e offrivano loro ricchi doni e sacrifici. Presso le sorgenti termali e i pozzi sacri vennero eretti dei santuari e molto spesso erano luoghi di celebrazioni delle feste o meta di pellegrinaggio. continua


I Greci le chiamavano Nereidi  e i Germani ondine, figlie del dio del Mare Aegir e di Ran, la ladra perchè con la sua rete intrappolava le navi per trascinarle negli abissi. Nove erano le ondine marine dai nomi che ricorrono nelle saghe norrene: andavano in soccorso dei naviganti e cercavano di proteggerli, cavalcavano i delfini, danzavano e cantavano sugli scogli accompagnandosi con la lyra.
Ma queste ondine marine le confondiamo spesso con le sirene  donne con la coda di pesce, creature mitologiche in grado di mutare forma. continua


In qualità di ninfe delle acque le ondine sono più spesso associate alle acque della terra ferma e vivono nei boschi e in luoghi solitari, spiriti infantili e curiosi, sono raffigurate come belle ed esili fanciulle dalla sessualità spregiudicata.


L’Ottocento le trasforma in incantatrici romantiche plasmando due casi esemplari Ondina e Lorelai
Ondina e Lorelei si rivelano in questo senso due casi esemplari di incantatrici nel panorama culturale del primo Ottocento: si tratta di figure nate dal folclore di area franco-tedesca, divenute in seguito protagoniste indiscusse dell’immaginario romantico, giovani eroine tormentate dalla passione amorosa, anime inquiete alla ricerca della pace interiore. Pur presentandosi come fanciulle indifese, Ondina e Lorelei rivelano un forte legame con il mondo della morte. La loro presenza all’interno delle storie popolari che confluiranno nel processo di codificazione letteraria del genere fiabesco nel XIX secolo non è dunque casuale: le fiabe, infatti, possono essere considerate narrazioni dell’incontro dell’uomo con la morte. (tratto da qui)


“Vicino a Sankt Goarshausen, nella parte più bella della valle del Reno, il fiume si piega in una stretta curva a destra e sulla parte interna di questa curva si alza una ripida roccia, alta 132 m, chiamata Lorelei (o Loreley). Oggi, in questo punto, il Reno scorre traquillo, ma i marinai sulle numerose navi di trasporto merci che passano lì sicuramente conoscono il mito della Lorelei e sanno che il Reno non è sempre stato così innocuo come sembra oggi.
Infatti, prima che nel secolo scorso il fiume fosse stato bonificato, i marinai, prima di passare attraverso questa curva, si riunivano per pregare. Un banco di sabbia e numerose rocce sotto la superficie dell’acqua creavano dei vortici imprevedibili e non era raro che una nave naufragasse in questa stretta curva del fiume. La bellezza della natura insieme alla sua mortale pericolosità fu invece un’attrazione irresistibile per i poeti del romanticismo. Il primo che si sentì ispirato dal luogo fu il poeta Clemens Brentano che, nel 1801, scrisse la ballata “Lore Lay” su una donna che, per la sua irresistibile forza di attrazione sugli uomini, viene ritenuta una maga e che infine, per le pene d’amore si getta dalla roccia Lorelei nel fiume. ” (tratto da qui)

ASCOLTA Blackmore’s Night Loreley in “Ghost of a Rose” 2003

Merrily we sailed along
Though the waves were plenty strong
Down the twisting river Rhine
Following a song…
Legend’s faded storyline
Tried to warn us all
Oh, they called her “Loreley”
Careful or you’ll fall (1)
Oh, the stories we were told
Quite a vision to behold
Mysteries of the seas
in her eyes of gold…
Laying on the silver stone,
such a lonely sight
Barnacles become a throne,
my poor Loreley…
And the winds would cry,
and many men would die
And all the waves would
bow down to the Loreley…
You would not believe your eyes,
how a voice could hypnotize
Promises are only lies from Loreley
In a shade of mossy green,
seashell in her hand
She was born the river queen,
ne’er to grace the land…
Oh, the song of Loreley
Charms the moon right from the sky…
She will get inside your mind,
loveley Loreley…
When she cries “Be with me
until the end of time”
You know you will ever be
with your Loreley…
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Navigavamo in allegra compagnia
anche se le onde erano assai impetuose,
lungo le spire del fiume Reno,
seguendo una canzone…
L’esile trama di una leggenda
che ha cercato di metterci  tutti in guardia,
Oh, la chiamavano “Loreley”
Attento o t’innamorerai…
Oh, le storie che furono narrate
proprio un’apparizione da ammirare,
i misteri del mare
nei suoi occhi dorati…
sdraiata su una roccia d’argento,
una tale visione malinconica
sul trono di conchiglie,
mia povera Loreley…
E i venti avrebbero gridato,
e molti uomini sarebbero morti
e tutte le onde si sarebbero
assoggettate a Loreley…
Non credereste ai vostri occhi
quanto una voce possa ipnotizzare,
le promesse di Loreley sono solo bugie.
In una tonalità di verde muschio,
una conchiglia tra le sue mani
è nata la regina del fiume,
giammai per abbellire la terra…
Oh, il canto di Loreley
affascina la luna dritto in cielo
ti si ficcherà in testa,
bellissima Loreley…
Quando lei si lamenta “Rimani con me
fino alla fine dei tempi”
sai che vorrai sempre essere
con la tua Loreley…

1) to fall in questo contesto significa cadere innamorato

ASCOLTA  The Pogues in Peace and Love 1989 Philip Chevron duetta con Kirsty MacColl (brano composto da Philip Chevron). Una melodia bellissima che resta in testa come un incantesimo

You told me tales of love and glory
Same old sad songs,
same old story
The sirens sing no lullaby
And no-one knows but Lorelei
Castles out of fairytales
Timbers shivered where once there sailed
The lovesick men who caught her eye
And no-one knew but Lorelei
River, river have mercy
Take me down to the sea
For if I perish on these rocks
My love no more I’ll see
I’ve thought of you in far-off places
I’ve puzzled over lipstick traces
So help me god, I will not cry
And then I think of Lorelei
I travel far and wander wide
No photograph of you beside me
Ol’ man river’s not so shy
And he remembers Lorelei
If I should float upon this stream
And see you in my madman’s dream
I’d sink into your troubled eyes
And none would know ‘cept Lorelei
But if my ship, which sails tomorrow
Should crash against these rocks,
My sorrows I will drown before I die
It’s you I’ll see, not Lorelei
Traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Mi narravi storie d’amore e di gloria
le solite e vecchie canzoni tristi,
la stessa vecchia storia.
Le sirene non cantano la buonanotte
e chi meglio lo sa se non Lorelei?
Castelli usciti dalle fiabe
velieri fatiscenti dove una volta là facevano vela, gli uomini malati d’amore che lei incantava
e chi meglio lo sa se non Lorelei?
Fiume abbi pietà
portami verso il mare
perché se io muoio su queste rocce
il mio amore non vedrò più
Ho pensato a te in posti lontani
ho riflettuto sulle tracce di rossetto
così che Dio m’aiuti, non mi lamenterò
e penserò a Lorelei.
Viaggio in lungo e in largo
nessuna fotografia con te accanto
vecchio capitano il fiume non è così pauroso e lui si ricorda di Lorelei
Se dovessi navigare su questo fiume
e vederti nel mio incubo
sprofonderei nei tuoi occhi inquieti
e nessuno lo saprebbe tranne Lorelei
Ma se la mia nave, che parte domani
si schianterà contro queste rocce,
i miei dispiaceri annegherò e prima di morire, sarà te che vedrò, non Lorelei

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