Beware the brown-haired woman

Leggi in italiano

One of the most popular ballads in the Anglo-American Balladry (second only to Barbara Allen) is collecterd by professor Child at number 73, with the title “Lord Thomas and Annet“.
Some scholars believe that the story (a kind of gothic fable) narrates the same love triangle of “William and Margaret” (Child #74) with the protagonist who instead of committing suicide prefers to go to church to kill her rival. As a Shakespeare’s tragedy, the murdered victims immediately become three. Depending on the version it is the blonde to kill the brown, or vice versa, but it is still the brown bride to be killed by her husband!


A Lord recommended by his family marries a rich landowner, although his heart beats for another woman. On the wedding day the rival also comes to church and insults the bride who, in a fit of mad jealousy, kills her and is herself killed by the Lord (who commits suicide soon after).
While today the story would have developed in twelve episodes of a TV series with revenges and counter-revenges (just to name one, Revenge) in the Middle Ages with forty stanzas they entertained the public on an evening at the castle.
The oldest versions are found in Scotland (or perhaps in England), but the origin of the ballad is certainly even more Nordic and the signal in this sense comes from the physical connotation of the bride: a woman with black hair. In a light-haired population such as the Norse, the foreign element that carries negativity is the dark, the principle of all evil. The ballad then spread to the British Isles and America following the Scottish and Irish migrations.

A variant of the story sees two twin sisters separated from birth struggling with a man who subdues the blonde one, taking her as a concubine, and marries the other for her rich dowry. Anna kidnapped by a knight becomes her lover and generates various children. At the time of celebrating the wedding, however, the Lord prefers to turn to a woman of noble birth (and with a rich dowry) and relegates Anna to the rank of servant. The two women, however, on the same night of the wedding discover that they are sisters, the marriage is canceled and she returns home leaving the dowry to the lost sister. ( Child #62)

Finally, again on the subject of sisters, the very popular Cruel Sister, in which, out of jealousy, the brown sister drowns the blonde one and she is accused by a magical harp of her misdeed. (see)


A classic of fairy tales it is the connotation of the color of the hair to distinguish the good sister from the bad sister, an atavistic code derived from the fact that the dark hair was that of the foreigner, or the enemy. The distinction did not concern the color of the skin, even if the milk-white complexion was considered sexier (a matter of taste, once the cadaveric pallor smelled of wealth like in our times the Caribbean tan).
Probably the color could be considered in ancient times as a racial connotation, but in the Middle Ages it was more certainly a social connotation.
In this ballad, however, the blonde is the poor Annie or Eleonor (Ellender), while the brown one is the rich rival. So a further typically medieval reading is the one that contrasts the nobility of blood (but impoverished) against bankers and merchants, that is the new emerging class that wants to marry into the nobility to wear the coat of arms. All the positive features therefore fall on the blonde, while the brown girl does not even have a name that identifies her!

Anna or Ellender, the fair sister
Scottish versions
Lord Thomas and Fair Annet
Sweet Willie and Fair Annie
English versions
Lord Thomas and the Fair Ellender
American versions
Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender (The Brown Girl)
French version
Les tristes noces


The Streams of Bunclody

An emigration song written by an Irishman in America it is a nostalgic lament for his village Bunclody, on the Slaney River in Wexford County. The period is that of mid-late nineteenth century, although the date of its first publication is 1903 (in “Music of Ireland” by Neill). From America the song has rebounded in Ireland.
Also titled “The Maid of Bunclody” this song begins with the verse “Oh were I at the moss house“, the melody is quite similar “Cuckoo is a pretty bird ” which also includes a stanza: the verses are a classic of the genre , the nostalgia for a girl from which the protagonist had to leave because of economic hardship, the nostalgia for the village where he spent his youth and left all his relatives.

[Una emigration song scritta da un irlandese in America e nostalgico della sua Bunclody, sul fiume Slaney nella contea di Wexford. Il periodo è quello di metà-fine Ottocento, anche se la data della sua prima pubblicazione è il 1903 (in “Music of Ireland” di Neill). Dall’America la canzone è rimbalzata in Irlanda.
Anche intitolata “The Maid of Bunclody“, inizia con il verso “Oh were I at the moss house”, la melodia è abbastanza simile a “Cuckoo is a pretty bird” di cui riprende anche una strofa: i versi sono un classico del genere, la nostalgia per la ragazza da cui il protagonista si è dovuto allontanare a causa della ristrettezze economiche, la nostalgia per il paesello dove ha trascorso la sua gioventù e ha lasciato tutti i suoi parenti.]

In spite of this song’s popularity, there is remarkably little information on it; the Roud index gives only one example – the version recorded from Mrs Nellie Walsh of Wexford in 1948. Colm O Lochlainn gives a version of it in his ‘Irish Street Ballads entitled ‘The Maid of Bunclody and the Lad She Loves so Dear’ which he says he learned from his father, who came from Kilkenny. It seems to have first appeared in print in a Broadside version published in 1846. There is a local tradition that ‘The Streams of Bunclody’ was written in America by an immigrant from County Wicklow and sent back to Ireland

Jim Carroll

Nonostante la popolarità della canzone abbiamo poche informazioni su di essa; l’indice Roud cita un solo esempio – la versione registrata da Nellie Walsh di Wexford nel 1948. Colm O Lochlainn riporta una versione in ‘Irish Street Ballads” dal titolo ‘The Maid of Bunclody and the Lad She Loves so Dear’ che ci dice aver appreso dal padre, il quale proveniva da Kilkenny. Pare sia stata stampata la prima volta in un Broadside del 1846.”
(Jim Carroll)

A local historian Fr. Séamus de Vál is convinced that the current version of the melody derives from the transcription in the book “Irish Street Ballads” published in 1939 by Colm Ó Lochlainn of Kilkenny, a version that became popular after the performance of the group ” Emmet Spiceland “when they sang it at Croke Park for the 1968 hurling final.
For the local people melody see in the session page

Uno studioso di storia locale Fr. Séamus de Vál è convinto che la versione attuale della melodia derivi proprio dalla trascrizione nel libro “Irish Street Ballads” pubblicato nel 1939 da Colm Ó Lochlainn di Kilkenny, una versione diventata popolare dopo l’esibizione del gruppo “Emmet Spiceland” quando la cantarono a Croke Park per la finale di hurling del 1968.
Per la melodia originaria della popolazione locale vedi

Luke Kelly

Sam Lee – The Moss House – live on The Ayala Show

Sean Doyle in The Light and the Half-Light 2004

Studio Group in Wold Music Ireland Vol. 1 2006

Deirdre Starr in “Between the Half Light” 2016

Oh were I at the moss house (1), where the birds do increase,
At the foot of Mount Leinster or some silent place,
By the streams of Bunclody where all pleasures do meet,
And all I would ask is one kiss from you, sweet.

Oh the streams of Bunclody they flow down so free,
By the streams of Bunclody I'm longing to be,
A-drinking strong liquor in the height of my cheer,
Here's a health to Bunclody and the lass I love dear.

The cuckoo (2) is a pretty good bird, it sings as it flies,
It brings us good tidings, and tells us no lies,
It sucks the young birds' eggs to make its voice clear
And the more it cries cuckoo the summer draws near (3).

If I was a clerk and could write a good hand,
I would write to my true-love that she might understand,
For I am a young fellow who is wounded in love
Once I lived in Bunclody, but now must remove.

If I was a lark and had wings I could fly
I would go to yon arbour where my love she does lie,
I'd proceed to yon arbour where my true love does lie,
And on her fond bosom contented I would die.

'Tis why my love slights me, as you may understand,
That she has a freehold and I have no land,
She has great store of riches, and a large sum of gold,
And everything fitting a house to uphold.

So fare you well father and my mother, adieu
My sister and brother farewell unto you,
I am bound for America my fortune to try,
When I think on Bunclody, I'm ready to die.

1) As early as 1700, moss was used as an insulator and sealant in country houses.
Sometimes the cottage was built on a layer of moss or near by shrub covered with moss

or with moss on the roof
2) the cuckoo (male) no longer sings once the season of love is over (end of May);

the cuckoo is like a seer for his alleged longevity. see
3) floating verses from the song of the cuckoo 
The cuckoo is a fine bird he sings as he flies,
He brings us good tidings and tells us no lies.
He sucks the sweet flowers to make his voice clear,
And the more he cries cuckoo, the summer is nigh 

Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Oh vorrei essere nella casetta con il muschio (1),
dove gli uccelli prosperano,
ai piedi del Monte Leinster o in un altro luogo solitario,
presso i torrenti di Bunclody dove si riuniscono tutti i piaceri,
e tutto ciò che chiederei è un tuo bacio, mia cara.

Oh i torrenti di Bunclody scorrono liberi,
vorrei essere presso i torrenti di Bunclody,
a bere liquore forte all'apice della gioia,
alla salute di Bunclody e della ragazza che amo.

Il cuculo (2) è un bel uccellino, canta in volo,
ci porta buone notizie, e non dice bugie,
succhia le uova degli uccellini per schiarire la voce (3)
e più egli grida, più l'estate si avvicina.

Se fossi uno studioso e sapessi scrivere bene
scriverei al mio amore affinchè capisca,
che io sono un giovanotto ferito dall'amore
che un tempo viveva a Bunclody, ma che ora deve partire.

Se fossi un allodola con le ali volerei
e vorrei andare in quel pergolato dove giace il mio amore,
mi dirigerei verso quel pergolato dove giace il mio amore,
e sul suo amato seno potrei morire contento.

Ecco perchè il mio amore mi ignora, come si può ben capire,
perchè lei è benestante e io non ho terra,
lei ha tante proprietà e una grande somma in oro
e tutto quanto necessario per mantenere una casa.

Così addio padre caro e madre, addio
sorella e fratello addio anche a voi
sono in partenza per l'America a cercare la fortuna
quando penso a Bunclody, sono pronto a morire.

1) Già dal 1700 il muschio veniva utilizzato come isolante e sigillante 

nelle case di campagna o nei capanni dei taglialegna/cacciatori.
Talvolta si costruiva sopra uno strato di muschio o si addossava le abitazioni ad arbusti
ricoperti da muschio e, bagnando la costruzione, si velocizzava il suo processo di crescita.
2) il canto del cuculo è foriero di Primavera, anche perchè una volta terminata la stagione

dell’amore (fine maggio), il cuculo (maschio) non canta più.
La sua presunta longevità (nei proverbi si dice “”Vecchio come il cucco”) lo ha trasformato
in veggente.  vedi
3) versi fluttuanti dalla canzone del cuculo
The cuckoo is a fine bird he sings as he flies,
He brings us good tidings and tells us no lies.
He sucks the sweet flowers to make his voice clear,
And the more he cries cuckoo, the summer is nigh

I sergenti reclutatori nelle campagne britanniche del 700-800

Read the post in English

L’arruolamento nelle armate britanniche era a base volontaria, così nel 1700 e fino alla metà del 1800, giravano per le campagne i sergenti reclutatori accompagnati da un giovane tamburino: erano bravi a convincere i giovanotti già un po’ alticci che si trovavano nelle locande, a prendere  il famigerato scellino del Re (King’s Shilling).
Facevano leva sui disagiati, i mezzadri sfrattati e ridotti a lavorare come braccianti giornalieri, coloro che erano senza un mestiere e che vedevano nell’arruolamento l’alternativa per non morir di fame. I più ingenui si lasciavano vincere dal fascino dell’avventura o semplicemente erano troppo ubriachi per pensare lucidamente!

John Collet (1725-1780) The Recruiting Sergeant

Twa recruitin’ sergeants

La canzone “Twa recruitin’ sergeants” viene dalla tradizione scozzese ed è quasi un documento storico della vita nelle bothy farm : così i reclutatori facevano breccia nella vita dei disperati, i giovani ragazzi che conducevano una vita grama. L’origine della canzone è fatta risalire al 1700 ed è ritornata popolare negli anni 1960 con la versione di Jeannie Robertson.
A.L. Lloyd ha evidenziato che l’opera di Farquhar, “The Recruiting Officer” (1706), ha aiutato a diffondere ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’. La canzone è stata spesso cantata durante le guerre napoleoniche. E’ sopravvissuta per due secoli e mezzo tra i cantanti folk, in decrescendo, fino a quando sembrava si fosse limitata al nord-est scozzese “. Poi una variante tornò in auge nelle città inglesi con il titolo “Two Recruiting Sergeants from the Black Watch” (da Mudcat qui)

La melodia è ovviamente un’allegra marcetta, perfetta per entusiasmare i malcapitati..

Gaberlunzie (strofe I, II, III, V)

Schooner Fare (strofe I, II, IV, V)

Adam Raeburn & Friends

A Parcel o’ Rogues (strofe I, II, IV, V)

Twa recruiting sergeants came frae the Black Watch(1)
Tae markets and fairs, some recruits for tae catch.
But a’ that they ‘listed was forty and twa:
Enlist my bonnie laddie an’ come awa.
And it’s over the mountain and over the Main,
Through Gibralter, to France and Spain(2).
Pit a feather tae your bonnet, and a kilt aboon your knee,
Enlist my bonnie laddie and come awa with me.
Oh laddie ye dinna ken the danger that yer in.
If yer horses was to fleg, and yer owsen was to rin,(3)
This greedy old farmer, he wouldna pay yer fee.
Sae list my bonnie laddie and come awa wi’ me
With your tattie porin’s(5) and yer meal(6) and kale(7),
Yer soor sowan’ soorin’s(8) and yer ill-brewed ale,
Yer buttermilk(9), yer whey(10), and yer breid fired raw.
Sae list my bonnie laddie and come awa.
And its into the barn and out o’ the byre,
This ole farmer, he thinks ye never tire.
It’s slavery a’ yer life, a life o’ low degree.
Sae list my bonnie laddie and come awa with me
O laddie if ye’ve got a sweetheart an’ a bairn,
Ye’ll easily get rid o’ that ill-spun yarn(11).
Twa rattles o’ the drum(12), aye and that’ll pay it a’.
Sae list my bonnie laddie and come awa.
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Due sergenti reclutatori vennero dai Black Watch
per mercati e fiere, a prendere delle reclute.
ma ne arruolarono 42:
“Arruolati mio bel ragazzo e vieni via”
Per le montagne e oltre il mare,
attraverso Gibilterra, per la Francia e la Spagna(1).
metti una piuma sul tuo berretto(2) e un gonnellino sopra il ginocchio,
arruolati mio bel giovanotto e vieni via con me
Oh ragazzo non sai il pericolo al quale vai incontro
se i tuoi cavalli si spaventano e i buoi si mettono a correre(3)
questo taccagno di un vecchio contadino, potrebbe non pagarti il tuo stipendio
così arruolati mio bel giovanotto e vieni via con me me
Con la tua acqua delle patate, il tuo porridge e il cavolo,
la tua brodaglia scadente di avena e la birra mal fermentata
il tuo latticello e il siero del latte, e il pane mezzo crudo.
così arruolati mio bel giovanotto e vieni via con me me.
Dentro e fuori il fienile e la stalla,
questo vecchio contadino pensa che non ti stancherai mai
la tua è una vita da schiavo, una vita di degradazione.
così arruolati mio bel giovanotto e vieni via con me me.
O ragazzo se avessi una fidanzata o un bambino,
potresti facilmente sbarazzarti di quella brutta storia, due rullate di tamburo(12), si, ti ripagheranno di tutto
così arruolati mio bel giovanotto e vieni via

Le frasi del sergente si commentano da sole
1) citazione da “Over the hills and far away“: ovviamente non si fa cenno alle indie occidentali e alle varie colonie dell’impero!!
2) la divisa dei Black Watch: plaid scozzese nero e verde, gilè e giacca rossi e berretto blu, moschetto, baionetta, spadone e pugnale. Nel 1795 adottarono il pennacchio rosso (in inglese red hackle) per il loro berretto.

3) i sergenti si rivolgevano ai cavallanti e aratori stagionali delle grandi fattorie scozzesi
4) sicuramente gli animali della fattoria erano nutriti meglio dei suoi lavoranti! Il sergente sapeva come parlare alla “pancia” del suo pubblico: uno degli istinti primari quello del cibo!
L’elenco di cibi insipidi era lo standard per i lavoratori agricoli. Ord in “Songs And Ballads” dice “Molte canzoni si riferiscono al cibo fornito dall’agricoltore ai suoi braccianti, che, in molti casi, era di pessima qualità”. Ord continua: “Se la colazione era scarsa, la cena non era migliore:
il pane era spesso,la farinata d’avena scarsa, / la zuppa era una brodaglia
Ho inseguito l’orzo nel piatto, / E ce n’erano tre chicchi.
(tradotto da qui).
5) Tattie pourin’s=l’acqua di bollitura delle patate
6) Meal: avena
7) kale=varietà di cavolo
8) sourin’s sowans: si prepara con gli scarti d’avena messi a macerare e fatti fermentare e infine bollendo il liquido per ottenere un blando sostituto della birra
9) Buttermilk – il latticello che si forma nella preparazione del burro come prodotto secondario di scarto
10) Whey: siero del latte che si forma nella preparazione del formaggio, dopo la cagliata.
11) modo di dire: spin a yarn= raccontare una storia
12) la gloria della battaglia


Bob Hallett del gruppo folk-rock canadese Great Big Sea ha riscritto il testo della tradizione scozzese “Twa recruitin’ sergeants” in memoria dell’Esercito Terranoviano, annientato durante la battaglia della Somme (Francia) durante la Prima Grande Guerra. Il 1 Luglio è il Giorno della Memoria nell’Isola di Terranova e Labrador in ricordo del bagno di sangue e della vita dei suoi giovani figli uccisi a Beaumont Hamel, il primo giorno della Battaglia.
All’epoca della grande guerra Terranova era una colonia inglese e anche i Terranoviani fecero la loro parte inviando 500 uomini (il Newfoundland Regiment), che accorsero su base volontaria all’appello del loro Re (e il re li omaggiò graziosamente dell’appellativo Royal dopo la guerra, come sentito ringraziamento per il loro sacrificio)

Non voglio soffermarmi nella rievocazione della battaglia, credo che basti la poesia di Ungaretti “Soldati”
“Si sta come
sugli alberi
le foglie”

Great Big Sea in “Play” 1997 Il video è un omaggio a tutti i soldati di Terranova

Two recruiting sergeants came to the CLB (1),
for the sons of the merchants (2), to join the Blue Puttees (3)
So in the bow all the hands enlisted, five hundred young men
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me
They crossed the broad Atlantic in the brave Florizel,
And on the sands of Suvla (4), they entered into hell
And on those bloody beaches, the first of them fell
So it’s over the mountains, and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders and join the Blue Puttees
You’ll fight the Hun in Flanders, and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me
Then the call came from London, for the last July drive
To the trenches with the regiment, prepare yourselves to die
The roll call next morning, just a handful survived (4).
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me
The stone men on Water Street still cry for the day
When the pride of the city went marching away
A thousand men slaughtered, to hear the King say
Enlist you Newfoundlanders and come follow me
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Due sergenti reclutatori vennero dal CLB
perché i figli dei mercanti si unissero ai Blue Puttees
così nel salone tutte le braccia arruolarono, 500 giovani uomini:
“Arruolatevi Terranoviani e seguitemi”
Attraversarono l’Atlantico sull’ardita Florizel
e sulla spiaggia di Sulva  atterrarono all’inferno
e su quelle spiagge insanguinate, i primi tra di loro caddero
Per le montagne e oltre il mare,
venite valorosi Terranoviani e unitevi ai Blue Puttees
combatterete gli Unni nelle Fiandre e a Gallipoli,
arruolatevi Terranoviani e venite via con me
Poi la chiamata venne da Londra per i restanti, la campagna di Luglio
“sulle trincee con il reggimento, preparatevi a morire”
All’appello del giorno dopo solo una manciata risposero
“Arruolatevi Terranoviani e seguitemi”
I negozianti di Water Street ancora piangono quel giorno
quando l’orgoglio della città se ne andò marciando
un migliaio di uomini macellati per ascoltare il re dire
“Arruolatevi Terranoviani e seguitemi”

1) gruppo paramilitare che costituì il nucleo del nascente Esercito
2) pescatori e contadini servivano alla giovane colonia
3) ovvero il Royal Newfoundland Regiment il soprannome Blue Puttees venne dalle pezze blu con cui si fasciavano i polpacci, dette fasce mollettiere, una parola perduta, una moda lanciata proprio nella prima guerra mondiale, in cui praticamente tutti i soldati degli eserciti schierati nel conflitto indossavano le fasce mollettiere (qui)
4) quelli che rimasero dopo la campagna del 1915 che vennero inglobati in un Reggimento di 800 uomini, mandato al macello alle trincee del Somme il 1° Luglio 1916


Morag and the Kelpie

Leggi in italiano

In the most placid rivers of Ireland and in the dark depths of the Scottish lakes live water demons, fairy creatures, that feed on human flesh: they are “kelpie”, “each uisge” (in English water-horse), “eich- mhara “(in English sea horse); to want to be picky kelpie lives preferably near the rapids of the rivers, fords and waterfalls, while each uisge prefers the lakes and the sea, but kelpie is the most used word for both. Similar creatures are also told in Norse legends (Bäckahästen, the river horse) – and Germanic (nix in the form of fish or frog). (first part)


At the summer pastures of the Highlands they are still told of the beautiful Morag (Marion) seduced by a kelpie in human form; she, while noticing the strangeness of her husband, did not understand his true nature, if not after the birth of their child and … she decided to abandoning baby in swaddling clothes and husband shapeshifter!

On the Isle of Skye they still sing a song in Gaelic, ‘Oran-tàlaidh an eich-uisge’ or ‘Oran each-uisge’ (The water kelpie’s song) the “Lullaby of the kelpie” a melancholy air with which the kelpie cradled his child without a mother, and at the same time a plea to Morag to return to them, both he and the child needed her.
Of this lament we know several textual versions handed down to today in the Hebrides. The melodies revolve around an old Scottish aria entitled “Crodh Chailein” (in English “Colin’s cattle) evidently considered a melody of the fairies.
Another song, sweet and melancholic at the same time, is entitled Song of the Kelpie or even ARRANE GHELBY

Dh’èirich mi moch, b’ fheàrr nach do dh’èirich

So translates from Scottish Gaelic Tom Thomson “I got up early, it would have been better not to” (see)

Julie Fowlis in Alterum 2017

Scottish gaelic
Dh’èirich mi moch, dh’èirich mi moch, B’fheàrr nach d’ dh’èirich
Mo chreach lèir na chuir a-mach mi.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
Bha ceò sa bheinn, Bha ceò sa bheinn, is uisge frasach
’s thachair orms’ a’ ghruagach thlachdmhor.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò
Bheir mi dhut fìon, Bheir mi dhut fìon, ‘S gach nì a b’ ait leat,
Ach nach èirinn leat sa mhadainn,
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
’Nighean nan gamhna, ’Nighean nan gamhna, Bha mi ma’ riut,
Anns a’ chrò is càch nan cadal
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
An daoidh gheal donn, An daoidh gheal donn, Rug i mac dhomh.
Ged is fuar a rinn i altram,
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.

Bha laogh mo laoidh, Bha laogh mo laoidh, ri taobh cnocan
gun teine, gun sgàth, gun fhasgadh.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
A Mhòr a ghaoil, A Mhòr, a ghaoil, Till ri d’ mhacan,
’S bheir mi goidean breagha breac dhut.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
English translation *
I arose early
I arose early –
would that I hadn’t.
I was distressed by what sent me out (1).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
There was mist on the hill
There was mist on the hill
and showers of rain
and I came across a pleasant maiden
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
I’ll give you wine
I’ll give you wine
and all that will please you
but I won’t arise with you in the morning (2).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
Girl of the calves (3)
Girl of the calves
I was with you in the cattle-fold (4)
and the rest were asleep.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
The fine brown wicked one (5)
The fine brown wicked one
bore me a son
although coldly did she nurse him
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
The calf (6) of my song
The calf of my song
was beside a hillock
without fire, protection or shelter (7).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
Mòr, my love
Mòr, my love, return to your little son
and I’ll give you a beautiful speckled withes (8).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
English translation also here
1)  the kelpie, suffering from loneliness, leaves the lake early in the morning and takes on human form
2) the shapeshifter promises food and comfort to the girl to convince her to follow him, but he warns her, he is a nocturnal creature and will not wake up with her in the morning!
3) gamhna = cattle between 1 year and 2 years translates Tom Thomson stitks; that is heifer, the cow that has not yet given birth, the verse in addition to qualifying the work of the girl (herdswoman) also wants to be a compliment, in Italian “bella manza” as a busty woman, with abundant and seductive shapes
4) the kelpie remembers the night meeting when they had sex (and obviously nine months later their son was born)
5) after the good memories of the past it comes the present, the woman has discovered the true nature of her companion and she dislikes their child
6) continuing in the comparison the kelpie calls “calf” its baby, that is “small child”
7) A typical “exposition” of fairy children is described. A practice of “birth control” widespread in the countryside of Europe, was the abandonment of newborns in the forest, so that fairies would take care of them; once the practice was widespread both against illegitimate people, and newborns with obvious physical deformations or ill-looking. The custom of “exposing” the baby was connected with the belief that he was “swapped” or kidnapped by the fairies and replaced with a changeling, a shapeshifter who for a while resembles the human child, but ultimately always takes its true appearance.
8) breagha breac dhut. Tom Thomson translates = speckled band (of withy). I searched the dictionary: it is a crown made by intertwining the branches of willow; it reminds me of the Celtic crowns of flowers and leaves


Margaret Stewart & Allan MacDonald recorded it under the title “Òran Tàlaidh An Eich-Uisge” in 2001 (from Colla Mo Rùn) following the collection of Frances Tolmie (‘Cumha an EichUisge’ vol I)

english translation *
I and III
Sleep my child, Sleep my child
Sleep my child, Sleep my child
Hì hó, hó bha hó, Hì hó, hao i hà
Fast of foot you are
Great as a horse you are
II and IV
My darling son
Oh my lovely little horse
You are far from the township
You will be sought after (1)
scottish gaelic
O hó bà a leinibh hó, O hó bà a leinibh hà
Bà a leinibh hó bha hó, Hó bà a leinibh hao i hà
Hì hó, hó bha hó, Hì hó, hao i hà
‘S luath dha d’ chois thu, hó bha hó
‘S mór nad each thu, hao i hà
O hó m’eudail a mac hó
O hó m’eachan sgèimheach hà
‘S fhad ‘n ‘n bhail’ thu, hò bha hò
Nìtear d’iarraidh, hao i hà

1) The kelpie sings the lullaby to its child abandoned by the human mother and comforts him by telling him that when he grows up he’ll be a little heartbreaker

With the title of ‘A Mhór, a Mhór, till ri d’ mhacan the same story is present in the archives of Tobar an Dualchais, from the voice of three witnesses of the Isle of Skye

A similar story is told in the island of Benbecula with the title of Bheirinn Dhut Iasg, Bheirinn Dhut Iasg see

in Suantraighe, A Collection of Celtic Lullabies 2006 sings another fragment with the title “The Skye Water Kelpie’s lullaby” (see the version of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser below)

English translation *
Mór (1), my love! Mór, my treasure!
Come back to your little son
and you will get a speckled trout from the lake.
Mór, my darling! Tonight the night
Is wetly showering my son
on the shelter of a knoll.
Mór, my love! Mór, my treasure!
Lacking fire, lacking food, lacking shelter,
and you continually lamenting (2).
Mór, my love! Mór, my darling!
My gray, old, toothless mouth
to your silly little mouth,
and me singing  tunes by Ben Frochkie. (3)
Scottish gaelic
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Till gu d’mhacan is gheabh
thu’m bradan breac o’n loch.
A Mhór a shògh! Tha’n oiche nochd
Gu fliuch frasach aig mo mhacsa
ri sgath chnocain.
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Gun teine, gun tuar, gun fhasgadh,
is tu sìor chòineadh.
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Mo sheana-chab liath ri
do bheul beag baoth
is mi seinn phort dhuit am Beinn Frochdaidh.

1) Mhórag or Mór is the name of the maiden loved by the kelpie
2) it is the incessant cry of the child abandoned by his human mother in the cold and without food
3) mountain between Gesture and Portree on the Isle of Skye

Skye Water Kelpie’s Lullaby

With the title “Cronan na Eich-mhara”, the same fragment sung by Caera is also reported in the book of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and Kenneth MacLeod “Songs of the Hebrides” 1909 (page 94)

Kenneth MacLeod
Avore, my love, my joy
To thy baby come
And troutlings you’ll get out of the loch
Avore, my heart, the night is dark,
wet and dreary.
Here’s your bairnie neath the rock
Avore, my love, my joy,
wanting fire here,
wanting shelter, wanting comfort
our babe is crying by the loch
Avore, my heart, my bridet
My gray old mouth
touching thy sweet lips,
and me singing Old songs to thee,
by Ben Frochkie (1)
1) between Gesto and Portree in Skye
Scottish gaelic
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Till gu d’mhacan is gheabh
thu’m bradan breac o’n loch.
A Mhór a shògh! Tha’n oiche nochd
Gu fliuch frasach aig mo mhacsa
ri sgath chnocain.
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Gun teine, gun tuar, gun fhasgadh,
is tu sìor chòineadh.
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Mo sheana-chab liath ri
do bheul beag baoth
is mi seinn phort dhuit am Beinn Frochdaidh.
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


The importance of being.. Reily

Leggi in italiano

TITLES: A Fair Young Maid all in her Garden, There Was A Maid In Her Father’s Garden, Pretty, Fair Maid in the Garden, John Riley, Johnny Riley, The Broken Token, The Young and Single Sailor

Joan Baez popularised this ballad with John Reily title in the 60s:  it is a classic love story of probable seventeenth-century origins, in which the woman remains faithful to her lover or promised spouse who has gone to war or embarked on a vessel. The song is classified as reily ballad because it is structured as a dialogue between the protagonist  (in disguise) usually called John or George, Willie or Thomas Riley (Rally, Reilly) and the woman, example of loyalty ( first part)


The text of this version reminds me of the Oscar Wild comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest” Wilde’s contradictory to Shakespeare in the famous Juliet declaration on the name of Romeo:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

This is the melody in the American tradition as collected in the field (Providence, Kentucky) in the 30s by Alan Lomax. Joe Hickerson penned “There are two ballads titled “John (George)  Riley” in G. Malcolm Laws’s American Balladry  from British Broadsides (1957). In number N36, the returned man claims that  Riley was killed so as to test his lover’s steadfastness. In number N37,  which is our ballad, there is no such claim. Rather, he suggests they sail  away to Pennsylvania; when she refuses, he reveals his identity. In the many  versions found, the man’s last name is spelled in various ways, and in some  cases he is “Young Riley.” Several scholars cite a possible origin  in “The Constant Damsel,” published in a 1791 Dublin songbook.
Peggy’s learned the song in childhood from a field  recording in the Library of Congress Folk Archive: AFS 1504B1 as sung by Mrs.  Lucy Garrison and recorded by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in Providence,  Kentucky, in 1937. This was transcribed by Ruth Crawford Seeger and included  in John and Alan Lomax’s Our Singing Country (1941), p. 168. Previously, the  first verse and melody as collected from Mrs. Garrison at Little Goose Creek,  Manchester, Clay Co., Kentucky, in 1917 appeared in Cecil Sharp’s English  Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1932), vol. 2, p. 22. Peggy’s  singing is listed as the source for the ballad on pp. 161-162 of Alan Lomax’s  The Folk Songs of North America in the English Language (1960), with  “melodies and guitar chords transcribed by Peggy Seeger.” In 1964  it appeared on p. 39 of Peggy’s Folk Songs of Peggy Seeger (Oak Publications.  edited by Ethel Raim). Peggy recorded it on  Folk-Lyric FL114, American Folk Songs for Banjo and her brother Pete included  this version on his first Folkways LP, FP 3 (FA 2003), Darling Corey (1950).” (from here)

The dialogue between them seems more like a skirmish between lovers in which she proves to be chilly and offended, while he, returned after leaving her alone for three years, jokingly pretends not to know her and asks her to marry him because he is fascinated by his graces! So in the end she yields and paraphrasing Shakespeare says “If you be he,  and your name is Riley..

Peggy  Seeger in “Heading for home”  2003

Pete Seeger in “Darling Corey/Goofing-Off Suite” 1993

Peggy  Seeger version
As I walked out  one morning early
To take the  sweet and pleasant air
Who should I  spy but a fair young lady
Her cheeks  being like a lily fair.
I stepped up to  her, right boldly asking
Would she be a  sailor’s wife?
O no, kind sir, I’d rather tarry
And remain single for all my life.
Tell me, kind  miss, and what makes you differ
From all the rest of womankind?
I see you’re  fair, you are young, you’re handsome
And for to  marry might be inclined.
The truth, kind  sir, I will plainly tell you
I might have  married three years ago
To one John  Riley who left this country
He is the cause of all my woe.
Come along with  me, don’t you think on Riley,
Come along with  me to some distant shore;
We will set sail for Pennsylvanie
Adieu, sweet  England, forevermore.
I’ll not go  with you to Pennsylvanie
I’ll not go  with you that distant shore;
My heart’s with  Riley, I will ne’er forget him
Although I may  never see him no more.
And when he  seen she truly loved him
He give her  kisses, one two and three,
Says, I am  Riley, your own true lover
That’s been the  cause of your misery.
If you be he,  and your name is Riley,
I’ll go with  you to that distant shore.
We will set  sail to Pennsylvanie,
Adieu, kind friends, forevermore.


In this version the identification is based on the ring that probably the two sweethearts had exchanged as a token of love before departure. A beautiful Celtic Bluegrass style version!

Tim  O’Brien in Fiddler’s Green 2005

Pretty fair  maid was in her garden
When a stranger came a-riding by
He came up to the gate and called her
Said pretty  fair maid would you be my bride
She said I’ve a true love who’s in the army
And he’s been gone for seven long years
And if he’s  gone for seven years longer
I’ll still be waiting for him here
Perhaps he’s on some watercourse drowning
Perhaps he’s on some battlefield slain
Perhaps he’s to a fair girl married
And you may never see him again
Well if he’s  drown, I hope he’s happy
Or if he’s on some battlefield slain
And if he’s to some fair girl married
I’ll love the girl that married him
He took his hand out of his pocket
And on his finger he wore a golden ring (1)
And when she saw that band a-shining
A brand new song her heart did sing
And then he  threw his arms all around her
Kisses gave her one, two, three
Said I’m your true and loving soldier
That’s come  back home to marry thee
1)  the ring that they exchanged on the day of departure


Fair Maid in the Garden: the ballad of John Riley

Leggi in italiano

TITLES: A Fair Young Maid all in her Garden, There Was A Maid In Her Father’s Garden, Pretty, Fair Maid in the Garden, John Riley, Johnny Riley, The Broken Token, The Young and Single Sailor

Joan Baez popularised this ballad with John Reily title in the 60s (a lot of groups proposed it in that decade including Simon & Garfunkel, Judi Collins): it is a classic love story of probable seventeenth-century origins, in which the woman remains faithful to her lover or promised spouse who has gone to war or embarked on a vessel. The song is classified as reily ballad because it is structured as a dialogue between the protagonist (in disguise) usually called John or George, Willie or Thomas Riley (Rally, Reilly) and the woman, example of loyalty, and often appears a sign of recognition, for example, a gift exchanged or an object broken in half (other examples: “Her mantle so green“, “The Banks of Claudy“).

In most of these stories the man returns after a long time and, not recognized by the woman, tests her loyalty. But the girl refuses, saying she can not give him her heart because she is waiting for the return of her true love. The man so reassured, reveals himself and the two crown their love with marriage.
The story recalls the archetypal figures of Ulysses and Penelope, when Ulysses, in disguise, returns twenty years after to his Ithaca , and he is not recognized by his wife. It is also a subject of fiction, on men returning from war changed in physique and psyche or who are clearly another person, accepted in spite of everything by his wife mostly for practical reasons; she ends up preferring this new or different person to the previous husband!

The origin of the theme in English and American balladry has been identified in the seventeenth-century ballad entitled “The constant maids resolution: or The damsels loyal love to a seaman” found under the title “The Constant Damsel” in “The Vocal Enchantress” ( Dublin 1791) and in various nineteenth-century American publications under various titles. There are many text versions with small variations combined with different melodies


Although a traditional song, it has been credited to Rick Neff and Bob Gibson (of the Byrds, the American version of the Beatles), in the album “Fifth Dimension” of 1966 (see): actually the song had already been recorded by the american folk singer Joan Baez in her second album released in 1960 with the title of “John Riley”; in the notes she writes traditional song, arrangement by Joan Baez; it is her version to become a standard!



Fair young maid all in her garden,
strange young man passer-by, he said:
«Fair maid, will you marry me?».
This answer then was her reply:
‒ Οh, no, kind   sir, I cannot marry thee,
for I’ve a love and he sails the sea.
Though he’s been gone for seven years,
still no man shall marry me.
‒ What if he’s in some battle slain
or if he’s drowned in the deep salt sea?
What if he’s found another love
and he and his love both married be?
‒ Well, if he’s in some battle slain
I will die when the moon doth wane.
And if he’s drowned in the deep salt sea,
then I’ll be true to his memory.
And if he’s found another love
and he and his love both married be,
I wish them health and happiness,
where they dwell across the sea.
He pickes her up in his arms so strong
and kisses gave her: One, two, three.
‒ Say weep no more, my own true love,
for I’m your long-lost John Riley!
1) seven is a recurring number in ballads to indicate the duration of a separation. The reference to the number seven is not accidental: it is a magic or symbolic number linked to death or change. If a husband left for the war and did not return within seven years, the wife could remarry.

second part


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.



A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh gum mhàthair mi (O love, let me home to my mother)

Warwick Gobe

A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh gum mhathair mi (O love, let me home to my mother) is a Scottish Gaelic song from the Hebrides: it is the plea of a girl kidnapped by the kelpie to be allowed to return home. It was customary for the Kelpie to take a human bride to feel less alone, but the brides were not always happy to live on the bottom of the lake, to take care of the kelpie’s house! Although the Scottish maidens are dissuaded by many folk tales to walk alone on the moors and on the banks of the loch, there is always the most innocent or adventurous, which inevitably ends up making bad encounters.
[A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh gum mhàthair mi
(O love, let me home to my mother) è un canto in gaelico scozzese proveniente dalle Isole Ebridi: è la supplica di una fanciulla rapita dal kelpie affinchè le sia concesso di ritornare a casa. Era consuetudine per il Kelpie prendersi una sposa umana per sentirsi meno solo, ma non sempre le spose erano felici di vivere sul fondo del lago ad accudire alla casetta del kelpie! Sebbene le fanciulle scozzesi siano dissuase da molti racconti popolari ad andarsene sole solette per la brughiera e sulle rive dei loch, c’è sempre quella più ingenua o avventurosa, la quale immancabilmente finisce per fare brutti incontri..]

At the moment the only sources of the song on the net are filed on Tobar an dualchais
[Al momento le uniche fonti in rete della canzone sono archiviate su Tobar an dualchais]
‘A Ghaoil Leig Dhachaigh gu Mo Mhàthair Mi’- Kate Nicolson (dall’isola di South Uist)
Julie Fowlis in ‘Gach Sgeul / Every Story’ 2014

Ulli Boegershausen guitar arrangiament [arrangiamento per chitarra]

Scottish Gaelic
A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh gum mhàthair mi;
A ghràidh, leig dhachaigh gum mhàthair mi;
A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh gum mhàthair mi –
An tòir chrodh-laoigh a thàine mi.
Gur ann a-raoir a chuala mi
Mo ghaol a bhith ri buachailleachd,
’S ged fhuair thu ’n iomall na buaile mi,
A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh mar fhuair thu mi.
‘S mi dìreadh ris na gàrraidhean,
’S a’ teàrnadh ris na fàirichean,
Gun d’ thachair fleasgach bàigheil rium,
’S cha d’ dh’ fheuch e bonn ga chàirdeis rium.
Ged bheireadh tu crodh agus caoraich dhomh,
Ged bheireadh tu eachaibh air thaodaibh dhomh,
Ged bheireadh tu sin agus daoine dhomh,
A ghaoil, leig dhachaigh mar fhuair thu mi.
Trodaidh m’ athair ’s mo mhàthair riut,
Trodaidh mo chinneadh ’s mo chàirdean riut,
Ach marbhaidh mo thriùir bhràithrean thu
Mura tèid mi dhachaigh mar thàine mi.
Gheall mo mhàthair gùn thoirt dhomh,
Gheall i ribean a b’ ùire dhomh,
Is gheall i breacan ùr thoirt dhomh
Ma thèid mi dhachaigh mar fhuair thu mi.

English translation *
Love, let me home to my mother
Darling, let me home to my mother
Love, let me home to my mother
I only came for the cattle.
It was only last night
That I heard that my love was herding
And though you found me at the brim of the  fold
Love, let me home as you found me.
I was clambering up the dykes
And descending the ridges
When a friendly lad met me
And he did not enforce his friendship on me.
Though you were to give me cattle and sheep
Though you were to give me tethered horses
Though you were to give me that and men
Love, let me home as you found me.
My mother and father will chastise you
My clan and my relatives will chastise you
But my three brothers will kill you
If I don’t return home as I came.
My mother promised me a gown
Decorated with the newest of ribbons
And she promised me a new plaid
If I return home the way you found me. 
traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Mio caro, fammi tornare a casa da mia madre
Fammi tornare a casa da mia madre
Amore (1), fammi tornare a casa da mia madre
Sono arrivata qui solo per il bestiame (2).
E ‘ stato solo la scorsa notte
Ho sentito che il mio amore era al pascolo
E anche se mi hai trovata ai bordi del pascolo
Fammi tornare a casa come mi hai trovata.
Mi arrampicavo sulle erte
E scendevo dalle creste,
Quando un giovanotto cordiale mi ha incontrato
E non mi ha imposto la sua amicizia.
Anche se tu potessi darmi bestiame e pecore,
Anche se tu potessi darmi dei cavalli impastoiati,
Anche se tu potessi darmi questo e dei servitori,
Fammi tornare a casa come mi hai trovata.
Mia madre e mio padre ti puniranno
Il mio clan e i miei parenti ti puniranno
Ma i miei tre fratelli ti uccideranno
Se non tornassi a casa come sono venuta.
Mia madre mi ha promesso un abito
Decorato con i nastri più nuovi
E lei mi ha promesso un nuovo mantello
Se tornassi a casa come mi hai trovata.

1) the girl coaxes the kelpie, but to call him “my love” it is a bit out of the context of a fleeting encounter, maybe they have lived together and now she feels homesick . Yet that of the girl is clearly a plea of not being violated to return home with her virginity intact [la fanciulla blandisce il kelpie, ma chiamarlo amore mio è un po’ fuori dal contesto di un fugace incontro, forse i due hanno vissuto insieme per un po’ di tempo e adesso lei sente la nostalgia di casa. Eppure quella della fanciulla è chiaramente una supplica di non essere violata per ritornare a casa con la sua verginità intatta]
2) the girl justifies her curiosity by explaining that she had gone to those solitary places for her job as guardian of the family’s cattle; in the next stanza she even explains that she hoped to meet another herdsman / shepherd boy; that is she is there for the cattle, not for sex [la fanciulla giustifica la sua curiosità spiegando di essersi spinta verso quei luoghi solitari nella sua mansione di guardiana del bestiame della famiglia; nella strofa successiva addirittura spiega che sperava d’incontrare un altro mandriano/pastorello; lei è li per il bestiame, non per fare sesso]

“Up, ride with the kelpie” by Ian Anderson


Dream Angus the scottish Sandy (l’omino dei sogni scozzese)

“Dream Angus” is the Scottish version of Sandman (affectionately called Sandy) a mythical character of Northern Europe folklore, the sandy wizard, who brings happy dreams sprinkling magic sand into the eyes of sleeping children. In the animated movie by Dreamworks “Rise of the Guardians” he is a mute character who communicates through images formed with his magic golden dust; always cheerful, provides children with beautiful dreams and unleashes their imagination.
[“Dream Angus” è la versione scozzese dell’Omino dei Sogni (in inglese Sandman chiamato affettuosamente Sandy) un personaggio mitico del folklore del Nord Europa, il mago sabbiolino, che porta sogni felici cospargendo di sabbia magica gli occhi dei bambini addormentati. Nella versione animata della Dreamworks “Le 5 Leggende” (in inglese “Rise of the Guardians”) è un personaggio muto che comunica attraverso immagini formate con la sua dorata polvere magica; sempre allegro, fornisce ai bambini dei bei sogni e sbriglia la loro immaginazione.]

 OleLukoie By Fagilewhispers.jpg

In the fairy tale of Andersen, Ole Lukøje (in English Ole-Luk-Oie) tells the sleeping children fantastic stories opening up an umbrella full of drawings on their heads (but only good children can make happy dreams, the disobedient ones sleep without dreams and the little man opens an umbrella without drawings on their heads). The italian Gianni Rodari has undergone the charm of this character dedicating him a nursery rhyme in which he outlined a mischievous but good-natured spirit.
[Nella fiaba di Andersen Ole Chiudigliocchi (Ole Lukøje in inglese Ole-Luk-Oie) racconta ai bambini addormentati delle storie fantastiche aprendo sopra alla loro testa un ombrello pieno di disegni (ma solo i bambini buoni possono essere felici nel sogni, quelli disobbedenti dormono senza sogni e l’omino apre sulle loro teste un ombrello senza disegni). Il nostro Gianni Rodari ha subito il fascino del personaggio dedicandogli una filastrocca in cui l’onimo dispettoso ma bonario dorme sotto il nostro comò di giorno.]

And yet Hoffmann recounts about Der Sandmann who is a dark version of the boogeyman: he snatch the eyes of the children who does not want to sleep to feed his ravenous offspring.
E tuttavia Hoffmann racconta dell’uomo della sabbia (Der Sandmann) che è una cupa versione dell’uomo nero: ai bambini che non volevano dormire strappava gli occhi per darli in pasto alla sua è famelica prole dal becco ricurvo come i rapaci della notte.]


In the Celtic mythology Angus (Aengus) is the god of youth, of poetic inspiration and love, son of the Nymph Boann and of the Dagda of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In a scottish goodnight song he is called “Dream Angus“, the god of dreams and by night he carries a bag full of dreams. His wife is Caer Ibormeith and their love story is the meeting of the twin souls that can not be separated.
[Nella mitologia celtica Angus (Aengus) è il dio della giovinezza, dell’ispirazione poetica e dell’amore, figlio della Ninfa Boann e del Dagda dei Tuatha Dé Danann. In una canzone della buonanotte è chiamato “Dream Angus”, il dio dei sogni e la notte porta una sacca piena di sogni in vendita. Sua moglie è Caer Ibormeith (Bacca di Tasso) la loro storia  è l’incontro delle anime gemelle che non possono essere separate. ]

Twin souls

Illustration from The Dream of Aengus, by Ted Nasmith

 According to the myth, Angus fell in love with a maiden he saw in his dreams.
But she was under a spell and to be able to free her, Angus had to recognize her while she was living in the form of a swan. After much research he knew he would have to waited till Samain for going to Lake Dragon’s Mouth (Loch Bel Dracon), where he found 150 swans tied to couples with silver chains.

[Secondo il mito, Angus si innamorò della fanciulla che vedeva nei suoi sogni. Ma la fanciulla era sotto un sortilegio e per poterla liberare Angus doveva riconoscerla mentre viveva nella forma di cigno. Dopo molte ricerche seppe di doverla aspettare per la festa di Samain al lago di Dragon’s Mouth (Loch Bel Dracon in italiano Bocca del Drago) dove trovò 150 cigni legati a coppie con catene d’argento.]

Aengus sings in front of the lake during his transformation into a swan [Aengus canta davanti al lago nella sua trasformazione in cigno]- John Duncan 1908
Angus turned into a swan to call Caer, so they flew together over the lake three times singing a sweet melody that fell asleep all Ireland for three days and three nights; now they live in Brugh Na Boinne (Newgrange).
[Angus si trasformò in cigno per poter chiamare la sua Caer, così volarono insieme sorvolando il lago per tre volte cantavano una dolce melodia che addormentò l’Irlanda per tre giorni e tre notti; ora dimorano nel Brugh Na Boinne (Newgrange).]

Yeats dedicates a poem to him The song of wandering Aengus published in 1899, in the collection of poems “The Wind among the reeds”.
The first to put the poem into music was the same Yeats who composed or adapted a traditional Irish melody: in 1907 he published his essay ‘Speaking to the Psaltery’ in which the poem is recited bardically, sung with the accompaniment of the psaltery; but many other artists were inspired by the text and composed further melodies. (see more)

Yeats gli dedica una poesia The song of wandering Aengus (La canzone di Aengus l’errante) pubblicata nel 1899, nella raccolta di poesie “The Wind among the reeds” (Il vento fra le canne). Il primo a mettere in musica la poesia è stato lo stesso Yeats che la compose o che vi adattò una melodia tradizionale irlandese : nel 1907 diede alle stampe il suo saggio ‘Speaking to the Psaltery’ in cui la poesia viene recitata alla maniera bardica ovvero cantata con l’accompagnamento del salterio; ma molti altri artisti furono ispirati dal testo e composero ulteriori melodie. continua

Dream Angus

Dream Angus is a legendary character in Scottish folklore that brings beautiful dreams to sleeping children.
From the moment Angus is born it is obvious that he is a gentle spirit and will be universally loved. Songbirds circle his head to serenade him to sleep as he rocks in his cradle, and the wildest hunting dog calms when in his presence.” (from qui)

Angus dei Sogni è un personaggio leggendario nel folklore scozzese che porta bei sogni ai bambini addormentati “Subito dalla sua nascita Angus è uno spirito gentile e sarà universalmente amato: gli uccelli canterini gli girano intorno alla testa per farlo addormentare, mentre si dondola nella culla, e il cane da caccia più selvaggio si calma quando è in sua presenza“.

Jackie Oates

Jean-Luc Lenoir in Old Celtic & Nordic Lullabies” 2016

Lynn Morrison

Can ye no hush your weepin’?
All the wee lambs are sleepin’
Birdies are nestlin’ nestlin’ together
Dream Angus is hirplin’ oer the heather
Dreams to sell, fine dreams to sell
Angus is here wi’ dreams to sell
Hush my wee bairnie and sleep without fear
Dream Angus has brought you a dream my dear.
List’ to the curlew cryin’
Faintly the echos dyin’
Even the birdies and the beasties are sleepin’
But my bonny bairn is weepin’ weepin’
III (1)
Soon the lavrock sings his song
Welcoming the coming dawn
Lambies coorie doon the gither
Wi’ the yowies in the heather
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Perchè non smetti di piangere?
Tutti gli agnellini sono addormentati,
gli uccellini si stanno accoccolando insieme
Angus dei Sogni si aggira per la brughiera
Sogni da vendere, bei sogni da vendere
Angus è qui con i sogni da vendere
shhh mio piccolino, dormi senza paura
Angus dei Sogni ti ha portato un sogno mio caro
Ascolta il chiurlo che grida
piano si smorza l’eco
anche gli uccellini e le bestie dormono
ma il mio piccolino piange, piange
Presto l’allodola leverà il suo canto
per salutare l’arrivo dell’alba
gli agnelli si rannicchiano assieme
con le pecorelle nell’erica

1) or
Sweet the lavrock sings at morn,
Heraldin’ in a bright new dawn.
Wee lambs, they coorie doon taegether
Alang with their ewies in the heather.

The musical arrangements are however for everyone.
[Gli arrangiamenti sono però per tutti i gusti]
Debra Fotheringham

The Corries

Annie Lennox

Nam bu leam fhin thu thaladhainn thu

The melody of Dream Angus is very similar to a Gaelic lullaby “Nam bu leam fhin thu thaladhainn thu“, which is believed to have been sung by a fairy to an abandoned human child in the forest. On the Isle of Skye (Hebrides) it is associated with MacLeods clan of Dunvegan, who took enchanted creatures as nurses for their children.
Christina Stewart reports a couple of legends associated with this song:
In an alternative story, the wife of the chief of the MacLeods gives birth to a baby, much to the joy of the family.  However, the mother is a fairy woman and while the child is still a baby, she is forced to return to her own people.  One night, there is a great feast going on in Dunvegan Castle and the nursemaid who is supposed to be caring for the child is so attracted by the colour and festivity that she leaves the baby sleeping and goes to watch.  While she is away, the baby wakens and begins to cry.  When she hears it, she comes back and finds a woman cradling the baby, singing this song to him.  She has wrapped the child in an embroidered, yellow covering.  As the child calms, the woman hands the child back to the nursemaid and leaves.  The story goes that the woman was the baby’s mother, returned to see that her child was kept from harm and the yellow cover was the so-called Fairy Flag of Dunvegan, a banner which the clan should wave at times of dire need.  Legend has it that this otherworldly banner has miraculous powers and when unfurled in battle, the clan MacLeod would invariably defeat their enemies.  It can only be waved 3 times, though, after which it will fall into dust.  The flag has been waved twice so far – in 1480 at Blàr Bàgh na Fala and ten years later at the Battle of Glendale.  The flag itself certainly exists and is a popular attraction at Dunvegan Castle.  There are many stories associated with it and it’s origins and this is not the only lullaby said to have been sung by the baby’s mother. (from here)

La melodia di Dream Angus è molto simile a una ninna nanna gaelica “Nam bu leam fhin thu thaladhainn thu”, che si ritiene sia stata cantata da una fata a un bambino umano abbandonato nella foresta. Sull’isola di Skye (Isole Ebridi) è associata al clan MacLeods di Dunvegan che prendeva delle creature fatate come balia per i figli.
Christina Stewart riporta un paio di leggende associate a questo canto “In una storia alternativa, la moglie del capo dei MacLeod da alla luce un bambino, tutto per la gioia della famiglia. Tuttavia, la madre è una fata e quando il bambino è ancora piccolo, è costretta a tornare dalla sua stessa gente. Una notte, c’è una grande festa in corso nel Castello di Dunvegan e la bambinaia che doveva prendersi cura del bambino è così distratta dalla festa che lascia il bambino addormentato e va a vedere. Mentre lei è via, il bambino si sveglia e comincia a piangere. Quando lo sente, torna e trova una donna che culla il bambino, cantando questa canzone per lui. Aveva avvolto il bambino in una coperta gialla ricamata. Mentre il bambino si calma, la donna restituisce il bambino alla balia e se ne va. La storia racconta che la donna era la madre del bambino, tornata a vedere che il suo bambino fosse al sicuro e la copertina gialla era la cosiddetta “Fairy Flag of Dunvegan”, uno stendardo che il clan avrebbe dovuto agitare nei momenti di estremo bisogno. La leggenda narra che questo vessillo ultraterreno abbia poteri miracolosi e quando dispiegato in battaglia, il clan MacLeod avrebbe invariabilmente sconfitto i loro nemici. Può essere sventolato solo 3 volte, dopo di che cadrà nella polvere. La bandiera è stata sventolata due volte finora – nel 1480 a Blàr Bàgh na Fala e dieci anni dopo nella Battaglia di Glendale. La bandiera di per sé certamente esiste ed è un’attrazione popolare al Castello di Dunvegan. Ci sono molte storie associate ad esso e alle sue origini e questa non è l’unica ninnananna che si dice sia stata cantata dalla madre del bambino.”

Christina Stewart in Bairn’s Kist 2011

Scottish gaelic
Thàladhainn, thàladhainn, thàladhainn thu
Nam bu leam fhìn thu, leanabh mo chìche
Nam bu leam fhìn thu, thàladhainn thu
Thàladhainn, thàladhainn, thàladhainn thu
English translation:
If you were mine, I would lull you
Lull, lull, lull you
If you were mine, child of my breast
If you were mine, I would lull you
Lull, lull, lull you
traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Se tu fossi mio, ti cullerei
cullerei, cullerei
se tu fossi mio, bimbo del mio seno
se tu fossi mio, ti cullerei
cullerei, cullerei


Donna di Luce: Midir & Etain

Leggi in italiano

The Other World is widely described in Celtic stories as a wonderful land, Elsewhere is an island beyond the sea (or under the sea) located symbolically in the West. Although Elsewhere can only be achieved by death, some Celtic legends and poems tell of poets, semi-divine heroes or simple visitors who got there in life. (first part)


From Ireland the love story between the beautiful Etain (or Édaín) and the god Midir (or Midhir or Mired), son of Dagda. When the ancient gods (Túatha Dé Danann) retreated into the burial mounds, Midir lived in the Sidhe of Bri Leith (now Slieve Golry, near Ardagh, County of Longford.) Today a minor site from the archaeological point of view, but once a center of great  mythological importance like the Sidhe of Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange), the story of Etain’s abduction takes place in these two sites.

Midir (or Mired) visiting his adopted son Oengus (Aengus Og), met the most beautiful woman in Ireland, Etain, and they lived together at the Brú na Bóinne for a year and a day; when he returned to his kingdom he did not want to be parted from Etain, and so he brought her with him.

Midir was already married to Fuamnach, but the practice of concubinage was normal with the Celts, even though the first wives were jealous of newcomers. So Fuamnach showed herself compliant with her husband and was cordial with Etain, but meditating on revenge.
Thanks to the magical arts she transformed Etain into a pool of water starting a surprising cycle of transformations: the heat in the throne room dried up the pool which turned into a worm and the worm became a big butterfly (or a scarlet fly).
But Midir did not console himself and held the butterfly on his shoulder as the only companion, making his first wife more furious.

So Fuamnach summoned a magical storm that  dragged the fragile butterfly away from Midir and Etain wandered, perhaps for seven years, without ever being able to rest, until one day Etain was pushed into Ulaid, her homeland, and fell into the wine cup of Etar’s wife  who drank back the butterfly, and turned to her husband, saying “I am with child.” Nine months later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Etain reborn.

As she grew, Etain became the most beautiful girl in Ireland, and when the king of Tara Eochaid Airem (legendary supreme king of Ireland in the second century son of Finn) , wanted to marry, his messengers brought Etain to him .
But the beauty of Etain was still fatal for Ailill, the King’s brother, who fell in love with her, suffering from the pain of not being able to have her, until he fell seriously ill. So Etain took care of the invalid and Ailill ended up confessing his love for her by telling her that in order to heal his illness he had to succeed in possessing her.
Etain consented, not wanting to betray her husband inside the house she gave a night appointment in Ailill on the nearby hill. Ailill did not wake up that night, but Etain met a man in the shape of Ailill who pretended to be too tired for a relationship. After a couple of nocturnal encounters with the mysterious man Etain thus spoke “I am here to meet a seriously ill man, who must heal, not for you“, thus the man revealed his true identity by revealing their previous love.

The myth is taken from the “Tochmarc Étaíne” (“The Wooing of Étaín/Éadaoin”), written in Ireland in the ninth century – transcribed at the end of the fourteenth century, in the “Yellow Book of Lecan”, which has come down to us.

Thus Midir declaims his kingdom by calling him Mág Mór (the Great Plain) to woo Etain

Irish gaelic
A Bé Find, in rega lim,
i tír n-ingnad hi fil rind?
Is barr sobairche folt and;
is dath snechtai corp co ind.
Is and nád bí muí ná taí;
gela dét and; dubai braí;
is lí súla lín ar slúag;
is dath sion and cech grúad.
Is corcur maige cach muin;
is lí súa ugae luin;
cid caín déicsiu Maige Fáil
annam íar n-gnáis Maige Máir.
Cid mesc lib coirm Inse Fáil,
is mescu coirm Tíre Máir;
amra tíre tír as-biur;
ní tét oac and ré siun.
Srotha téithmilsi tar tír,
rogu de mid ocus ḟín,
doíni delgnaidi cen on,
combart cen peccad, cen chol.
Ad-chiam cách for cach leth,
ocus níconn-acci nech:
teimel imorbais Ádaim
dodon-aircheil ar áraim.
A ben, día rís mo thúaith tind,
is barr óir bias fort (chind);
muc úr, laith, lemnacht la lind
rot-bía lim and, a Bé Find.
English translation from here
Fair Lady, will you come with me

To a wonder-land of harmony
Hair shines with a primrose glow
Body smooth and white as snow.
There, is neither mine nor yours,
Teeth bright white, dark the brows.
The eye’s delight our populace
Each cheek bears a foxglove blush
The heather’s bloom on every neck
Eyes shine blue as blackbrids’ eggs,
Though you love to gaze on Ireland
It palls after visiting the Great Land.
Though sweet you deem your Irish beer
Our mirthful mead is sweeter far.
It is a wonder, truth be told,
Young do not die there before old.
The land flows with streams,both warm and sweet/ The best of wine, the choicest mead.
Marke the flawless folk therein,
conception without rape or sin.
While we watch your people teem,
We walk among you, still unseen.
Dark the tragedy of Eden
That keeps our countless people hidden.
Woman, join my noble folk
Your head shall bear a crown of gold
Pools of milk, mead, ale and wine
We shall drink there, my Bé Find.


The lyric was musicated by Angelo Branduardi with the title “Donna di Luce” on a text translated by Luisa Zappa: Midir promises to Etain to lead her into his fairy world.

Angelo Branduardi in Altro e Altrove 2003.

Con me vieni, Donna di luce (1)
la dove nascono le stelle
sono foglie i tuoi capelli,
il tuo corpo è neve.
Bianchi i tuoi denti,
nere le ciglia,
gioia per gli occhi
le tue guance di rosa.
E’ desolata la piana di Fal (2)
per chi ha visto la Grande Pianura (3).
Con me vieni, Donna di luce
là dove nascono le stelle
la mia gente cammina fiera
ed il vino scorre a fiumi.
Avrai sul capo una corona
e carne e birra
e latte e miele.
Magica terra…
Là nessuno muore
prima d’essere ormai vecchio.
English translation Cattia Salto
Come with me, Fair lady
where stars are born
hair is like leaves there,
and the body as snow;
white are teeth there,
dark the brows;
a delight of the eye
every cheeks as rose.
The Land of Fal is desolate
after frequenting the Great Land.
Come with me,  Fair lady
where stars are born
my folk walk proud
and rivers run with wine;
a crown of gold shall be upon thy head
and meat and ale
and milk and honey.
Magical land …
Young do not die there
before old

1) bright woman
2) Mag Fáil [= Ériu]
3) Mág Mór the celtic Otherworld

The game of fidchell

Etain agreed to follow the god, but being already married to Eochaid she did not want to leave her husband without having obtained his permission. So Midir went to the castle of Eochaid to challenge him in the game of fidchell (a kind of chess game).

At the beginning the prize of the winner were horses and boats and swords and always Midir lost against the Irish nobleman. In the third game, however, the god cunningly exclaimed “What the winner will ask for will be his”, and this time Midir won and demanded that he be allowed to embrace and kiss the king’s wife, Etain.
The husband, in order not to lose his honor, consented to the kiss, but Midir took Etain in his arms and rose up off the ground. All those present saw two swans go away in flight.
Only with the kiss Etain became mindful of his past, he reminded Midir and their great love, her immortal life in the Sidh and her transformation.