Sunday poetry – Laments

I love this poem which I first knew as a song. There are many versions of the words of Waly, Waly. It’s also known as The Water is Wide. This is only one of them. The version I know best was arranged by Chris Hazell & sung by Bryn Terfel on his lovely album of British folk songs. I couldn’t find a video of Bryn singing this but here’s a video of him singing Loch Lomond which is the link to the picture of Loch Lomond above (from here).

O waly, waly up the bank!
And waly, waly down the brae!
And waly, waly yon burn-side,
Where I and my love wont to gae!


I lean’d my back unto an aik,
I thought it was a trusty tree;
But first it bow’d, and syne it brak,
Sae my true-love did lightly me.


O waly, waly! but love be bony
A little time, while it is new;
But when ’tis auld, it waxeth cauld,
And fades away like morning dew.


O wherefore should I busk my head?
Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
For my true-love has me forsook,
And says he’ll never love me mair.


Now Arthur-Seat shall be my bed,
The sheets shall ne’er be fyl’d by me;
St Anton’s well shall be my drink,
Since my true-love has forsaken me.


Martinmas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
And shake the green leaves off the tree?
O gentle death, when wilt thou come?
For of my life I am weary.


‘Tis not the frost that freezes fell,
Nor blawing snaw’s inclemency;
‘Tis not sic cauld that makes me cry,
But my love’s heart grown cauld to me.


When we came in by Glasgow town,
We were a comely sight to see;
My love was clad in black velvet,
And I my sell in cramasie.


But had I wist, before I kiss’d,
That love had been sae ill to win,
I’d lock’d my heart in a case of gold,
And pin’d it with a silver pin.


Oh, oh, if my young babe were born,
And set upon the nurse’s knee,
And I my sell were dead and gone!
For a maid again I’ll never be.

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