The water is wide

The Water is Wide is one of the most popular folk songs of today. Yet the history of this ballad goes back to Scotland in the years 1720, where it was known as "Oh, Waly, Waly, Gin Love Be Bonny". The preditor of that version even dates from the years 1600.

The Scottish singer William Thomson braught the song to England, where he was "favoured a court for his Scots songs". Towards the end of the 18th century the song was published in all major collections of Scottish songs. It was available in sophisticated arrangements, even the Austrian composer Ignaz Pleyel had been asked to work on it.
At the beginning of the 19th century the song was also well known in North America. It was performed in concerts and it was used for teaching violin lessons. Oh, Waly, Waly survived into the 20th century and was also recorded during the Folk Revival era.
But, the song has gone a long way: at first was the broadside with scattered verses from older songs, then there was the "Folk" that stored the texts in their memories during a couple of decades, then did come the Folklore collectors to save these versions from oblivion by writing them down and then at last the Folk Revival singers used them for new "old" songs.
Through the 300 years the song was passed from one generation to another, and no matter how the lyrics did change, one verse survived in each version:  I put my hand into some soft bush,
                  Thinking the sweetest flower to find.
                   I pricked my finger to the bone,
                  And left the sweetest flower alone 

Cecil Sharp, in 1906, compiled his own new song from all those gathered versions and this was the starting point for The Water is Wide. The first folk recording was in 1954, but the song became famous after Pete Seeger recorded his version in 1958. He deleted one verse, played it in common time instead of triple rhythm and was also the first to call the song "The Water is Wide".

From that moment the song can be found in numerous books, songbooks and recordings.

Click the link to hear The Water is Wide on accordeon

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