She Moves Through the Fair: Modern Lyrics and Variations

Padraic Colum’s Poem

My young love said to me, “My brothers won’t mind,
And my parents won’t slight you for your lack of kind,”
Then she stepped away from me, and this she did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day”

She stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her go here and go there,
Then she went her way homeward with one star awake,
As the swan in the evening  moves over the lake.

The people were saying no two were e’er wed
But one had a sorrow that never was said,
And I smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear,
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

I dreamt it last night that my young love came in,
So softly she entered that her feet made no din;
She came close beside me and this she did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day”

Common Variations

My young love said to me, “My mother won’t mind,
And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind,”
And she laid her hand on me, and this she did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day”

“Brothers” and “parents” have become “mother” and “father”.

“She stepped away from me” (repeated in the next verse) has been changed to “she laid her hand on me” – an intimate gesture. Her subsequent words also become more intimate, as opposed to a phrase called over her shoulder as she departs.

As she stepped away from me and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there,
And then she turned homeward with one star awake,
Like the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

“Go” has become “move”; “went her way” has become “turned”; “as” has become “like”.

The people were saying, no two e’er were wed,
But one had a sorrow that never was said,
And she smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear,
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

Verse 3 is often omitted altogether. This may be due to the obscurity of the verse’s meaning.
Where it is sung, it is often the young love who smiles, not the narrator (“I smiled” / “She s
miled“). This implies that she might have a secret from him (especially if she ends up running off instead of dying).

Last night she came to me, my dead love came in,
So softly she came that her feet made no din,
As she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

A dream (“last night I dreamt it”) has become real, and the dream apparition of the narator’s “young love” has become a ghost (“dead love”).

I have also heard the first line of this verse rendered as, Last night she came to me, she came softly in. (Celtic Woman uses this lyric.)

Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

Henry was a collector of folk songs and his book is one of the definitive collections for Ireland; it includes several versions of “She Moves Through the Fair”, in assorted guises and under various titles. See my post on the book here.

Longer Version

The seven verse version quoted below seems to conflate Colum’s poem with the alternate version that begins I once had a sweetheart… I do not know of a recorded version that uses this set of lyrics; these were posted in this  Mudcat thread (Taconius posted them on 27 Jun 07). I have coloured the words that follow Colum teal and those that follow the alternate version pink.

My young love said to me, “My brothers won’t mind.
“Nor will my parents slight thee for thy lack of kind.”
Then she placed her hand on me and this she did say:
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Then she stepped away from me and moved through the fair.
And fondly I watched her move here and move there.
Then she turned her way homeward with but one star awake.
Like the swan in the evening moving over the lake.

The neighbors were saying we two ne’er would wed
For one had a sorrow that never was said.
But I smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear.
And that was the last time that I saw my dear.

The modifications highlighted in orange, above, seem to make more sense than Colum’s original. Here folks are denying that the couple will get married due to some unfortunate open secret on one of their parts; but the narrator feels confident that they are wrong.

Then according to promise at midnight I rose,
But I found nothing of her but linen and clothes.
The window was open; my young love was gone.
And I left behind to wander alone.

Again, the orange bits are a variation from the usual set of lyrics, this time from the alternate version also known as “Our Wedding Day”; the variations here leave the reasons for her absence more ambiguous (usually, it is plain that she’s absconded with another lover). The replacement of “down-folded clothes” with “linen and clothes” may be a modern reinterpretation that ignores the fact that bed linen is frequently known as bed clothes.

Oh love, my young love, what is this path you chose?
You have taken the thistle; forsaken the rose.
The thistle will wither; it soon will decay,
While the red rose turns fallow, and its petals fall away.

Now if I had two wings, like an eagle I’d fly.
I would fly to my young love’s side, and it’s there that I’d lie.
In a bed of green ivy I’d leave myself down,
And with my two folded wings I would my love surround.

Last night she came to me, my young love came in.
So softly she came that her feet made no din.
Then she lay down beside me, and this she did say:
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Again, a few modifications to make sense of the supposed situation. A clandestine nightime visit and a promise.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s