She Moves Through the Fair: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

Sam Henry‘s Songs of the People is one of a number of source books for folk music of the British Isles. Others include Herbert Hughes’ Irish Country Songs (Hughes collected the tune used in the modern version of “She Moves Through the Fair”) and, of course, Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which is often described as the definitive source for songs from Great Britain (many traditional songs have a “Child Ballad” number associated with them; “She Moves Through the Fair”, being Irish, is not included).

Henry and his fellow collectors would go out into “the field” (possibly literally a field on occasion, but just as likely to be someone’s kitchen, or a public house, say) and listen to traditional singers. They would write down the tune, the lyrics, and anything else that they saw fit to record for later publication in book form. Later collectors, such as Alan Lomax (who recorded Margaret Barry), carried audio recording equipment, and much of their original field recordings still exist – some are even available on retail CD.

I don’t own a copy of Songs of the People, but I’m going to try and request it from my local library.

A preview of Sam Henry’s Songs of the People is available on Google Books.

Previews are not available for all songs relevant to “She Moves Through the Fair, but the listing for “Our Wedding Day” [H534] is available; this is actually a version of Colum’s song, and not the traditional song referred to in my post.

The following is extracted from the preview of p454.

Our Wedding Day [H534: 24 February 1934]

o: “She Moved through the Fair”; k: “Lovely Molly.”

Source not given.

s: This simple little song is the expression of one happy thought. It should be sung slowly and with wistful happiness.

1: Text reworked by Padraic Colum from an “old ballad” to a Donegal air collected by Herbert Hughes (1, 1909). James Healy says, “This is one of the few cases where the now [new?], more scholarly edition could be considered better than the old” (1977: 79). But Healy himself prints a version somewhat transformed by the “folk process,” with a different 2d stanza and the 3d in transition (“my dear love came in”) between Colum’s original, ghostless stanza (“she came softly in”) and Margaret Barry’s haunting one (“my dead love came in”).

Henry’s is the only version among those cited that mentions “kine” (cattle) for Colum’s “kind” (standing or property inherent by birth).

“Out of the Window” [H141] is missing from the preview, but the latter part of the entry can be seen can be seen on p396. This comprises of the tune and lyrics to “Our Wedding Day” (my “alternative” version of “She Moves Through the Fair”, also listed as [H141]). However, Wikipedia tells me that “Out of the Window” was collected by Henry from one Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Northern Ireland, around 1930.


She Moves Through the Fair: Áine Ui Cheallaigh″

Áine Ui Cheallaigh, “Out of the Window” (1992).

From the album Idir Dha Chomhairle (In Two Minds), this is one of only three tracks in English. The rest, naturally, are in Irish Gaelic. The CD booklet says that, “The English songs on this recording come from the Ulster singing tradition”.

“Out of the Window” is clearly related to “She Moves Through the Fair”; the lyrics of the first verse are practically identical to Colum’s poem. However, the tune does not appear to be the same. The full lyrics of this song are printed in the CD booklet; I have transcribed them here. Áine sings them unaccompanied, and it is a beautiful rendition.

A short biography of Áine Ui Cheallaigh, born Ann McPartland in Belfast, is also included in the CD booklet. It has been transcribed at the Dutch site Gaelforce.

As noted in the post on the lyrics to this song, Paddy Tunney may also have recorded this. However, I have been unable to track down a copy, which may be known under this title or as “My Young Love Said To Me”.

Note: I discovered the existence of this song via this Mudcat thread. Mudcat is a discussion site dedicated to traditional music; the discussions often range far and wide but nuggets of valuable information are frequently to be found on the site.

She Moves Through the Fair: Lyrics to “Out of the Window”

My young love said to me, my mother won’t mind
And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind,
She stepped away from me and this she did say:
It will not be long love until our wedding day.

She stepped away from me and she moved through the fair
Where hand-clapping dealers’ loud shout rent the air,
The sunlight about her it did sparkle and play:
And it will not be long love until our wedding day.

When dew fills the meadows and moths fill the night
When glow of the ashes on earth throws half light
I’ll slip from the casement and we will run away:
And then it will not be long love until our wedding day.

According to promise at midnight I rose
But all that I found were down-folded clothes,
The sheets they lay empty, it was plain for to see
That out of the window with another went she.

If I were an eagle and had wings to fly
I would then to my love’s castle and it’s there I would lie
On a bed of green ivy I would lay myself down –
And it’s with my two fond wings I would my love surround.

Transcribed from the CD booklet from Áine Ui Cheallaigh’s album Idir Dha Chomhairle (In Two Minds). Any mistakes in the transcription are mine.

The CD booklet also contains the following notes:

In Sam Henry’s Songs of the People two similar songs are listed, ‘Our wedding day’ and ‘Out of the window’ the latter probably being the text which Padraic Colum reworked to form his popular ‘She Moved Through the Fair’. The version which Áine sings here is from the singing of Paddy Tunney and, with the exception of the last ‘floating verse’, it appears in The Stone Fiddle under the title ‘My Young Love Said To Me’. This surely is an example of a song where simplicity is strength.

She Moves Through the Fair: John Martyn″

John Martyn, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1967).

A bonus track (from the original studio sessions) available on the rerelease of Martyn’s first album, London Conversation. Martyn was very impressed by Davy Graham‘s guitar skills and it may be that he chose to record this song because of Graham’s influence.

Martyn sings the modern lyrics.