Monday, 19 December 2016

Murder Ballad Monday--Harp of Death

Hello and welcome to part four of Murder Ballad Monday.
Image result for omnia prayer

In 2016, a self described "neoceltic pagan folk" band called Omnia who are based in the Netherlands, but who have members from various cultural backgrounds, recorded a song called Harp of Death which is a very interesting version of The Twa Sisters.

I almost dismissed this as a copy of Pentangle's version because it uses the refrain Lay the bent to the bonny broom/fa la la la la la la la but I was completely wrong. This version is cross between The Twa Sisters and Shakespeare's Macbeth. I kid you not. Three witches find the body of the drowned maiden and make a spell to save the girl's soul and punish the murderer. It is electrifying and creepy. 

Here you can listen to Omnia singing a version of this ballad. I have provided the lyrics at the bottom in case you want to follow along.




So here is how it breaks down as compared to other versions:

Name of ballad: Harp of Death
Performed by: Omnia
Refrain:
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Fa la la la la la la la la la
Number of sisters: two
Where did they live:  the North Sea Shore
Appearance described as:
The youngest daughter born to sweet delight has golden curls and the eldest daughter born to greed and spite has black hair.
Sweetheart:  a knight
Excuse to go to the water: “To watch the swans swimming in the sea”
Body of water: the sea by the rocks where the mermaids sing
Does it include the line “Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam”: no
Miller and child: no
Mistaken for: n/a
Described in death: no
Who finds her on the bank: three witches
Instrument she becomes: harp
Body parts used: skin, fingerbones, nine locks of her golden hair
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: yes
Do the strings sing individually: no
What does the instrument sing: The elder sister has the younger drowned
Is the sister punished: not stated explicitly, but it ends with the line “Surely now her blood will flow” so probably.

Here are the lyrics so you can follow along if you wish. I have eliminated the refrain so it won't be so long.

Once upon a time…
There lived a lady on the North Sea shore
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
She had two daughters that she adored
Fa la la la la la la la la la

The youngest daughter born to sweet delight
The eldest daughter born to greed and spite


A knight came for the fairest in the land.
He was promised the young girl's hand.

Grimmest envy in the elder grew.
She planned to steal her sister's lover true

"Oh darling sister won't you come with me"
"To watch the swans swimming in the sea?"

On the rocks where the mermaids sing
The elder sister pushed the younger in

"Oh cruel sister, please let me live"
"And all that's mine to you I'll give"

"I'll take your true love and I'll take more"
"For I will never let you come ashore"

The fair girl drowned beneath the North Sea foam
Her broken body washed upon the stones

Three witches found her in the dead of night
And wove a spell to put her soul to right

They made a harp out of her skin and bone
The tuning pegs made from her finger bones

They took nine locks of her golden hair
And with them strung the harp so rare

They took the harp on to her mother's hall
And set it down to play before them all

The harp of Death began to play alone
The sweetest song to melt a heart of stone

Golden strings rang out a truthful sound
The elder sister has the younger drowned

Strings of sorrow made of golden curls
wreak their vengeance on the black-haired girl

The song it ends here dark and low
And surely now her blood will flow



So that's it for Version four of The Twa Sisters. Stay tuned next Monday for Version five.

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