Monday, 9 January 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Wicked Sister

Hello and welcome to part seven of Murder Ballad Monday.
Image result for Méav Ní Mhaolchatha silver sea
Today's entry is performed by Méav Ní Mhaolchatha (known simply as Méav) who is an Irish folk singer specialising in the traditional music of her homeland. Her version of The Twa Sisters is entitled The  Wicked Sister and was featured on her CD Silver Sea in 2003 and again in 2011 when the CD was re-released.

This version is similar lyrically to other versions we have looked at, but is the only one which does not contain a refrain making it a full 3-4 minutes shorter than its counterparts. It is also one of the few sung in a more sprightly manner. Many versions of The Twa Sisters are sung wistfully or like a funeral dirge.

Here you can listen to Méav 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 compared to other versions:

Name of ballad: The Wicked Sister
Performed by: Méav
Refrain: none                                                                                                                                            Number of sisters: two
Where did they live: on the North Sea shore
Appearance described as:  the younger was “radiant as the sun” and the elder was “darkly”
Sweetheart: a knight who courted them both with gifts, but loved the younger one
Excuse to go to the water: “To watch the ships sail o'er the sea"
Body of water: sea
Does it contain the line “Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam”: no
Miller and child: no
Mistaken for: not really—it simply says “off she floated like a swan” which does not imply that she was mistaken for one
Described in death: n/a
Who finds her on the bank: a minstrel
Instrument she becomes: harp
Body parts used: breastbone and bright hair
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: yes
Do the strings sing individually: no
What does the instrument sing:
 "The bride her younger sister drowned
Now her secret you all know
Her guilty tears will surely flow"
 Is the sister punished: doesn’t say 

Here are the lyrics so you can follow along if you wish.
A mother lived by the North Sea shore
Daughters were the babes she bore
One grew radiant as the sun
Darkly grew the elder one

A knight came riding to their door
He travelled far to be their wooer
He courted both with gold and rings
But loved the younger o'er all things

"Sister, won't you walk with me
To watch the ships sail o'er the sea?"
As they walked the rocky shore
The dark one pushed her sister o'er

"Sister, sister, let me live
All that's mine I'll surely give"
"Thy bridegroom I will take and more
But thou shalt never come ashore"

Off she floated like a swan
The salt sea bore her body on
You could not see her lily feet
Her golden fringes were so deep

A minstrel walking by the strand
Saw her body float to land
When he looked that lady on
He sighed and made a heavy moan

He made a harp of her breastbone
Whose sound would melt a heart of stone
Took the strands of her bright hair
And with them strung his harp so rare

He brought the harp to the wedding hall
There to play before them all
When they set it on a stone
The harp began to play alone

The strings sang out a dreadful sound
"The bride her younger sister drowned
Now her secret you all know
Her guilty tears will surely flow"

So, that's it for version seven of The Twa Sisters. Stay tuned next Monday for version eight. 

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