Monday, 27 February 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Steeleye Span

 Hello and welcome to part fourteen of Murder Ballad Monday.

For the last few weeks we have looked at versions of The Twa Sisters where the supernatural element has been removed in favour of one sister pushing the other in, the drowning sister being rescued by the miller and then thrown back in again to drown.

Image result for steeleye span

This week I want to look at the version by Steeleye Span. This folk band, best known for their 1975 song All Around My Hat, does a cracking version of this ballad. While many variations are sung wistfully or like a funeral dirge (particularly the ones with the supernatural element) this one--like last week’s version by Clannad—is a bit more on the jolly spectrum.

The refrain for this version is:
Bow down, Bow Down
I’ll be true unto my love, my love’ll be true to me

This is similar to ones we have seen over the last few weeks. Also, there are three sisters mentioned, but only the two feature in the song. This has also been a trend in a few variations we have looked at. This one is interesting as the suitor plays both sides. He gives a gift to the eldest which angers the youngest, and he gives a gift to the youngest which causes the eldest to be angry. In many ways, it really is his fault that this happens. In other versions, his preference for one over the other causes the jealousy, but in this version, he adds fuel to the fire by courting them both.

Listen to Steeleye Span put their own spin on this traditional ballad here:



Here’s how it breaks down compared to other versions:

Name of ballad: Three Sisters
Performed by: Steeleye Span
Refrain:
Bow down, bow down
 I'll be true unto my love
My love’ll be true to me
Number of sisters: three
Where did they live: north country
Appearance described as: n/a
Sweetheart:  is not named
Excuse to go to the water:  none given
Body of water: the verge (presumably the edge of the water)
Does it contain the line “Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam”:  “away she sank and away she swam”
Miller and child: just the miller
Mistaken for: n/a
Described in death: n/a
Who finds her on the bank: n/a
Instrument she becomes: n/a
Body parts used: n/a
Would her song “melt a heart of stone”: n/a
Do the strings sing individually: n/a
What does the instrument sing: n/a
Is the sister punished: no, the song says “the miller will hang on his high gate for drowning our poor sister Kate”, but the sister escapes punishment.

 Here are the lyrics if you would like to follow along. I have eliminated the refrain so that it won’t be so long.
I’ll be true unto my love, my love’ll be true to me.
I’ll be true unto my love, my love’ll be true to me.

There was a king of the north country
Bow down, bow down
There was a king of the north country
Bow down, bow down
There was a king in the north country
And he had daughters one, two, three
I’ll be true unto my love, my love’ll be true to me.

To the eldest he gave a beaver hat
To the eldest he gave a beaver hat
To the eldest he gave a beaver hat
And the youngest she thought much of that.

To the youngest he gave a gay gold chain
To the youngest he gave a gay gold chain
To the youngest he gave a gay gold chain
And the eldest she thought much the same.

These sisters were walking on the verge
These sisters were walking on the verge
These sisters were walking on the verge.
And the eldest pushed the youngest in.

Away she sank, away she swam
Away she sank, away she swam
Away she sank, away she swam
Until she came to the miller’s dam

The miller he took the gay gold chain
Then he pushed her into the water again.

Now the miller will hang on his high gate
Bow down, bow down
Now the miller will hang on his high gate
Bow down, bow down
Now the miller will hang on his high gate
For drowning our poor sister Kate.
I’ll be true unto my love, my love’ll be true to me.

So, that’s it for version fourteen of The Twa Sisters. Stay tuned next Monday for version fifteen.

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