Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Water is Wide

English (possibly Scottish) traditional

The water is wide, I cannot get o’er.
And neither have I wings to fly.
Build me a boat, that will carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.

[I leaned my back up against an oak,
I thought it was a trusty tree.
But first it bent, and then it broke,
And so my love did unto me.]

There is a ship, and she sails the sea.
She’s loaded deep, as deep can be.
But not so deep, as the love I’m in.
I know not how I sink or swim.

Love is handsome, and love is fine.
And love’s a jewel when first it’s new.
But love grows old, and waxes cold,
And fades away, like morning dew.

Because it is a folksong, the words have been altered over the years and are sung at the discretion of the performer. The beauty of this piece is not in the ultimately sad story it tells, but its ability to instantly evoke pensive reflection when set to its traditional tune.

Hear it performed by James Taylor here.
Hear a guitar instrumental version here.

Since I’ve been going to James Taylor concerts since I was 15, it’s quite possible that my strong reaction to this piece is really just to the sound of his voice, but I think it’s more than that. I sang it in junior chorus when I was in eighth grade and thought it was beautiful then. (By way of contrast, we also sang Can’t Smile Without You by Barry Manilow and I didn’t love that!)

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