The water is wide

Music: Trad. arr. Sheena Phillips. Words: Trad. Anon
performance time approx 3m 00s
Range S: d' – d'' / A: b – b' / T: d – e' / B: G – c'
Price code: B
Complexity: **

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One of the most famous folk songs collected by Cecil Sharp, expressing the experience of love in a series of metaphors from the natural world. Alliteration, repetition, irregular rhymes and stock phrases combine to express something poignant and powerful. In this arrangement, the tune (sung mostly by the sopranos) is echoed and accompanied by the other voice parts. Verses 1 and 5 can be sung by soloists, and 'ooh' can be substituted for 'ah' if the accompaniment needs to be quieter for balance.


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

Oh, down in the meadows the other day,
A-gath'ring flowers, both fine and gay,
A-gath'ring flowers both red and blue,
I little thought what love can do.

I put my hand into one soft bush,
Thinking the sweetest flower to find.
I pricked my finger right to the bone,
And left the sweetest flower alone.

I leaned my back up against some oak,
Thinking that he was a trusty tree.
But first he bended and then he broke;
And so did my false love to me.

Oh love is handsome and love is fine,
And love's a jewel when it is new.
But when it is old, it groweth cold,
And fades away like morning dew.

Traditional English

This version of the words and tune was collected by Cecil Sharp. Two of the verses overlap considerably with a song of Scottish origin called 'O waly, waly'.

Purchase – 2022: The water is wide

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