Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Song - Sandy Denny's "Fhir A Bhata"




I climb the hilltop, I search the ocean to see my boatman - my heart's devotion 



The beautiful powerful traditional lament "Fhir A Bhata" (which is Gaelic for "The Boatman") beautifully delivered by the late great queen of British folk music.

Like most trad classics, there are many variation of this great song and it's origin is far from certain.

What is known is that the song originally came from Ireland or Scotland some centuries back and was originally passed down in the oral tradition of the Gaelic language. The number of variations on the original tongue became compounded when different translations to English were later made!

"Fhir A Bhata" is a heartbreaking lament, telling of a woman who everyday dazes out upon the wide open sea, vainly searching for the man she loves - a sailor who's been gone a long time, a man who may be lost to the sea ("How often haunting the highest hilltop, I scan the ocean thy sail to see; Wilt come tonight, love? Wilt come tomorrow? Wilt ever come, love, to comfort me?")

However, most probably, this man, known throughout the land as a "rover" - a wayward braggart and lothario who's been to every hamlet in the country and who's made a million promises he won't keep to countless women he's met.

People tell her of these truths ("they call thee fickle, they call thee false one and seek to change me") and laugh at her behind her back. She hears these tales but refuses to believe them ("no, thou'rt art my dream yet throughout the dark night an every morn yet I watch the main".)

She only prays her boatman will be back home with her soon and recounts the promises he made her ("the tartan plaidie, the silken gown, the ring of gold with thy hair and portrait").

She waits for him every single day, staring into an empty expanse of sea wishing ... "O fare ye well, love, where'er ye be."

But, sadly, we know she'll be waiting a fair long time ... if not forever.





















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