Saturday, August 17, 2013

By Islay's Shores: a Victorian ballad

'By Islay's Shores' is a ballad, with words by William Black (1841-1898) and music by Alfred 
Stella. A review  in The Lute magazine (November 1 1891) says: 'A pathetic story is here 
related in verses so appropriate in diction and good in construction as to be worthy of being 
placed in the category of poetry. The melody attached by the composer lends itself admirably to the task of arousing the sympathies of the listener'.

The song seems to have started out a poem by Black in his 1885 novel 'White Heather', which
features a number of 'Rhymes by a Deerstalker' including this one. It is also included in Modern Scottish Poets, edited by D.H.Edwards in 1887:

By Islay's shores she sate and sang : 
" winds come blowing o'er the sea, 
And bring me back my love again 
That went to fight in Germanie " 

And all the live-long day she sang, 
And nursed the bairn upon her knee ; 
"Balou, balou, my bonnie bairn, 
Thy father's far in Germanie, 

" But ere the summer days are gane, 
And winter blackens bush and tree, 
Thy father will we welcome hame 
Frae the red wars in Germanie." 

Dark the night fell, dark and mirk ; 
A wraith stood by her icily : 
"Dear wife, I'll never more win hame, 
For I am slain in Germanie. 

" On Minden's field I'm lying stark, 
And Heaven is now my far countrie ; 
Farewell, dear wife, farewell, farewell, 
I'll ne'er win hame frae Germanie." 

And all the year she came and went, 
And wandered wild frae sea to sea : 
" neighbours, is he ne'er come back, 
My love that went to Germanie ? " 

Port Ellen saw her many a time; 
Round by Port Askaig wandered she : 
"Where is the ship that's sailing in 
With my dear love frae Germanie ? ' 

But when the darkened winter fell : 
"It's cold for baith my bairn and me ; 
Let me lie down and rest awhile : 
My love's away frae Germanie. 

"far away and away he dwells ; 
High Heaven is now his fair countrie; 
And there he stands with arms outstretched- 
To welcome hame my bairn and me" 

See also these songs:

An Islay Song from 1850
Ceann Traigh Ghruinneart