Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Water Is Wide

Hope my boat floats.
I know wood sometimes fractures,
Like your love for me.

Who knew that the unhappy marriage of the 2nd Marquis of Douglas and Lady Erskine in 16-whatever would produce a song that people still sing today? "The Water Is Wide" is the distillation of many folk songs that stem from a common source, a reconstituted version of the lament of the marchioness. The point of the song? True love flies away and it doesn't come back, and doesn't that just suck for you. Bob Dylan performed this song with ex-girlfriend Joan Baez while he was separated from his wife. It appears on volume 5 of the Bootleg Series, which presents song performances from his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975 and 1976.

The water is wide, I cannot get o'er.
And neither have I the wings to fly.
Build me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.
A ship there is and she sails the seas.
She's loaded deep, as deep can be;
But not as deep as the love I'm in
And I know not if I sink or swim.
I leaned my back up against a young oak
Thinking he was a trusty tree
But first he bend and then he broke
And so did my false love to me.
O love is handsome and love is fine
And loves a jewel while it's new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like the morning dew.

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