Henry's Songbook

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Loch Lomond

  • (Trad)

    Whither away, my bonnie, bonnie May
    So late and so far in the gloamin'
    The mist gathers grey o'er muirland and brae
    Oh! whither alane art thou roamin'

    I trysted my ain love the night in the broom
    My Ranald wha loves me sae dearly
    For the morrow he marches for Edinburgh toon
    To fecht for the King and Prince Chairlie

    Yet, why weep you sae, my bonnie, bonnie May
    Your true love from battle returning
    His darling will claim at the height o' his fame
    And change into gladness her mourning

    Oh! weel may I weep - yestreen in my sleep
    We stood bride and bridegroom thegither
    But his lips and his breath were as chilly as death
    And his heart's bluid was red on the heather

    Oh, dauntless in battle as tender in love
    He'd yield ne'er a foot to the foeman
    And never again frae the field o' the slain
    To Moira he'll come and Loch Lomond

    He'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low
    And I'll be in Heaven afore him
    For my bed is prepared in yon mossy graveyard
    'Mang the hazels o' green Inverarnan

    The thistle shall bloom, and the King hae his ain
    And fond lovers meet in the gloamin'
    But I and my true love shall never meet again (Ford: will yet)
    By the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

    (as sung by Matt McGinn)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  •  [1900:] There are few folks, I am sure, who have, unaided, tried to understand these fascinating and popular verses ["By yon bonnie banks ..."] that have not been sorely puzzled in regard to their drift and meaning. As a matter of fact, their signification has oftener than once, recently, been the subject of newspaper correspondence. Myself put the question to the public a good many years ago. And from all I have learned since, it appears evident - it is also a fitting story - that the refrain of the ballad, as we know it -

        O, ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road
        And I'll be in Scotland afore ye,

    and so forth - was, in substance, the adieu to his sweetheart of one of Prince Charles's followers in the "Forty-five", just before the poor fellow's execution at Carlisle. There is a tradition, indeed, with respect to one in this situation, which avers that his sweetheart - who had journeyed from Scotland, all the way on foot, of course, for the satisfaction of seeing her lover's face once more, and also, mayhap, with the dim hope of securing his pardon - was at the side of the scaffold, and his parting words to her were, in substance, as above stated. The low road, of course, meant, for the prisoner, the grave, and the high road, that which the girl should take to return home; and what was further said was meant to indicate that death would relieve his spirit, and before she could travel back to Loch Lomondside his liberated and still ardent spirit would be there, where they had learned to love each other, where they had plighted their mutual troth, and had hoped to spend their married career in perfect peace and happiness.

    One writer, it is true, suspects the origin of the ballad to be older than the "Forty-five", though he, curiously, offers no reason for his suspicion. "Is it likely", he adds, "that any Lennox girl could be present at Carlisle at the military execution of the Jacobites by the Duke of Cumberland? The execution was summary. Rebels with arms in their hands! No trial! How could such a prisoner of war communicate with his true love? Had anything like this occurred in the eighteenth century there would surely have been a definite record." There might, and there might not. There were many doings in the "Forty-five" of which we lack definite information; and of which we may never know. To the larger question I have only to answer, much is possible where love points the way. The parties, unquestionably from the Lennox, were, undoubtedly, furth of Scotland somewhere; and, if not at Carlisle, where were they. That's the rub.

    There seems little doubt that the verses which have enjoyed so much vogue in recent years, alike on the concert platform and in the social circle, are but a rescued and revivified fragment of an old country ballad, presumably of considerable length originally. So evident is this, that a large portion is actually extant, which Lady John Scott (but very recently deceased), the writer of the modern and exquisitely beautiful version of Annie Laurie, picked up in the streets of Edinburgh and gave to Sir Noel Paton, I do not know how many years ago. This portion, unfortunately, is not less enigmatical than that which forms the song we have all heard so often, but I will quote it for its own sake, and for the evidence which it affords in relation to the presumption that the ballad, so called, is but a touched-up fragment, and not the whole of the original production. The first three verses, be it noted, are in dialogue; the last four are delivered all in one voice:

        [see lyrics above]

    Miss F. Mary Colquhoun of Luss has also gathered some wandering verses, notably these:

        We'll meet where we parted in bonnie Luss Glen
        'Mang the heathery braes o' Ben Lomon'
        Starts the roe frae the pass, and the fox frae his den
        While abune gleams the moon thro' the rowan
        Wi' yer bonnie laced shoon and yer buckles sae clear
        And yer plaid o'er yer shouther sae rarely
        A'e glance o' yer e'e wad chase awa' ma fear
        Sae winsome are yer looks, O, my dearie

    These gathered fragments leave almost no reason for doubting but that other portions remain to be collected. It would be of great interest to have the whole. If we had what is wanting, perhaps the drift and meaning of the ballad would be clearly apparent. In the event of these not appearing, however, and, perhaps, whether or not, it may be safe to accept the explanations offered in the opening sentences of the present writing. Unless taken in this, or similar light, the chorus would be nonsense. Now, while it is true that in the modern ballad we find much that "no fellow can understand", the old ballad-makers, with not less genius than the new, kept generally well within the bounds of common sense. The late William Black, the novelist, and others, I know, have given it as their opinion that the composition is wholly of recent origin; and in his recent story of "Wild Eelin", Mr. Black says: "The story that both words and music were taken down from the singing of a little boy in Edinburgh streets won't answer at all; the little street boys of Edinburgh are not in the habit of singing, 'Where in purple hue the Hieland hills we view'. What is that? Is it Highland, or is it Scotch, or is it - rubbish? It's rubbish!" Rubbish it may be, but Mr. Duncan Kippen, of Crieff, and Mr. William Freeland, of Glasgow, each separately have assured me that they heard the ballad sung in the streets, in one form or another, more than sixty years ago. It is not, then, a product quite of yesterday. As to little street boys in Edinburgh not singing such lines as 'Where in purple hue the Hieland hills we view', little street boys in Edinburgh, or elsewhere - or big street boys either, for that matter - sing but what they find, and with understanding or without it. They are not the makers of the songs they sing; and 'tis the airs more frequently than the words which dominates their choice.

    In a copy of the song recently issued in music-sheet form, under the title of Bonnie Loch Loman (sic), and with symphony and piano accompaniment by Finlay Dun and John Thomson, it is worth noting, the second two lines of the chorus are made to read:

        But trouble it is there, and many hearts are sair
        On the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

    The three verses so generally known are each, also, less or more altered; while [...] four are interpolated between the second and the third [, supporting the "Forty- five" theory]. Even the simple, I hope, won't be deceived by these. They are not old verses, but new ones, and poor stuff. One might have borne with the poetical poverty, though, had the writer by his altering made a clearer story and a better song. But this he has not done; and the older and briefer version, with all its mystery, we may be sure, will still "hold the field". (Ford, Histories 275ff)

  •  [1951:] Both words and melody [of the original?] are attributed to Lady John Scott, the composer of Annie Laurie. (Penguin Song Book 81)

  •  [1982:] Der Inhalt des Liedes [Schulbuch-Version: "By yon bonnie banks ..."] beruht auf dem keltischen Glauben, daß, wenn ein Mann im Ausland stirbt (und für einen Highlander sind sogar die Lowlands Ausland), sein Geist auf "The low road" in die Heimat zurückkehren wird. Hier geht es um zwei Soldaten, die [1746] bei Carlisle von den Engländern gefangen wurden. Der eine von beiden wurde freigelassen, durfte auf "The high road" heim, der andere wurde hingerichtet - und er wird vor seinem Freund am Loch Lomond sein. (Frank, Nach Schottland reisen 118)

Quelle: Scotland

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aktualisiert am 12.09.2000