The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #47891   Message #807295
Posted By: John Minear
20-Oct-02 - 02:01 PM
Thread Name: Water Is Wide - First American Version
Subject: RE: Water Is Wide - First American Version
Malcolm, thanks for posting all of those lyrics. It is very helpful, combined with your analysis. I was interested to see that one of the verses from both Caroline Cox's version and James Thomas' version shows up in Jane Gentry's version from Hot Springs, North Carolina.

Here is Cox's verse:

Down in the meadows the other day,
Gathering flowers both fine and gay,
Gathering flowers both red and blue,
I little thought what love can do.

Here is Thomas' verse:

O down in the meadows the other day
A-gathering flowers both rich and gay,
A-gathering flowers both red and blue,
I little thought what love could do.

Here is Gentry's verse:

As I walked out one morning in May,
A-gathering flowers all so gay,
I gathered white and I gathered blue,
But little did I know what love can do.

And here is the way the verse shows up in Sharp's collated version:

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

And that Gentry's second verse can also be found in Cox's version, which is:

There is a ship sailing on the sea
But it's loaded so deep as deep can be,
But not so deep as in love I am,
I care not whether I sink or swim.

And Gentry is:

Seven ships on the sea,
Heavy loaded as they can be,
Deep in love as I have been,
But little do I care if they sink or swim.

Sharp collected from Cox in '05 and from Thomas in '06, and from Gentry in September of 1916. Sharp's English collection was published in America in 1916. It is remotely conceivable that Jane Gentry had come across a copy of Sharp's English collection before he arrived there, but highly unlikely and that instead, she came by her two verses independent of Sharp's printed version. It would probably be helpful to compare some tunes here, but I'm not able to do that at this time. In any case both of Gentry's verses also show up in Sharp's collated version, but her tune is different from "The Water is Wide" tune presumably used by Sharp.

While we can conclude that some of the "Waly, Waly" verses were current in the Southern Appalachians in the early part of the 20th century, I don't think we can conclude that "The Water is Wide" per se was being sung there.
Malcolm, from Guest's earlier post, here is Pete Seeger telling about how he got his version of the song from Peggy:

"The Water Is Wide" has long been one of the most widely known love laments in Britain. In both England and Scotland it has been in folk song collections for over a century or two, and known by a half-dozen or more names. I learned it from my sister Peggy. When she was going to Radcliffe in the mid-1950's, I visited Cambridge. I'd seen the song in a book and I'd passed it by as one more of those weepy-waily sentimental songs. I was twenty-eight at the time and impatient with weepy-waily songs.

Ten years later, at a party in my sister's house, I heard this version of it. She'd dropped the waily-waily verses and emphasised the poetic verses. It means an awful lot to me now because I keep thinking of the ocean of misunderstanding between human beings. And we can sing all sorts of militant songs, but if we can't bridge that ocean of misunderstanding we are not going to get this world together."

One of the "waily-waily" verses that Peggy apparently dropped, at least according to Pete's printed version in his song book was the one above about "down in the meadows". If Joan Baez got her version from Pete, then she further edited the other Gentry verse out about "a ship there is..." I would still like to find a copy of Peggy's version. Thanks. T.O.M.