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Cruel Sister

DigiTrad:
BINNORIE
BINNORIE (TWO SISTERS)
CRUELISH SISTER
OH, THE WIND AND RAIN (The Two Sisters)
THE CRUEL SISTER
THE SWAN SWIMS BONNIE (Two Sisters)
THE SWAN SWIMS BONNIE (Two Sisters)
THE TWA SISTERS
THE TWO SISTERS (7)
THE TWO SISTERS (8)
THE TWO SISTERS (9)
THE WIND AND RAIN (Two Sisters)
TWO SISTERS (12)
TWO SISTERS (13)
TWO SISTERS (Bonnie Broom)


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Lyr Req: Two Sisters - with a harp being made? (18)
Lyr Req: Dreadful Wind and Rain (22)
Lyr Req: Bow Down (from Dirk Powell) (22)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters Nonsense version (6)
Binnorie - Icelandic version (35)
Love and Death on the Shore (9)
Question on a TWO SISTERS song (18)
Shakespear song hi ho the wind and rain (20)
J. Moulden or Philippa: Two sisters (28)
Lyr Req: Minorie (20)
Lyr Req: I'll be true unto my love (11)
Minourie (Binorie, Minorie, The Two Sisters) (18)
Chord Req: Altan -- The Wind and Rain (20)
(origins) Origins: Two Sisters links at MBM (1)
Lyr Add: Sheila Kay Adams' 'Two Sisters' (1)
Two Sisters (Child #10) Variants (29)
Origins: background info for Two Sisters songs? (24)
Binnorie (18)
Lyr Req: Somebody's Waiting for Me (Sterling/Von T (8)
Lyr/Chords Req: Oh the Wind and Rain (30)
Two sisters, two songs? (15)
Lyr Add: The Two Sisters (of Sadie Damascus) (10)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters (Dylan) (8)
Lyr Req: Bows of London (from Waterson:Carthy) (4)
Lyr Req: Binnorie (from Elizabeth Stewart, #10) (17)
Lyr Req: charles ingenthron's twa sisters (4)
Lyr Req: Two little girls... (5)
the gay and the grinding (27)
Lyr Req: The Squire's Daughter (3)
Lyr Req: Loreena McKennitt's 'The Bonny Swans (13)
Stupid Question--'The Twa Sisters' (33)
Lyr Req: Twa Sisters / Lay Bent to the Bonny Broom (26)
Lyr Req: lee monroe presnell's two sisters (#10) (7)
(origins) Origins: Two Sisters (9)
Tune Req: 'Oh The Wind And Rain' (3)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters (Frankie Armstrong) (5)
Tune Req: Sven (SVEND I ROSENSGAARD) (23)
Lyr Req: Stecher's 'Oh the Wind and Rain' (6)
(origins) Origins: The Bows of London (14)
(origins) Origins: The Cruel Sister - Old Blind Dogs (9)
Nothing to do this Friday? (Manchester, UK) (14)
Lyr Req: The Cruel Sister (esp. Old Blind Dogs) (8)
Lyr Req: american version of Two Sisters (12)
Lyr Req: Harp form a breastbone (10)
Yet another blurb about 'Cruel Sister' (3)
Lyr Req: Two Sisters (Niamh Parsons ver.) Tha (5)
Lyr Req: The Cruel Sister (from Pentangle) (12)
Percy's Song: History? (7)
Hilary Kelley (9)
Two Sisters, a' Bhean Eudach, Horpa (18)
Lyr/Chords Req: the two sisters (23)
Flanders ballad in Polish--fun project! (13)
I am humbled (124)
dulaman/two sisters (15)
History of 'The Wind and Rain'? (11)
And A Two And A Three (5)
Lyr Add: Rollin' a-Rollin' (Child #10) (5)
Twa sisters (17)
Percy's Song (4)


Annecat 01 Sep 98 - 04:35 PM
Kiwi 01 Sep 98 - 08:57 PM
Susan of DT 01 Sep 98 - 09:18 PM
Maelgwyn 01 Sep 98 - 09:49 PM
Maelgwyn 02 Sep 98 - 01:19 AM
Rosy 02 Sep 98 - 08:47 AM
Jon W. 02 Sep 98 - 09:58 AM
JB3 03 Sep 98 - 03:55 AM
Susan-Marie 03 Sep 98 - 07:44 AM
Maelgwyn 03 Sep 98 - 11:46 AM
Annecat 07 Sep 98 - 10:32 PM
Susan of DT 08 Sep 98 - 07:38 PM
Annecat 08 Sep 98 - 11:35 PM
Alan of Australia 09 Sep 98 - 09:41 AM
Jon W. 09 Sep 98 - 10:13 AM
Jon W. 09 Sep 98 - 10:18 AM
ALDUS 10 Sep 98 - 08:27 AM
Susan-Marie 10 Sep 98 - 08:56 AM
Aldus 10 Sep 98 - 12:28 PM
Alan of Australia 12 Sep 98 - 09:51 AM
skw@worldmusic.de 14 Sep 98 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,Rowinodn@aol.com 27 Jan 03 - 04:26 PM
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Subject: Cruel Sister/Twa Sisters
From: Annecat
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 04:35 PM

At this site, I found many different versions of the song "The Twa Sisters", "Binnorie," or "Cruel Sister." I'm curious, though; an author based a short story on this song after she heard one variation on it mention *three* sisters. Does anyone know this version? Also, for those of you who run Mudcat, I noticed that you didn't have the music for "Cruel Sister." You could try looking into the group Pentangle - I know they did a recording of it, but I'm not sure how true to any traditional melody it is. Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Kiwi
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 08:57 PM

There's yet another version that Loreena McKennitt sings, called "The Bonny Swans". :)

Slán, Kiwi


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Susan of DT
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 09:18 PM

a search for any of these titles shows the the Child number 10. a search for #10 then gets 9 correct hits. Of these 9 versions, 6 have tunes, one with 4 tunes and one with 2, so there are plenty of tunes entered, including several that are not familiar to me.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE CRUEL SISTER
From: Maelgwyn
Date: 01 Sep 98 - 09:49 PM

I found six versions in Child which made mention of three sisters. Here's one of them. I don't have time right now, but I'll try and post the rest later. :)

There were three sisters lived in a bouir
Hech, hey, my Nannie O
And the youngest was the fairest flouir
And the swan swims bonnie O

“O sister, sister, gang down to yon sand
Hech, etc.
And see your father's ships coming to dry land.”
And the swan, etc.

O they have gane down to yonder sand...
To see their father's ships coming to dry land...

“Gae set your fit on yonder stane...
Till I tye up your silken goun.”...

She set her fit on yonder stane...
And the auldest drave the youngest in...

“O sister, sister, tak me by the hand...
And ye'll get a' my father's land.”...

“O sister, sister, tak me by the gluve...
An ye'll get Willy, my true luve.”...

She had a switch into her hand...
And ay she drave her frae the land...

O whiles she sank, and whiles she swam...
Until she swam to the miller's dam...

The miller's daughter gade doun to Tweed...
To carry water to bake her bread...

“O father, O father, what's yon in the dam?...
It's either a maid or a milk-white swan.”...

They have tane her out till yonder thorn...
And she has lain till Monday morn...

She hadna, hadna twa days lain...
Till by there came a harper fine...

He made a harp o her breast bane...
That he might play forever thereon...

I've got a question about another version of the ballad that I found in child's notes. It starts out like this:

O it was eke a pheasant cock
Nor yet a pheasant hen
But O it was a lady fair
Came swimming down the stream

That's the first verse. Then a harper passes by, builds himself a harp, and then meets with

...a goodly company
Who asked him in to play.

And from her bones he drew such tones
As made their bones to ache
They sounded so like human groans
Their hearts began to quake.

Then come two more verses and in the latter of the two the harp begins to speak:

There sits the squire, my worthy sire
A-drinking himself drunk. . .

And that's it. Does anyone happen to know how it ends?

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 5-May-02.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE CRUEL SISTER
From: Maelgwyn
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 01:19 AM

Here's another one:

There were three sisters lived in a hall.
Hey with the gay and the grandeur O
And there came a lord to court them all.
At the bonnie bows o London town.

He courted the eldest with a penknife
And he vowed that he would take her life

He courted the youngest with a glove
And he said that he'd be her true love

“O sister, O sister, will you go and take a walk
And see our father's ships how they float?”

“O lean your foot upon the stone
And wash your hand in that sea foam.”

She leaned her foot upon the stone
But her eldest sister has tumbled her down

“O sister, O sister, give me your hand
And I'll make you lady of all my land.”

“O I'll not lend to you my hand
But I'll be lady of your land.”

“O sister, sister, give me your glove
And I'll make you lady of my true love.”

“It's I'll not lend to you my glove
But I'll be lady of your true love.”

Sometimes she sank, and sometimes she swam
Until she came to a miller's dam

The miller's daughter was coming out wi speed
For water for to bake some bread

“O father, father, stop the dam
For it's either a lady or a milk-white swan.”

He dragged her out unto the shore
And stripped her of all she wore

By cam a fiddler, and he was fair
And he buskit his bow in her bonnie yellow hair

By cam her father's harper, and he was fine
And he made a harp o her bonny breast-bone

When they came to her father's court
The harp and the fiddle these words spoke:

“O God bless my father the king
And I wish the same to my mother the queen

“My sister Jane she tumbled me in
. . . . .

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 5-May-02.


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Rosy
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 08:47 AM

Clannad does a version of The Cruel Sister that has a distinctly North American sound -- the tune sounds Appalachian. It's sort of like The Riddle Song compared with Captain Weddenburn's Courtship, which contains the same riddle and a few more besides. The Clannad version only has two sisters, but there's a three part burden, which is interesting:

"There were two sisters side by side,
Sing I down, sing I dey.
There were two sisters side by side,
The boys are bound for me.
There were two sisters side by side,
And for the same man they both vied.
I'll be true unto my love, if he'll be true to me.

I love the way these traditional songs are passed back and forth -- variety is the spice of life!


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Jon W.
Date: 02 Sep 98 - 09:58 AM

A local group of three very talented young ladies (ages 18, 13, and 11) and their father have recorded a version with the same burden as Rosy gave above (probably the same melody), but adapted it to their family and sensibilities. The oldest sister pushes the boy in, in their version. They stop the song before he dies, though. It turns into a comical song. I'll post the words when I get another chance to listen to it.


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE TWO SISTERS (sung by Pentangle)
From: JB3
Date: 03 Sep 98 - 03:55 AM

The prettiest tune has to be the one recorded by Pentangle, but I like this one for group singing. As usual, if there is a third sister, she is only mentioned in the first verse. This one is from Hindman, Kentucky. I like the bits about the beaver hat and the mermaid/swan.

The Two Sisters

There lived an old man by the northern sea
Bow down
There lived an old man by the northern sea
The boughs they bend to me
There lived an old man by the northern sea
I will be true, true to my love
Love and my love will be true to me

A young knight came a courting there
And he made choice of the youngest fair

He gave the youngest a beaver hat
The eldest she thought much on that

He gave the youngest a gay gold ring
He gave the eldest not one single thing

Oh sister, oh sister let us walk out
To see the ships go sailing about

But when they reached the north sea brim
The eldest pushed the youngest in

Oh sister, oh sister lend me your hand
And you shall have my house and land

I'll neither lend thee hand nor glove
But I will have your own true love

Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam
Til she floated into the miller's dam

Oh miller, oh miller go draw your dam
Here's either a mermaid or a swan

It's neither a fish nor a swan I see
But the water hath drowned a gay lady

The miller came out with his fish hook
And fished the fair maid out of the brook

He robbed her of her gay gold ring
And then into the water he pushed her again

The miller was hung at his mill gate
The eldest sister was burned at the stake


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Susan-Marie
Date: 03 Sep 98 - 07:44 AM

Rosy, what do you mean about there being a "three-part burden" in the Clannad version?


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Subject: Lyr Add: TWO SISTERS
From: Maelgwyn
Date: 03 Sep 98 - 11:46 AM

There is one version in Child where the third sister is mentioned after the first verse

There lived three sisters in a bouer
Edinbruch, Edinbruch
There lived three sisters in a bouer
Stirling for aye
There lived three sisters in a bouer
The youngest was the sweetest flower
Bonnie St. Johnston stands upon Tay

There cam a knight to see them a'
And on the youngest his love did fa

He brought the eldest ring and glove
But the youngest was his ain true-love

He brought the second sheath and knife
But the youngest was to be his wife

After that it continues in the usual manner. I do have a question, though. Who is St. Johnston?


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Annecat
Date: 07 Sep 98 - 10:32 PM

Thank you all! I love hearing as many versions as I can get my hands on -- ears, rather. Pentangle's melody is the only one I heard outside of this site, but it seems substantially different, so it might be worthwhile to add it to Mudcat's "Cruel Sister." I'm fairly new to folk music terminology, since I'm just now developing interest. What is a "burden" in a song?

Jon W.- If you could, I'd love it if you posted the humorous version. Now that I've traumatized a few of my friends with "Cruel Sister," maybe this will give them less nightmares.


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Susan of DT
Date: 08 Sep 98 - 07:38 PM

The burden is those repeating second and fourth lines (refrain), rather than a chorus as a separate stanza.


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Annecat
Date: 08 Sep 98 - 11:35 PM

Thanks so much! I'll learn slow but sure. Q: Are the words to the burden in Pentangle

"Lay the band to the bonny broom"

????? I really don't know what they're singing.


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Alan of Australia
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 09:41 AM

G'day,
Here's the first verse of the Pentangle version:-

There lived a lady by the North sea shore
(Lay the bent to the bonnie broom)
Two daughters were the babes she bore
(Fa la la la la la la la la la)

The word "bent" is probably the dialect word for hillside or grassy tract or possibly stiff grass, and "broom" is probably the (yellow) flowering plant. Not that it makes much sense anyway.

Anyone want the rest of the words?

Cheers,
Alan


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Subject: Lyr Add: THREE SISTERS (sung by Fiddlesticks)
From: Jon W.
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 10:13 AM

Here is the comical version I promised:

THREE SISTERS
Adapted by Fiddlesticks (Rebecca, Kathryn, and Elizabeth Davis)

There were three sisters side by side,
Sing I dum, sing I day,
There were three sisters side by side,
The boys are bound for me,
There were three sisters side by side,
The eldest for young Johnny cried,
I'll be true unto my love, if he'll be true to me.

Johnny bought the youngest a gay gold ring
He never bought the eldest a single thing

Johnny bought the middle one a fine green hat
The eldest didn't think much of that

As Johnny went a-walking by the foamy brim
The eldest pushed poor Johnny in

And so beware you suitors all
Or in the foamy brim you'll fall.

I suppose the biggest part of the humor is the disdainful note in the eldest sister's voice as she sings the last line (not including burden) of each verse.


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Jon W.
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 10:18 AM

P.S. Here's a link to Fiddlestick's home page


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: ALDUS
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 08:27 AM

The Best version of this song that I have ever heard is on an Album by the wonderful Frankie Armstong. It was her first realese on topic, early seventies perhaps. I do not thonk it has been re-issued. If you can find a copy of the album, buy it. It rema9ins one of my favourite folk albums ...ever


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Susan-Marie
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 08:56 AM

Jon - Thank you thank you for the Fiddlesticks version! This will go over much better at the family reunion than the more gory traditional version. You never can tell when a distant relative will turn out to have no sense of humor!


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Aldus
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 12:28 PM

I though the words were...lay a HAND to the bonnie broom .


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: Alan of Australia
Date: 12 Sep 98 - 09:51 AM

Aldus, Nope! Not according to the sleeve notes.

Cheers,
Alan


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: skw@worldmusic.de
Date: 14 Sep 98 - 10:39 AM

Alan of Australia, my version of 'Riddles Wisely Expounded' (Child #1) has the same burden as Pentangle's 'Cruel Sister', but the explanation I have for it is quite different:

'Lay the bent to the bonny broom' (a phrase of 'physiological significance' - 'bent' = 'horn' - says Miss Margaret Dean-Smith who has a sharp sense for euphemism). (A.L. Lloyd, 'Folk Song in England',p 153f.)

'The erotic implications are emphasized by the first refrain line, for 'broom' here means the female private parts.' (Roy Palmer (Ed.), Everyman's Book of British Ballads 198)

Susanne


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Subject: RE: Cruel Sister
From: GUEST,Rowinodn@aol.com
Date: 27 Jan 03 - 04:26 PM

Notes on Cruel Sister--the Pentangle version was arranged by the group, consisting of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and Danny Thompson; the lyrics were consistent with other versions of this. I would express some concern that a folkmusic site does not have, for example, the House Carpenter version made by Pentangle, nor the traditional 'Trees They Do Grow High" by them either...however, this is a GREAT site, for young folk not likely to find lyrics posted in other places...thanks


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