Sweet Bann Water

Away, away, I can stay no longer
The sweet Bann water I mean to cross
Over high high hills and lovely mountains
To spend the night with my own wee lass

Though the night be dark, as dark as a dungeon
And not a star there did appear
I would be guided without a stumble
Into the arms of my dear

And when I came to my true love’s window
I kneeled down gently upon the stone
And through a pane I whispered softly
“Mary dear, are you within?”

She raised her head from her down-soft pillow
And slowly uncovered her milk-white breast
Saying “Who is that, that’s at my window
Disturbing me from my night’s rest?”

“But it is your Johnny, your proud young Johnny
Come open the door, love, and let me in
For I am weary from my night’s journey
Besides I am wet, love, unto the skin”

Then slowly, slowly, the door she opened
And slowly, slowly, oh I stepped in
And there we lay in each other’s arms
Until that long night was nearly in

“Oh go away and ask your mother
If she is willing my bride you will be
If she says ‘No’ come back and tell me
T’is the last night I will trouble thee”

“Well I need not go nor ask my mother
Such foolish love tales she cannot endure
She would bid me ‘Go and court another’
Then I’d whisper in her ear”

“Oh go away and ask your father
If he is willing my bride you will be
If he says ‘No’ come back and tell me
T’is the last night I will trouble thee”

“Well I need not go nor ask my father
He’s in his chamber all at his ease
And in his pocket there lies a letter
Which says much to your dispraise”

“What makes them speak so ill of me love?
A loyal lover to you I have been
A loyal lover and a constant sweetheart
True to you I have ever been”

For I can climb a higher tree
And I can rob a higher nest
And I can pluck a sweeter flower
But not the flower that I love best

And after dawning there comes a morning
And after the morning there comes a day
And after one love there’s comes another
We need not hold them that would away

And as I sit down all at my leisure
My foolish follies I do think on
In placing of my fond affections
All on that maid so hard to win

Traditional (New music: Andy Irvine)

‘Sweet Bann Water’ was originally collected by Sam Henry, who received it from a Valentine Crawford of Bushmills, Co. Antrim, and published it in the Northern Constitution on 25 September 1937, where he worked as the Song Editor during 13 of the 16 years spanning 1923-1939. The song and its tune were later catalogued as entry H722 (page 343) in the magnificent book ‘Sam Henry’s Songs of the People’, edited by Gale Huntington, Lani Herrmann and Dr John Moulden.

As of yet unrecorded by Andy Irvine, performed live for many years now.

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