There were twa sisters in a bower,
(Hey wi the gay and the grinding)
And ae king's son has courted them baith.
(At the bonny bonny bows o London)
He courted the youngest wi broach and ring,
He courted the eldest wi some other thing.
It fell ance upon a day
The eldest to the youngest did say,
'Will ye gae to yon Tweed mill-dam,
And see our father's ships come to land'?
They baith stood up upon a stane,
The eldest dang the youngest in.
She swimmed up, sae did she down,
Till she came to the Tweed mill-dam.
The miller's servant he came out,
And saw the lady floating about.
'O master, master, set your mill,
There is a fish, or a milk-white swan.?
They could not ken her yellow hair,
[For] the scales o gowd that were laid there.
They could not ken her fingers sae white,
The rings o gowd they were sae bright.
They could not ken her middle sae jimp,
The stays o gowd were so well laced.
They could not ken her foot sae fair,
The shoes o gowd they were so rare.
Her father's fiddler he came by,
Upstarted her ghaist before his eye.
'Ye'll take a lock o my yellow hair,
Ye'll make a string to your fiddle there.
'Ye'll take a lith o my little finger bane,
And ye'll make a pin to your fiddle then.?
He's taen a lock o her yellow hair,
And made a string to his fiddle there.
He's taen a lith o her little finger bane,
And he's made a pin to his fiddle then.
The firstand spring the fiddle did play,
Said, 'Ye'll drown my sister, as she's dune me.?
Traditional Ballad Airs, ed W Christie, 1876
The original source is Traditional Ballad Airs, ed W Christie, 1876; this is taken from "The English and Scottish Ballads" by F. J. Child, Loomis House Press Edition, ISBN 0-9707020-1-9
The lyrics are quoted from Peter Buchan's Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland
(1828), where it appeared without a tune. Only the tune here is from Christie, who published it with an edited version of Buchan's text. Christie's note may be of interest.
"This copy of the air was arranged by the Editor from the singing of an old woman in Buckie, (Enzie, Banffshire,) from whose singing he arranged a great number of old Airs and Ballads. She died in 1866 at the age of nearly 80 years. Her father, long resident in Buckie, where fishermen and labourers have "tee-names" had the sobriquet "Meesic" (Music) given to him in the end of the last century by the populace, thus indicating his fame as a ballad-singer. The copy of the Ballad sung by the old woman was almost the same as that given by Buchan II 128."
Christie printed the tune in 2/4, with two flats; Loomis House follow Bronson in moving to Common Time and doubling the note-values, though they transpose to one flat. In both cases, the turns indicated by Christie are omitted.
(Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Swan Swims So Bonny
(thematic) The Barkshire Tragedy
(thematic) The Three Sisters [Bonnie Banks O' Fordie]
(easily confused with)