Monday, 26 September 2011

Turn ye to me

This is a song called 'Turn ye to me', by John Wilson (1785-1854), a Scottish poet who wrote under the pseudonym Christopher North (and who was, I see, a Magdalen man). You can hear the lilting tune here. Apparently "Mhairi dhu" means "Mary dear" - but I can't vouch for that or anything; my Gaelic is of the non-existent variety.

The stars are shining cheerily, cheerily,
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.
The sea mew is moaning drearily, drearily,
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.

Cold is the stormwind that ruffles his breast
But warm are the downy plumes lining his nest
Cold blows the storm there,
Soft falls the snow there,
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.

The waves are dancing merrily, merrily,
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.
The seabirds are wailing wearily, wearily,
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.

Hushed be thy moaning, lone bird of the sea;
Thy home on the rocks is a shelter to thee;
Thy home is the angry wave,
Mine but the lonely grave
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.


RoseSong said...

Good day to you, Ms. Clerk of Oxford! I'm not sure if you'll find this at this late date almost two years later than the post! However, I wanted to thank you for posting about "Turn Ye Tae Me," as I was hunting for the author, and you simplified my search. I ran into it folk-song hunting on I had not heard it before I ran into the video of the Corries singing it (they were a little before my time, but I am a singer, so I sing almost everything!). Now I just have to run down the tunesmith! I will love reading your blog very much! I am an English major and was writing Romantic poetry a few years back (it doesn't really seem that anyone wants to write it anymore, if you look at poetry magazines...) When I was suddenly single again back when, I was trying to figure out how to go live in England for a few years attend Oxford, but I'm not single anymore, so it won't happen. Thank you so much for your blog!! Jennifer

Clerk of Oxford said...

Hello! I love getting comments on old posts, especially for less well-known things like 'Turn ye to me' - the whole reason for posting it was to be useful to readers like you! It sounds like we have quite a few interests in common, so I hope you'll find plenty on the blog to interest you.

Bruce said...

Hi there, a great song, lovely to read some background info on it. I'm not a Gaelic-speaker either, but have a small understanding of some words and I think you'll find that 'Mhairi dhu' means 'dark Mary or Marie' which would refer to the colour of her hair. Dhu in gaelic means black - hence the skean dhu worn with a kilt outfit is a black dagger. Best regards, Bruce.

Clerk of Oxford said...

Thanks for the information!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting this up; I have a fascination for learning the origins of old songs and poems, and making connections among them. I don't suppose you would know whether the song's author was familiar with the Anglo-Saxon poem The Wanderer? It seems unlikely, yet the song is quite reminiscent of a part of that poem, lines 45-48 in the version I have.

Clerk of Oxford said...

I'd love to think so, but unfortunately I doubt it - if I remember rightly The Wanderer wasn't published or translated until the mid-19th century, so I don't think an earlier poet would have been likely to encounter it. But it's a very nice parallel which hadn't occurred to me, so thanks for pointing it out!

Bart said...

"Mhairi dhu" is "dark Mary" in Scots Gaelic. "Mhairi bhan og" is "Mary young woman."