The Swan Swims Sae Bonnie – Child 10


This is aboot jellisay atween twa sisters.  The young een wis bonnier than the aulder een, an they baith funcied the same loon. Nae doot yi can guess fit een he funcied.

Well, in the days fan this sang wis screeved, it wis a richt insult for the younger sister tae be mairried first, so the aulder een taen action tae mak sure that didna happen.



This is ane o the earliest ballads in print (1656) and versions o’t were collected a ower the country.  It wis affa popular in Scandinavia as weel, wi versions fae Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Faroes.


There bade a lord in the North Country
Hey o, my bonnie o
He had twa dochters, ane fair ane mean
And the swan swims sae bonnie o

A young man cam a wooin’ them
An’ he made the choice o‘ the youngest fair

The sisters went to see the boats cam in
And they walked till they cam tae the waters brim

The eldest sister pushed the youngest in
For she kent her sister she couldna swim

Sister sister lend tae me yer glove
And ye shall hae my ain true love

I’ll ne’er lend you neither haun nor glove
But I will hae yer ain true love

Sometime she sank sometime she swam
Till she cam tae rest in the millers dam

The miller drew her body to the shore
And there he stripped her of all she wore

He made a harp oot o’ her breist bane
The soond could o’ melted a hairt o’ stane
And the swan aye swims bonnie o

He cut locks oot o’ her yalla hair
An wi them he strung the harp sae rare

He’s taen the harp tae the lords high haa
An’ there was the faimily assembled all

It wis the eldest sister’s waddin’ day
But the only tune that the harp would play
Was the swan swims sae bonnie oh

There dis sit my faither the king
And there dis sit my mither the queen

There dis sit my false sister, Anne
Fa’s droont me all in sake o‘ a man

The miller wis hung upon the gallows high
And the sister wis burnt at the stake nearby
And the swan aye swims bonnie o


Ballad: The Swan Swims Sae Bonnie (The Twa Sisters – Child 10)
Singer: Iona Fyfe



Main Tune  based on versions A, B, and H in the Greig-Duncan Collection

Alternative  based on versions K, L, and M in the Greig-Duncan Collection

There’s nae a richt or wrang tune for these aul sangs, an ye’ll jalouse that the same tune can be used for a puckle o different ballads. If ye listen tae the recordin o Jimmy Broon, fa wis 90 year aul fan it wis made, he uses the weel kent tune fae The Bonnie Lass O Fyvie, an it wirks jist fine tae cairry the story.  

Print Version