Monday, April 28, 2008

"I'll come to thee by the moonlight ...

... though hell should bar the way."

The Highwayman, as sung by Loreena McKennit. Listened to this a few days ago, and was reminded of why I asked for "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads" (Child) for Christmas a few years back. These old stories have a pulse, and they beg to be retold. Now, obviously The Highwayman is an American poem, not a ballad, and I never tackled it personally - though I "printed" an excellent prose telling of it eons ago when I was running Eye of Unicorn, Tongue of Dragon - but it is a chilling story.

Another one is The Twa Sisters or The Bonny Swans (or ... you get the idea; a lot of the Scots ballads are like that), which I did take on eons ago. In brief, the plot of this ballad is a young girl is drowned by her jealous sister, becomes a swan, and washes ashore. She is found by a harper, who crafts a harp out of her various parts. (It's delightfully unclear whether she is swan or woman - her hair is used for the strings, for instance.) He then takes it to a dinner with her family, who is a king in some versions of the story, and the harp plays on its own, accusing the false sister.

I tried a retelling from the perspective of the harper, who eventually fell in love with his instrument (don't they all?) ... and, of course, I had to answer the, "What happens next?" that the ballad never touches upon. What's interesting is I'm fairly sure I wrote this before I started playing ...

No comments: