“They don’t make them like they used to.” The clichéd expression does not only apply to consumer goods. It is true as well for modern-day love songs, many of which are full of platitudes and paltry emotions. In contrast, the romantic ballads of old usually told a narrative and often used poetic language. The following are two such songs:

Lowlands (Away)

This old ballad of uncertain origin has varying lyrics. In this version by English folk singer Anne Briggs (born 29 September 1944), a woman is visited in a dream by her beloved sailor who drowned at sea. The talented Briggs brings to the song a combination of unaffected tenderness and pathos.


I dreamed a dream the other night,
Lowlands, lowlands away, my John,
I dreamed a dream the other night,
My lowlands away.

I dreamed I saw my own true love,
Lowlands, lowlands away, my John,
I dreamed I saw my own true love,
My lowlands away.

He was green and wet with weeds so cold,
Lowlands, lowlands away, my John,
He was green and wet with weeds so cold,
My lowlands away.

I’ll cut away my bonny hair,
Lowlands, lowlands away, my John,
For no other man shall think me fair,
My lowlands away.

The Moorlough Shore

In this traditional Irish song, a man professes his love to a woman amidst the beauty of the countryside. She rejects him, saying she would wait for the man she truly loves. The devastated lover goes into exile — “For cruelty has banished me/ Far away from the Moorlough Shore”. Irish singer and musician Sinead O’Connor (born 8 December 1966) does justice to the song with her outstanding performance.


Your hills and dales and flowery vales
That lie near the Moorlough Shore
Your vines that blow by Borden’s grove
Will I ever see you more

Where the primrose blows
And the violet grows
Where the trout and salmon play

With the line and hook, delight I took
To spend my youthful days
Last night I went to see my love
And to hear what she might say

To see if she’d take pity on me
Lest I might go away
She said, “I love that Irish lad
And he was my only joy
And ever since I saw his face
I’ve loved that soldier boy.”

Perhaps your soldier lad is lost
Sailing over the sea of Maine
Or perhaps he is gone with some other lover
You may never see him again
“Well if my Irish lad is lost
He’s the one I do adore
And seven years I will wait for him
By the banks of the Moorlough Shore.”

Farewell to Sinclaire’s castle grand
Farewell to the foggy hill
Where the linen waves like bleach-ed silk
And the bulging stream runs still
Near there I spent my youthful days
But alas they are not now mine
For cruelty has banished me
Far away from the Moorlough Shore

Other versions worth listening to

Click here to play and download ‘Lowlands Aways’ by Emmie Ward and here for ‘Moorlough Shore’ by Aislinn.

~ Barista Uno

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