WIND AND RAIN

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • WIND AND RAIN
    “Wind And Rain” is a classic and very famous murder ballad. Before people get all bent
    out of shape, let me point out that this is one of the most popular songs of all time. It has
    been found throughout Britain, and in at least eighteen songbooks from the United States.
    There are literally hundreds of versions known. My record collection contains five
    different tunes for it, and that’s just a handful of those that are known. Francis James
    Child, who made the first attempt to catalog versions of the song (he knew some thirty
    different texts), gave the piece the generic title “The Twa Sisters” (many of the oldest
    versions are in Scots dialect). The oldest dated version was printed in 1656. Other titles
    for the piece are common, e.g. “The Cruel Sister”, “Binnorie”, “Rollin’ a-Rollin”. “The
    Wind And Rain” seems to be a primarily American version.
    Almost none of the versions in existence today preserve the full story, but it seems to
    have run something like this: A young knight came to court the daughters of an old lord.
    (Most accounts say there were three daughters, but the middle daughter never does
    anything, so we can ignore her.) After spending some time with the oldest daughter, the
    knight decided that “his natural choice was the young and fair.” (I guess the Political
    Correctness movement didn’t have much clout in sixteenth century Northumbria.) The
    oldest sister was not so easily defeated. She invited the younger sister to walk with her by
    a stream. Once there, she pushed her sister into the brook. When the younger sister
    begged for help, the elder revealed her true colors: “I’ll neither lend you my hand nor
    glove, but I will have your own true love.” So what could the younger sister do but float
    downstream? Eventually her body washed up in the miller’s pond. (In some accounts, the
    miller came down while she was still alive, stole her engagement ring, and pushed her
    back into the water.) A wandering minstrel came by and found the body, and (don’t ask
    me why) used it to make a harp or fiddle. The hair provided strings, the breastbone the
    frame, and so on. He then headed off to play at a wedding — the wedding of the older
    sister and the courting knight. While there, the harp sings out the story of her murder. The
    murdering sister was found out, and they all either died or lived happily ever after.
    There were two sisters came walkin’ down the stream
    Oh the wind and rain
    The one behind pushed the other one in
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    Johnny gave the youngest a gay gold ring
    Oh the wind and rain
    Didn’t give the oldest one anything
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    They pushed her into the river to drown
    Oh the wind and rain
    And watched her as she floated down
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
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    Floated ’till she came to a miller’s pond
    Oh the wind and rain
    Mama oh father there swims a swan ( note 1 )
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    The miller pushed her out with a fishing hook ( note 2 )
    Oh the wind and rain
    Drew that fair maid from the brook ( note 3 )
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    He left her on the banks to dry
    Cryin’ oh the wind and rain
    And a fiddlin’ fool come passing by
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    Out of the woods came a fidder fair
    Oh the wind and rain
    Took thirty strands of her long yellow hair
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    And he made a fiddle bow of her long yellow hair
    Oh the wind and rain
    He made a fiddle bow of her long yellow hair
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    He made fiddle pegs of her long finger bones
    Oh the wind and rain
    He made fiddle pegs of her long finger bones
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    And he made a little fiddle of her breast bone
    Oh the wind and rain
    The sound could melt a heart of stone
    Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
    And the only tune that the fiddle would play
    Was oh the wind and rain
    The only tune that the fiddle would play
    Was oh the dreadful wind and rain