The Bonny Swans

Traditional lyrics arranged and adapted by Loreena McKennitt.

Edited by Justin Love to remove every other line (which are repeated in every verse) from all but the first verse.

A farmer there lived in the north country
with a hey ho bonny o
And he had daughters one, two, three
the swans swim so bonny o
These daughters they walked by the river's brim
with a hey ho bonny o
The eldest pushed the youngest in
the swans swim so bonny o

Oh, sister, oh sister, pray lend me you hand
And I will give you house and land
I'll give you neither hand nor glove
Unless you give me your one true love

Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam
Until she came to a miller's dam
The miller's daughter, dressed in red
She went for some water to make some bread

Oh father, oh daddy, here swims a swan
It's very like a gentle woman
They placed her on the bank to dry
There came harper passing by

He made harp pins of her fingers fair
He made harp strings of her golden hair
He made a harp of her breast bone
And straight it began to play alone

He brought it to her father's hall
And there was the court assembled all
He laid the harp upon a stone
And straight it begin to play alone

And there does sit my father the King
And yonder sits my mother the Queen
And there does sit my brother Hugh
And by him William, sweet and true
And there does sit my false sister Anne
Who drowned me for the sake of a man

Bone Harps (and other instruments)

It seems often the case that when a person is wrongfully killed, their spirit is unable to rest, but also unable to do much about the situation. But on some rare occasions, by chance or design, the body of the deceased is used to craft an instrument. This gives the troubled soul a vessel to inhabit - and a voice. Each soul crafts a song that it plays, accompanied by a haunting shadow of the persons former voice, be it at random times or at command. The song describes the manner of it's death and the guilty party, though often in the terms that the soul would have used to refer to the person - not always of use a stranger who has made or found the instrument. This is the only song or speech that such instruments can play of their own volition, although there are some rumors that the souls of former musicians can play music using the normal means of the instrument ('plucking' the harp's strings, and so on.) Other reports say that particularly powerful souls are capable of things that might be described as sentience, or even exercising powers they had in life on their surroundings.

The souls trapped in these instruments seek only one thing: exposing their murderers. Generally this involves tracking down the accused, and letting the instrument play it's song before them, usually with witnesses. With this task complete, the soul is free to move on, and the instrument no longer has any power - except perhaps a bit of legend. For souls unable to accomplish this goal, the outlook is generally bleak. Scholars debate whether having the wrong dealt with without the souls intervention will release it. If the guilty party dies, through means natural or otherwise, the sprit, forever trapped in the past, will often end up singing it's song for all time. It may be possible to find the accused's next of kin, and recieve an apology, but of course the trail grows colder and colder over time. Certain knowledgeable and less than scrupulous people will actually withhold a bone instrument from it's goal, so that they may keep their 'magic' instruments.