Lovely On The Water


I’m most intrigued by this one and Jon recalls, “Eliza taught me this on a long car journey whilst on tour somewhere. I think she learnt it from Jill Pidd. Although the range isn’t too huge, you need to be able to sing it pretty full on at both ends, so can be a toughy if you pitch it wrong.”

What has my curiosity is that this seems to have some extras when compared with the various versions transcribed on Mainly Norfolk. I detect a couple of verses floating in from elsewhere  – Farewell Lovely Nancy in fact – albeit slightly scrambled. It intrigues me further as the suggestion is made that Vaughan Williams was rather careless with this one and possibly lost some of the verses. I guess this is someone’s attempt to plug the gap. Given that this variant of a fairly common theme seems to have only cropped up once, it seems unfortunate that better care wasn’t taken with it. But then again I suppose that’s the folk process in action once more with the flipside of the additional verses.


24 Responses to “Lovely On The Water”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    Lovely song, beautifully sung.

    For the female voice, here’s the 1972 Frankie Armstrong version on YouTube:

    And Steeleye Span, of course:

  2. Shelley says:

    Gorgeous song! Another “must learn”.

    As for RVW – I thought he had only set the one verse as he thought the rest wasn’t worth bothering with (the cheek!)

  3. John D says:

    Coincidentally I’m in a choir currently learning the Vaughan Williams unaccompanied choral setting — it’s lovely in its own terms, with a wordless prelude and coda harmonising the tune. It’s called the “The Spring Time of the Year” and described as “freely arranged by R. Vaughan Williams”.
    At the foot of the first page of the sheet music it says: “The words of this song are taken from a long ballad called ‘Lovely on the water’. As the rest of the ballad is not very interesting and, moreover, has very little to do with the first two verses (here given), the editor has felt himself justified in taking these two verses only out of which to make a choral movement.”
    A pity RVW thought that — the later verses are powerful in their own way. And the haunting Steeleye Span version made the case for the whole thing

  4. Shelley says:

    Thanks John – that’s the arrangement I was referring too! I sang it at a RVW workshop at Sidmouth last year.

  5. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Admin Simon’s notes…..yep….ref sharing lines… soon as I heard
    “come change a ring with me” & “the Queen wanting seamen” (spellcheck-phew)
    my mind clicked straight over to -‘Adieu sweet lovely Nancy’

    It’s adieu, sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu,
    I am going across the ocean, love, to seek for something new.
    Come change your ring with me, dear girl,
    Come change your ring with me,
    For it might be a token of true love while I am on the sea.

  6. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Jane………the Frankie Armstrong link no longer available……
    but good old Maddy still in good voice on the Steeleye link.

  7. Diana says:

    Very nice but feel it would have been improved with a little musical accompaniment to do it justice.

  8. Diana says:

    It’s the first day of Spring, the sun is out and so is the forsythia and almond trees. As I was ironing my thoughts wander off as it’s such a boring job. I was wishing that Jon did requests, mind you he would be swamped. My favourite three would be “Shenadoah”, “Fire and Rain” and “Sweet Baby James”. I don’t expect this to be of any interest to anyone.

  9. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Diana….what’s ironing?
    Shenondah is one of my favourites….and there are many James Taylor fans out here.

  10. Diana says:

    What is ironing you ask Muzza. It is when a person ues a hot iron and gets out all those creases after clothes have been washed. Jane doesn’t believe in ironing either.

    Shenandoah is one of my favourites has been for a long time now. Who doesn’t know and like James Taylor?

  11. Diana says:

    Jane I am not quite as lazy today, so I looked up the word “anthraquinone” which is a yellow crystalline solid used in the manufacture of dyes with excellent colour properties. I don’t think it will do as an insult for Muzza to use after all. He will be upset!

  12. Maggie says:

    Lovely song and great singing – thanks Jon.

    As for ironing, the nearest I get to it is the song we sang at school that started ‘Twas on a Monday morning’ when the woman was ‘dashing away with a smoothing iron’ and stole his heart away. Not a technique I’d recommend!

  13. Jan says:

    I remember that song too – my mum used to sing it to me – but it didn’t make me believe in ironing either – much better things to do in life! Having said that, my mother-in-law used to iron all her laundry, even the socks.

  14. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Maggie/Jan……….I sing “Dashing away” among others, when we go to old folks’ homes and everybody remembers and joins in….my only problem is that the staff are reluctant to let me out…thinking I belong there!
    Cecil Sharp fought hard to introduce folks songs into the school curriculum around 1909 and generations of children share that heritage, however, the songs were removed from the curriculum in the mid 60s and the common bond was lost. Incidently, Cecil Sharp was noted for sanitising raw folk songs so that they could be sung in polite company…and “Dashing away” was not so innocent when he first heard it.

  15. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    @Diana….Yep…I must agree that throwing an insult such as:-
    “I say old chap you are an utter yellow highly crystalline solid, poorly soluble in water but soluble in hot organic solvents” does lose some impact. 😯

  16. Diana says:

    @Muzza I thought you would find that the case – it would take too long to say for a start – but most people would not know what you were on about if you used the word “anthraquinone” would they? 🙂

    @Maggie and Jan – I take your comments to heart. I am not obsessed with ironing – I do not iron sheets, pillow cases. tea towels, socks nor much else you can mention only my son’s shirts. Unlike some people I know who seem to iron everything they can lay their hands on. 😀

  17. Diana says:

    Still feel some musical accompaniment would improve this.

  18. Jan says:

    Diana, I hope you have taught your son to iron his own shirts by now!

  19. Diana says:

    No Jan, he never seems to have any spare time being a teacher, but he does pay me so who am I to complain. Extra spens for books etc.

  20. Linda says:

    Does anybody know where I can find the words for the Beggars Carol as sung by the Wilsons?

  21. Old Muzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    I must away to the riverbank and help Mole with his spring cleaning,

  22. Old Muzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    Linda….ref your request above…..I expect you knew of the following
    Wilson’s albums link

  23. John Bryson says:

    The Sun doth shine here in Leicestershire – All Hail Spring! And a lovely song to greet the season

  24. Jessie Skiiner says:

    Tony Rose did a lovely version of this on his album “Bare Bones,” which I believe was recorded a year or two before he died.

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