My Love is on the High Seas

I never truly understood how much joy my heart was capable of until it was touched by one whose own heart has known the greatest joys and the most tragic sorrows that human heart may ken.

With each plodding day and each mournful night, my spirit calls to her, my flesh craving her touch. My eyes seek high and low for a glimpse of her face, which once looked upon me with more love than I e’er deserved.

I think we all know what it is to be alone, don’t we? Adrift in a sea of harshest humanity, there endures such tremendous longing in the human breast for a true companion, for a tender voice, for a passionate kiss, for a warm embrace.

I have found my companion. She brought me the very peace that nourishes my spirit. And I need her now.

Now and always.

I know, I have shared the music of Julie Fowlis before, but what made me think of this song this night is this sense of longing, so well captured in the old Scots Gaelic Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A’ Chuain (“My Love is on the High Seas”):

On a quiet evening at the beginning of May
When the bat was in the skies
I heard a tearful young maiden
Singing beneath the shadow of the green branches
The sun was setting in the sea
And no stars yet graced the sky
When the young girl sang sorrowfully
“My love is on the high seas”

The night’s dew began to fall
Each bloom yielding softly to the droplets
The wind blew in a fragrant breeze
Bringing life and renewal to each field
The girl tunefully sang her song
Quiet and peaceful like the June dew
And this chorus constantly repeated
“My love is on the high seas”

Day darkened and the stars shone
Setting their course amongst the clouds
The maiden sat, burdened by her sadness
Her singing could not have been more soothing
I moved closer to the young woman
Singing of her love sailing on the sea
Oh sweet was her sad lament
“My love is on the high seas”

The music enticed me
Nearer to the brown-haired maiden of the warm eyes
And she prayed to the King of Heaven
“Protect my love on the high seas”
Her heart was breaking with love
When I took her by the hand
“Wipe your eyes, your love is safe
I have returned to you from the high seas”

for the old world

My thoughts return again and again to the old world, to the lands across the sea that my ancestors abandoned long ago. Well, not so long ago in fact, when my father left Germany to immigrate here to the U.S. As for my mother, God rest her blessed soul, she never knew the half of her own heritage. The Scottish, yes. But little did she know how many of her roots were settled in those ancient lands. And in England and Ireland and Germany and France.

I wish sometimes I could share with her all that I have learned. I wish I could take her hand and show her how large her world had been, this woman who dwelt so comfortably between four walls, so long as she could provide for her two sons. So long as she could make a safe and happy home in that small space. Little knowing how eagerly one of her own bairn would seek out the past she had lost.

She is only eight years old now, but when my dearest daughter arises to claim her life in her own voice, with her own hands, I pray she will abandon these walls and seek the world wide to find the life that suits her best. If it means leaving all this behind, my darling princess, then so be it. Create the life you will, and I will always be proud of you for it. For having found your own voice.

As for me, what time remains in this body still, what rhythm yet this heart may beat, what verses this mind may yet compose, I know it will not be here. My father left his home in the old world and hardly looked back to the heritage he had left behind. My mother barely knew hers. I will not die on these shores. I will afar. As far as this life may yet take me. And in the old world, in the company of true love, I pray I will at last find peace.

This, by the way, is the remarkable Julie Fowlis, and these are the words to this song, which I have copied from her website:

Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach (A sheiling on the Braes of Rannoch)


Gur e m’ anam is m’ eudail
chaidh an-dè do Ghleann Garadh:
fear na gruaig’ mar an t-òr
is na pòig air bhlas meala.

O hi ò o hu ò, o hi ò o hu ò,
Hi rì ri ò hu eile
O hì ri ri ri ò gheallaibh ò

Is tu as fheàrr don tig deise
de na sheasadh air thalamh;
is tu as fheàrr don tig culaidh
de na chunna mi dh’ fhearaibh.
Is tu as fheàrr don tig osan
is bròg shocrach nam barrall:
còta Lunnainneach dubh-ghorm,
is bidh na crùintean ga cheannach.

An uair a ruigeadh tu ‘n fhèill
is e mo ghèar-sa a thig dhachaigh;
mo chriosan is mo chìre
is mo stìomag chaol cheangail.

Thig mo chrios à Dùn Eideann
is mo bhrèid à Dùn Chailleann,
gheibh sinn crodh as a’ Mhaorainn
agus caoraich à Gallaibh.

Is ann a bhios sinn ‘gan àrach
air àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach.
ann am bòthan an t-sùgraidh
is gur e bu dùnadh dha barrach.

Bhiodh a’ chuthag ‘s an smùdan
a’ gabhail ciùil duinn air chrannaibh;
bhiodh an damh donn ‘s a bhùireadh
gar dùsgadh sa mhadainn.

It was my love and my treasure
who went yesterday to Glengarry,
the man with hair like gold
and kisses that taste of honey.

You suit your clothes
better than any man on earth;
you look better in your garments
than any man I’ve ever seen.

You look better in stockings
and comfortable laced shoes,
a dark blue London coat
that cost many crowns to buy.

When you arrive at the fair,
you’ll bring home my gear,
my small belt and my comb
and my little narrow fastening
head-band.

My belt will come from Edinburgh
and my marriage head-dress from
Dunkeld,
we’ll get cattle from the Mearns
and sheep from Caithness.

And we’ll rear them in a sheiling
in Bràigh Raithneach,
in the brush-wood enclosed hut of
dalliance.

The cuckoo will sing
its song to us from the trees,
the brown stag and its roaring
will wake us in the morning.

http://www.juliefowlis.com/songs/