Folksongs Blog

"The Twa Sisters"

Jamieson-Brown MS


In the following text, the burden is indicated in italics in the first stanza.
The form of each individual chorus is a-1-a-2-a-b-3, where a is the first line of the couplet, b is the second, and 1, 2, and 3 are the first through third lines of the burden.

There was twa sisters in a bowr,
Edinburgh, Edinburgh Gars'
There was twa sisters in a bowr,
Stirling for ay
There was twa sisters in a bowr,
There caine a knight to be their wooer.
Bonny Saint Johnston stands upon Tay

He courted the eldest wi glove an ring,
But he lovd the youngest above a' thing.

He courted the eldest wi brotch an knife,
But lovd the youngest as his life.

The eldest she was vexed sair,
An much envi'd her sister fair.

Into her bowr she could not rest,
Wi grief an spite she almos brast.

Upon a morning fair an clear,
She cried upon her sister dear:

'O sister, come to yon sea stran,
An see onr father's ships come to lan.'

She's taen her by the milk-white han,
An led her down to yon sea stran.

The youngest stood upon a stane,
The eldest came an threw her in.

She tooke her by the middle sma,
An dashd her bonny back to the jaw.

'O sister, sister, tak my han,
An Ise mack you heir to a' my lan.

'O sister, sister, tak my middle,
An yes get my goud and my gouden girdle.

'O sister, sister, save my life,
An I swear Ise never be nae man's wife.'

'Foul fa the han that I should tacke,
It twin'd me an my wardles make.

'Your cherry cheeks an yahlow hair
Gars me gae maiden for evermair.'

Sometimes she sank, an sometimes she swam,
Till she came down yon bonny mill-dam.

O out it came the miller's son,
An saw the fair maid swimmin in.

'O father, father, draw your dam,
Here 's either a mermaid or a swan.'

The miller quickly drew the dam,
An there he found a drownd woman.

You eoudna see her yallow hair
For gold and pearle that were so rare

You coudna see her middle sma
For gouden girdle that was sae braw.

You coudna see her fingers white,
For gouden rings that was sae gryte.

An by there came a harper fine,
That harped to the king at dine.

When he did look that lady upon,
He sighd and made a heavy moan.

He 's taen three locks o her yallow hair,
An wi them strung his harp sae fair.

The first tune he did play and sing,
Was, 'Farewell to my father the king.'

The nextin tune that he playd sync,
Was, 'Farewell to my mother the queen.'

The lasten tune that he playd then,
Was, 'Wae to my sister, fair Ellen.'

Other versions Year
Francis Grove 1656 compare compare all
Kinloch 1820's compare
Quiller-Couch A 1910 compare
B 1910 compare
Ingenthron 1941 compare
Clannad 1976 compare