The Bonny Swans Lyrics - Loreena McKennitt

Review The Song (16)

A farmer there lived in the north country
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
A hey ho bonny o
The eldest pushed the youngest in
The swans swim so bonny o

Oh sister, oh sister, pray lend me your hand
With a hey ho a bonny o
And I will give you house and land
The swans swim so bonny o
I'll give you neither hand nor glove
With a hey ho a bonny o
Unless you give me your own true love
The swans swim so bonny o

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Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam
With a hey ho and a bonny o
Until she came to a miller's dam
The swans swim so bonny o

The miller's daughter, dressed in red
With a hey ho and a bonny o
She went for some water to make some bread
The swans swim so bonny o

Oh father, oh daddy, here swims a swan
With a hey ho and a bonny o
It's very like a gentle woman
The swans swim so bonny o
They placed her on the bank to dry
With a hey ho and a bonny o
There came a harper passing by
The swans swim so bonny o

He made harp pins of her fingers fair
With a hey ho and a bonny o
He made harp strings of her golden hair
The swans swim so bonny o
He made a harp of her breast bone
With a hey ho and a bonny o
And straight it began to play alone
The swans swim so bonny o

He brought it to her father's hall
With a hey ho and a bonny o
And there was the court, assembled all
The swans swim so bonny o
He laid the harp upon a stone
With a hey ho and a bonny o
And straight it began to play lone
The swans swim so bonny o

And there does sit my father the King
With a hey ho and a bonny o
And yonder sits my mother the Queen
The swans swim so bonny o
And there does sit my brother Hugh
With a hey ho and a bonny o
And by him William, sweet and true
The swans swim so bonny o
And there does sit my false sister, Anne
With a hey ho and a bonny o
Who drowned me for the sake of a man
The swans swim so bonny o

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Thanks to dasha for submitting The Bonny Swans Lyrics.
another version | Reviewer: Jan | 7/2/13

This tale has also been played by the Norwegian band Folque on their self titled debut album (1974). The name of the song is "Harpa". check it out.

Singing harp | Reviewer: Basit | 1/17/13

It appears that the younger sister was going to marry into royalty and the elder one killed her for it as she loved William, the prince. The harper made a harp out of her parts and took it to the king's court, where the harp started to play by itself and told the whole story. Hugh is probably the brother-in-law, and she refers to her in-laws as father and mother.

Binnorie | Reviewer: DragonSpeaker | 11/1/11

Both this song and the Clannad one mentioned below are probably influenced by the "singing bone" story, particularly the version called "Binnorie." There are many stories where an instrument is created from the bones of someone wrongly murdered, giving them a voice again. There is a version of "Binnorie" very close to this song located here for those interested:

To Peter | Reviewer: Anonymous | 5/5/11

Sometimes when people get married, especially from the 1800's back, people called their spouse's parents as Mother and Father. It's a custom that has slowly been passing away as society has become more informal.

Hmm | Reviewer: Rori | 3/20/11

I like the song, and I'm assuming that the Eldest killed her youngest sister, who was going to marry William, who is a prince, and who her oldest sister happened to love as well. So, her biological father was a farmer, and her father in law is the king

Third sister | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/13/11

i think that she was just a common person, then she fell in love with royalty and was about to marry him, then her sister killed her. It's just tht simple! And also, in other versions there is no third sister, so how could she add anything important in there about this sister?

ever wondered | Reviewer: timea | 10/23/10

suddenly i came to think that maybe "anne" the name of the sister isnt a coincidence.made me think for a second of anne boleyn,it's similar,even if in the begining there were 3 sister in the end anne the sister and their brother are there at the court,just like in anne boleyn

I'm not sure | Reviewer: Anonymous | 9/10/10

You said that the family she was marryinh into was royal.I'm not sure.If it was not her "original" family, why would she call Hugh "brother"?And another question.Her father "the farmer" had 3 daughters.Where is the third one?

A familiar tale... | Reviewer: Anonymous | 7/9/10

I thought there was something very familiar about these lyrics... contrast them with the lyrics of "Two Sisters" by Clannad! It's the same scenario, with the jealous elder sister drowning the younger over a man. However, in Ms. Mckennitt's version, the elder sister is successful in her campaign to marry her sister's fiancé; in Clannad's version, she is "boiled in lead" for her crimes (incidentally, the miller in that version also dies.) Hmm...

About her father | Reviewer: Kitsuiko | 5/4/10

The girl mentions how if her sister rescues her, she'll give her (sister) (a) house and land - which seems to imply that she's (the first drowned sister) marrying into royalty if it's something the elder sister would want, and not have. I think in Ms. McKennitt's version she was a commoner marrying into royalty and her sister killed her to take her place.

The Lyrics : Is her dad a Farmer or a King (Answer) | Reviewer: Tabatha | 2/21/10

I believe that the girl who was drowned dad is a farmer. But the family that she was marrying into was royal (which I assume was William). So she is calling the king her Father, because he is her father in-law and the Queen her mother in-law.
At least that is what I think.
Check out my website: The World Of Glassaven

To Peter | Reviewer: Luipaard | 2/9/10

I don't know why the beginning of the song refers to the princess's father as a "farmer" since he was always a king in the old legends. You'd have to ask Ms. McKennitt herself why she worded the lyrics that way.

Best Guess | Reviewer: Anonymous | 1/2/10

Im thinking that the guy (either Hugh or William) was the man she got drowned for. So the sister who drowned her is now married to one of these princes and she sits next to one of them, full of shame.

That is my best guess.

farmer's daughter or princess? | Reviewer: Peter | 12/1/09

please forgive me since I'm not a native English speaker - for years I have wondered about these Lyrics of "The Bonnie Swans" of Mrs McKennitt since I heard that song first and loved it instantly at first listening. The first verse says that the three girls walking the river bank were the daughters of a farmer. In the last verse though, after the harper brought his newly-made instrument (the former girl) to "their father's court", that father suddenly is a king, so that the drowned girl has been a princess and not a farmer's daughter ... - is anyone here who can help me eith that problem of understanding? Thank you very much in advance.



Beautiful | Reviewer: Al Perrin | 4/2/09

Reminds me a great deal of the Medievel style of musical Greek tragedy like "Polly Von," song by Peter Paul & Mary back in the sixties. But here, Ms. McKennitt masterfully welds this folk music style of storytelling with a modern steel string guitar format. A hauntingly beautiful rendition, that along with the sad ancient words touches the heart deeply.

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------ 10/30/2014

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