A fine performance by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten on YouTube. This is the music that I was brought up with and, in spite of all his alleged faults is why I am still a great fan of Pears. It is surely one of the most beautiful songs in Britten’s catalogue in particular or English song in general.
The setting is taken from the Folk Song Arrangements Volume 3 British Isles, which Benjamin Britten set during 1945 and 1946. The song was collected by Cecil Sharp from the County of Somerset.
The sequence was dedicated to the singer and opera director Joan Cross. They include The Plough Boy, There’s none to soothe, Sweet Polly Oliver, The Miller of Dee, The Foggy, Foggy Dew and Come you not from Newcastle. O Waly Waly was also set for high voice and string orchestra.
The water is wide I cannot get o'er,
And neither have I wings to fly.
Give me a boat that will carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.
O, down in the meadows the other day,
A-gathering flowers both fine and gay,
A-gathering flowers both red and blue,
I little thought what love can do.
I leaned my back up against some oak
Thinking that it was a trusty tree;
But first it bended, and then it broke;
And so did my false love to me.
A ship there is, and she sails the sea,
She's loaded deep as deep can be,
But not so deep as the love I'm in:
I know not if I sink or swim.
O, love is handsome and love is fine,
And love's a jewel while it is new;
But when it is old, it groweth cold,
And fades away like morning dew.
See and hear this masterly performance on YouTube