La Belle Dame Lyrics

The Month of January
trad. Irish

It was in the month of January
the hills were clad with snow.
When over hills and valleys
my darling, he did go.
I overheard a fair young maid
with a salt tear in her eye.
She had a baby in her arms
and bitterly she did cry.

Oh, cruel was my father,
he barred the door on me.
Cruel was my mother
this dreadful crime to see.
Cruel was my own sweetheart,
he changed his heart for gold.
And cruel was that wint’ry wind
that pierced my heart with cold.

For the taller that the pine tree grows
the sweeter is the bark.
And the fairer that a young man’s words
the falser is his heart.
For they’ll kiss you and caress you
till they think they have you won.
Then they’ll go away and leave you
all for some other one.


Bonny Portmore
trad. Irish

O Bonny Portmore, I am sorry to see
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree.
For it stood on your shore for many’s the long day
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.

O Bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long.
If I had you now as I had once before
All the Lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.

All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying “Where will we shelter or where will we sleep?”
For the Oak and the Ash they are all cutten down
And the walls of Bonny Portmore are all down to the ground.

O Bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long.
If I had you now as I had once before
All the Lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.


La Belle Dame sans Merci
(The Beautiful Lady without Mercy)
music by Susan Craig Winsberg
lyrics by John Keats (from his poem of the same name, 1819)

O what can ail thee, Knight at arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the Lake
And no birds sing!

[second stanza of poem omitted due to musical considerations]

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

“I met a Lady in the Meads,
Full beautiful, a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild.

“I made a Garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant Zone;
She looked at me as she did love
And made sweet moan.

“I set her on my pacing steed
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend and sing
A faery’s song.

“She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said
‘I love thee true.’

“She took me to her elfin grot
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

“And there she lulléd me asleep,
And there I dreamed, Ah Woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

“I saw pale Kings, and Princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried, ‘La belle dame sans merci
Thee hath in thrall!’

“I saw their starved lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gapéd wide,
And I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill’s side.

“And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering;
Though the sedge is withered from the Lake
And no birds sing.”


Susan Craig Winsberg
lyrics by Kathleen Raine (from her poem “Eilean Chanaidh — Shadow) in The Hollow Hill, 1964)
Used by permission of Lindisfarne Books, Hudson, NY 12534

Because I see these mountains they are brought low,
Because I drink these waters they are bitter,
Because I tread these black rocks they are barren,
Because I have found these islands they are lost;
Upon seal and seabird dreaming their innocent world
My shadow has fallen.

[The lyrics “Isle of Canna, ease my sorrow; Isle of Canna, heal my pain” were added by the composer for musical reasons and are not part of the original poem.]


When I Am Dead, My Dearest
Susan Craig Winsberg
lyrics by Christina Rossetti (from her poem “Song”)

When I am dead, my dearest,
sing no sad songs for me;
plant thou no roses at my head, nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
with showers and dewdrops wet;
and if thou wilt, remember, and if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
that doth not rise nor set,
haply I may remember, and haply may forget.