Water is Wide (The)

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X:1 T:The Water is Wide M:3/2 L:1/8 R:Air B:Sharp - Folk Songs From Somerset (1906, Song 66) N:Words and music attributed to "Mrs. Cox, of High Ham," N:but reworked by Sharp from several sources. Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:G D2G2 GA|:B4 A2 A2G2E2|D6 D2G2F2|G6 A2B2 (cB)| A6 G2A2 (Bc)|d4 c2 c2B2 (AG)|B6 A2G2E2|D4 D4 D2 (EF)| G6 D2 G2 GA|B4 A2 A2G2E2|D6 D2G2F2|G6 A2 B2 (cB) | A6 G2A2 B c |d4 c2c2 B2 (AG)|B6 A2G2E2|D4 D4 D2 (EF)|G6 z2:||



WATER IS WIDE, THE. AKA and see “O Waly Waly.” English (originally), American; Air (whole time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. A favorite folksong [Roud 87; Child 204] version of a much older Scots ballad tune “O Waly Waly.” While "The Water is Wide" is often touted in anthologies as "an old American ballad" it is neither American, nor, in the strict sense, particularly old (although it is a derivative of songs with some antiquity). Rather the piece is a pastiche of 'folk-processed' lyrics constructed by English collectors Cecil Sharpe and Charles Marston from three different sources in Somerset, England, just after the turn of the 20th century. While words were cobbled together from different sources, the now-familiar tune was collected from Mrs. Caroline Cox in 1905. Sharp later printed another version of the song in his One Hundred English Folk Songs (New York, 1916, No. 39, p. 90). For much more on the history of this song and its ancestors, see Jürgen Kloss's excellent and comprehensive article "'The Water Is Wide': The History Of A "Folksong"[1] (2012).

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Cecil Sharp and Charles Marson (Folk Songs From Somerset. Third Series (No. LXVI)), 1906; pp. 32-33.

Recorded sources: -

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
See the excellent discussion of the song's history at Jürgen Kloss's Just Another Tune [2]
See the entry at Mainly Norfolk [3]



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  1. Jürgen Kloss, Blog: Just Another Tune: Songs and Their History, "The Water Is Wide" The History Of A "Folksong", 2012 [4].