Woe's my heart that we should sunder

Find traditional instrumental music
Jump to: navigation, search


X:1 T:Woes my heart that we show’d sunder M:C L:1/8 R:Air Q:"Slow" S:McGibbon – Scots Tunes, Book 1 (c. 1746) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:C (G>E)(G>A) G3c | (A>G)(A>c) A2 (G>A) | c3d (e>g)(d>e) | c3d e2 {e/f/}g2 | (G<E)(DE) G3c | {_B}A2 G>F f3a | g>age (fe)T(dc) | TA3G A2c2 :| |: T(f>ef)g (fga)f | {f}e>def (efg)e |T(dcd)e (ge)(de) | c3d e2 {e/f/}g2 | (G>E)(DE) G3c | {_B}A2 (GF) f3a | g>age (fe)T(d>c) | TA3G A2c2 :|]



WOES MY HEART THAT WE SHOULD SUNDER. AKA – “Waes my heart…” AKA and see "Always My Heart that We Mun Sunder." Scottish (originally), English; Air (4/4 time). C Major (McGibbon, Muhollan): D Major (Aird, Rook). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The air was popular during 17th century and throughout the 18th century and was one of the tunes published in London by music publisher Henry Playford (as "Always my heart that we mun sunder") in his 1700 collection of Scottish tunes. This volume is the earliest printed collection of Scottish fiddle music, consisting of 39 dances, airs and variation sets in unaccompanied arrangements. A second edition was issued in 1701. Words to "Always My Heart that We Mun Sunder" were written by poet Allan Ramsay (1686-1758), and were sung by Peggy in his ballad opera The Gentle Shepherd (1725). Another song to the tune, also with words by Ramsay, is called "Woe's My Heart the We Shou'd Sunder." John Glen [Early Scottish Melodies, 1900] and Stenhouse both agree the ancestral tune is contained in the Skene Manuscript (c. 1620) for the mandora under the title "Alace this night yat we suld sinder," and Glen downplays the notion that the air "To dance about the Bailzeis Dubb" contributed to it; "merely two bar measures to the first, and two-and-a-half measures to the second strain, of the entire air."

As with many popular airs of the era, "Woe's my hear" served as the vehicle for songs in the ballad operas of Joseph Mitchell (The Highland Fair, or Union of the Clans, 1731) and Theodore Cibber (Patie and Peggy: or, The Fair Foundling, 1730—a recasting of Ramsay’s The Gentle Shepherd). Classical composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed a setting for it as one of a number of Scottish folk songs commissioned by music publisher George Thomson. The air appears numerous collections from the period, including the Gillespie Manuscript of Perth (1768), and in several musicians’ copybooks of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It appears, for example, in the J. Brown manuscript of 1782, written in Seabrook, New Hampshire and in the manuscript copybook of Henry Livingston, Jr. Livingston purchased the estate of Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1771 at the age of 23. In 1775 he was a Major in the 3rd New York Regiment, which participated in Montgomery’s invasion of Canada in a failed attempt to wrest Montreal from British control. An important land-owner in the Hudson Valley and a member of the powerful Livingston family, Henry was also a surveyor and real estate speculator, an illustrator and map-maker, and a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. He was also a musician and presumably a dancer, as he was elected a Manager for the New York Assembly’s dancing season of 1774-1775, along with his 3rd cousin, John Jay, later U.S. Chief Justice of Governor of New York. "Woe's My Heart..." also was entered into the large 1840 music manuscript of multi-instrumentalist John Rook (Waverton, near Wigton, Cumbria).

Ramsay's words to the song, as printed in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, vol. 2 (1788, No. 131) begin:

With broken words and down cast eyes,
Poor Colin spoke his passion tender,
And parting with his Grisy cries,
Ah woes my heart that we shou'd sunder;
To others I am cold as snow,
But kindle with thine eyes like tinder,
From thee with pain I'm forc'd to go.
It breaks my heart that we shou'd sunder.


Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Aird (Selections of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5), 1797; p. 60. Johnson (Scots Musical Museum, vol. 2 [1]), 1788; No. 131, p. 137. McGibbon (Scots Tunes, Book 1), c. 1746; p. 20. Mulhollan (Selection of Irish and Scots Tunes), Edinburgh, 1804; p. 23.

Recorded sources: -



Back to Woe's my heart that we should sunder