She Moved Through The Fair

Many of you will know that the title of this post is also the title of a traditional Irish ballad. Just about every singer who you suspect might consider singing this song has done so plus some you never would have expected. I discovered Iowned so many versions among my tapes and CDs, without even trying to collect them, that I once made a tape for myself of seven different versions in a row.

As you may have gathered, I like this ballad very much. And when I played a recording of it for my fiancee about ten years ago,my eyes started to well up, and she decided it should be made a part of our wedding. Mycoworker D.L. Shroder, who is an actor (see him at, graciously agreed to recite the lyrics of the ballad at one point during the ceremony.As he read it, he himself choked up.

Well, years later, when listening to yet another version on yet another album, I noticed a verse I had not heard or seen before. In this verse, it seemed that the singer’s lover is actually a ghost, and the wedding anticipated in the song never takes place at all. The song, which was a song of innocence and utter romantic ecstacy and anticipation, suddenly became a tragic, malevolent-universe type of song, the opposite of what I wanted recited at my wedding.

I decided that since that verse was never recited, my wedding was not actually tarnished.

However, I am happy to report that the version with the ghost ispossibly inaccurate. Last Sunday I saw a concert by British folk guitarist Bert Jansch at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. He performed this ballad. But in his introduction, he revealed that when his old band Pentangle had recorded the song, they had made an error in the transcription of the lyrics. One word had been misrepresented. Instead of “My dear love came to me” they had sung “My dead love came to me”. He said his old band mate Jacqui McShee thinks it’s about a ghost to this day.

What a relief to learn the true lyrics are as I had hoped. I suppose I could have searched the Francis Child Ballads or other sources to find out for myself, but certainly Bert Jansch is as good a source as one can have.

However, now I read at Wikipedia that the ballad is in fact tragic and has two versions, one with “dead” and one with “dear”. Who can you trust?

Here is the version I had recited at my wedding:

“She Moved Through the Fair”

My young love said to me,

“My mother won’t mind

And my father won’t slight you

For your lack of kind.”

And shestepped away fromme

and this she did say,

“It will not be long now

‘Til our wedding day,”

As shestepped away from me,

And she moved through the fair,

And fondly I watched her

Move here and move there.

And then sheturned homeward,

Withone star awake,

Like the swan in the evening Moves over the lake.

Last night she came to me,

My dear love came in

So softly she came that

Her feet made no din

And she laid her hand on me

And this she did say,

“It will not be long, love,

’til our wedding day.”

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