Hey people! 🙂
For today, I’d like to share with you an extremely poignant and heartbreaking song. It’s really beautiful, despite its very dark theme, and there are a lot of amazing renditions of it, therefore I decided to share two of them in one post, and it’s possible that I’ll share some other versions of it in the future too, who knows. The first of these two versions is by Gwilym Bowen Rhys, from the first album of his Detholiad o Hen Faledi (Selection of Old Ballads) album series. This is the very first version of this song that I heard, and I love Gwilym’s expressive a capella interpretation of it very much. THe other is by Siwsan George, from her album Traditional Songs of Wales – Caneuon Traddodiadol Cymru. – I was introduced to Siwsan’s music earlier this year. She was from Rhondda and sang both as a soloist as well as part of a folk group called Mabsant. Siwsan was also a harpist. Sadly, she passed away in her forties due to cancer.
As we can read on Gwilym’s Bandcamp page,, this song tells the story of a poor girl called Jane Williams, from a village in Denbighshire called Cynwyd, who was raped at 23 and fell pregnant in 1868. Predictably, she was shamed and disdained by her community as a result, and eventually committed suicide by drowning herself in the river Dee. The lyrics were written by John Jones, also known under his bardic name of Llew o’r Wern, and set to a traditional tune called There’s Love Among the Roses.
I’ve taken the translation below from Gwilym’s website, where you can also find the original words in Cymraeg.
On the banks of the old river Dee A pure maiden sits Whispering quietly to herself “I’ve been left lonely Without a love or a friend in the world Nor a home to go to, the door of my father’s house is locked, tonight I am rejected. The finger of shame is after me Highlighting my weakneses And the tide of my life has turned And is buried under the waves. On the alter of lust I was sacrificed, Yes, I lost my virginity, And that’s the reason why I’m rejected tonight. You little trout that plays joyfully In the pure waters of the river, You have many friends And shelter from enemies You may live and die under the water With no one having to know you, Oh if I could only be like you I could die, and that would be the end. But my sorrowfull mind flies away To a world that’s yet to come, And you, my harsh traitor, remember, You must meet me there! I need only think of your name And living is too much for me. Oh, deep river, accept me, Your bed shall be my bed.” And the next morning she was found In the cold water of the river, With a piece of paper in her hand And on it, these words: “Dig me a grave in a lonely place, Don’t raise a stone or write an ephigy, To denote the place where lies the dust Of the rejected maiden.”
Gwilym Bowen Rhys: