"Cruel Sister" as written by and B. Jansch T. Cox....
There lived a lady by the North Sea shore
(Lay the bent to the bonnie broom)
Two daughters were the babes she bore
(Fa la la la la la la la la la)

alternating with each of the lines below>

As one grew bright as is the sun,
So coal black grew the elder one.

A knight came riding to the lady's door,
He'd travelled far to be their wooer.

He courted one with gloves and rings,
But he loved the other above all things.

Oh sister will you go with me
To watch the ships sail on the sea?

She took her sister by the hand
And led her down to the North Sea strand.

And as they stood on the windy shore
The dark girl threw her sister o'er.

Sometimes she sank, sometimes she swam,
Crying, "Sister, reach to me your hand!

"Oh Sister, Sister, let me live,
And all that's mine I'll surely give."

"(It's) your own true love that I'll have and more,
But thou shalt never come ashore."

And there she floated like a swan,
The salt sea bore her body on.

Two minstrels walked along the strand
And saw the maiden float to land.

They made a harp of her breastbone,
Whose sound would melt a heart of stone.

They took three locks of her yellow hair,
And with them strung the harp so rare.

They went into her father's hall
To play the harp before them all,

But when they laid it on a stone
The harp began to play alone.

The first string sang a doleful sound:
"The bride her younger sister drowned."

The second string as that they tried,
In terror sits the black-haired bride.

The third string sang beneath their bow,
"And surely now her tears will flow

Lyrics submitted by ruben

"Cruel Sister" as written by D. Thompson B. Jansch


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Cruel Sister song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentThis is such a beautiful haunting song.. my mom introduced me to it when I was 12 years old. I have no idea what "Lay the bent to the bonnie broom" means, but it is repeated every second line.. the song itself is obviously a story, about 2 girls: one blonde and one dark-haired (possibly representing good and evil?).

    In the end (I don't feel like getting into the entire story), the harp created from the body of the blond-haired sister seems to speak actual words "the bride her younger sister drowned, and surely now her tears will flow." This seems to be the blond-haired girl (whose spirit basically resides in the harp) questioning if her black-haired sister will finally have some emotion and cry for her. Going with the good/evil comparison theme, it asks the question...can evil be tamed?

    Hopefully that made sense, just my opinion on the piece. Such a wonderful song. :)
    confinedinsanityon April 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationYep, this is about a shit sister. I know all about those. Maybe I'll become a harp and creep her out. Naw, I wouldn't waste my time. Likely she'll already have enough to creep her out for all time after this life.
    epiwooshon June 05, 2018   Link

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