The Water is Wide

Some songs have a way of being rediscovered and reconfigured by later generations, over and over again. Whether they be ancient folk songs, or more current jazz/rock tunes, they are adapted and adopted with new stylings to better suit the needs of an artist and the intended audience.

The first version of The Water is Wide that I ever heard was the one by James Taylor. It sounded so much like him that I thought at first that he had written it. Apparently, if you go back far enough, you will find that its roots lie in the ancient folk songs of Scotland. It has been rewritten many times and there are several versions of the lyrics that you can find online.

Here is James’ version of the lyrics for this timeless song, as sung on New Moon Shine:

The water is wide, I can't cross over
Neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

There is a ship and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I'm in
I know not how I sink or swim

Oh love is handsome and love is fine
The sweetest flower when first it's new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like summer dew

Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I
And both shall row, my love and I

(Traditional)

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