Much research for fiction involves listening to the past. It so happens that in Researching this new novel I am becoming absorbed in all things Bronze Iron Age and British-Roman.
Then the ineffable Lola Borg drew my attentions on Twitter to the programme Soul Music on Radio 4. Lola said, "All about dreams and longings and unexpressed desires". If you just missed this on She Moved Through the Fair http://bbc.in/11Sywjv.
The programme featured commentators and singers - most centrally Sinead O'Connor - trying to nail the peculiar magic of this song.
It's a song sung on international stages by celebrities and in pubs and hearth-gatherings of families and friends by un-lauded singers. Sinead tells a story on the programme that at the end of the funeral after the early, unexpected death her partner Padraig they played a recording of him singing this song. As it's a story of the fragility of human experience and of obsessive love that lasts beyond the grave this was curiously appropriate. She said, 'My dear one had departed. He always had a huge sympathy for people who were in trouble. He was an old soul and a very kind man... He 'sang' at his own funeral. I found it consoling.'
Perfect circularity. I listened and was swept away.The song and its music have been whirling in my head ever since. Apparently the music is older than the song they are both lost in ancient times.
Every lines (in full below) are worth quoting but the I particularly like the lines -
(LATER) And the lovely blogger 60 Going on Sixteen (See comment below) recommended the purely exquisite 1941 version by the legendary John McCormack. I see he is accompanied bu Gerald Moore, the equally legendary pianist. Give yourself a treat and listen to the past in two dimensions - World War 2 and The ancient past.
(EVEN LATER...) and this version by Van Morrison and The Chieftains appropriately sung - almost spoken - by Van Morrison shows the tragic young man at the centre of the story.