Water is Wide, The

TITLE: The Water is Wide
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: traditional, public domain
KEYWORDS:  love, rejection, lyric, lover, death
EARLIEST DATE: 1714 (Ritson, Scotish Song)

water_is_wideThe Water Is Wide is a folk song of English origin, based on lyrics which partly date to the 1600s. It has seen considerable popularity through to the 21st century. Cecil Sharp published the song in Folk Songs From Somerset (1906). It is related to Child Ballad 204 (Roud number 87), Jamie Douglas, which in turn refers to the ostensibly unhappy first marriage of James Douglas, 2nd Marquess of Douglas to Lady Barbara Erskine. (from wikipedia, but a longer more in-depth study can be found at . . . Just Another Tune


  • Arthur’s Seat
  • The Brisk Young LoverDown in the Meadow
  • Down in the Meadows
  • Down in Yon Meadows
  • False Love
  • In Yon Garden
  • Maggie Godden
  • The Marchioness of Douglas
  • Must I Be Bound
  • Must I Be Bound?My Heart it is Sair
  • O, Waly, Waly
  • O Waly, Waly, Up the BankPeggy Gordon
  • Picking Lilies
  • Picking of Lilies the Other Day
  • The Prickly Rose
  • A Ship Came Sailing
  • There is a Ship That Sails the Sea
  • The Unfortunate Swain
  • Wailie, Wailie
  • Waly, Waly
  • Waly, Waly, Up the Bank




The Water is Wide

The water is wide I cannot cross over
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that will carry two
And both shall roam my Love and I

A ship there is and she sails the sea
Sailing as deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I’m in
And I know not how I sink or swim

I leaned my back against some young oak
Thinking she was a trusty tree
But first she bent and then she broke
And thus did my false love to me

The water is wide I cannot cross over
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that will carry two
And both shall roam my Love and I


  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Sandburg, Carl. The American Songbag. 1927 Harcourt, Brace, and Company. [This volume will be indexed on this site in the weeks to come.]—Amazon Books
  • Folk Songs of North America (in the English Language), Alan Lomax, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York 1960—Amazon Books

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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