I Climb the Mountains
(Fhir A Bhata)

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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
This is an old Gaelic tune Helen Hopekirk found in Henry Whyte's Celtic Lyre by Henry Whyte. Whyte was a collector of Gaelic folktunes around the end of the 19th century. The translation is by Lachlan MacBean.

However, according to Derick Thompson's An Introduction to Gaelic Poetry, the song was composed in the late 18th Century by Jane Finlayson of Tong, Lewis for a young Uig fisherman, Donald MacRae. They married each other sometime after she wrote the song. The song appears in The Scottish Gael by James Logan, first published 1876.*

I climb the mountain and scan the ocean,
For thee, my boatman, with fond devotion;
When shall I see thee? today? tomorrow?
O do not leave me in lonely sorrow.

Chorus
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile
Joy await thee whene'er thou sailest!

From passing boatmen I'll fain discover
If they have heard of, or seen my lover
They never tell me, I'm only chided
And told my heart has been sore misguided.

Chorus
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile
Joy await thee whene'er thou sailest!

My lover promis'd to bring his lady
A silken gown and a tartan plaidie
A ring of gold which would show his semblance
But oh! I fear for his remembrance.

Chorus
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile
Joy await thee whene'er thou sailest!

I may not hide it my heart's devotion
Is not a season's brief emotion;
Thy love in childhood began to seize me
And ne'er shall fade until death release me.

Chorus
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile
Joy await thee whene'er thou sailest!

My heart is weary with ceaseless wailing
Like wounded swan when her strength is failing
Her notes of anguish the lake awaken
By all her comrades at last forsaken.

Chorus
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile
Joy await thee whene'er thou sailest!

I climb the mountain and scan the ocean
For thee, my boatman, with fond devotion,
When shall I see thee? today? tomorrow?
Oh do not leave me in lonely sorrow.

Chorus
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile,
O my boatman, na horo eile
Joy await thee whene'er thou sailest!
From Seventy Scottish Songs
See Bibliography for full information.
*From a post by Craig Cockburn to rec.music.celtic