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Skye Boat Song (Outlander's series) (Raya Yarbrough) (Scotland)

One of Scotland's most beautiful ballads as it appears in the opening theme of the TV series Outlander. The music is composed by Bear McCreary, in the voice of Raya Yarbrough. The title song is an adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone", set to the tune of the Scottish folk song "The Skye Boat Song" (click the link to hear the original song and learn about it).

Outlander is a British-American television drama series based on the Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, mystery and romance. See trailer here.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.







LASS= (BrE) Girl  (lad= boy). Although the words "lad" and "lass" are common to many British dialects and also used in colloquial English, it is mostly associated to Scottish English.

SAY,= Tell me; imagine; for example.

MERRY OF SOUL= (old-fashioned, poetical) Happy.

SHE SAILED ON A DAY OVER THE SEA TO SKYE= (poetry hyperbaton) One day, she sailed to the island of Skye across the sea.

BILLOW= (formal) A large wave in the sea. Although it is singular, the idea here is plural (the waves of a rough sea).

BREEZE= A soft wind.

FAIR= Just (showing justice); Beautiful.

The lyrics of this song are based on a poem by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (19th century, author of the novel "The Treasure Island" and "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"). This is the original poem:

SING ME A SONG OF A LAD THAT IS GONE

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Mull was astern, Rùm on the port,
Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
Where is that glory now?

Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
Give me the lad that's gone!

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

The poem is talking about "bonnie Prince Charles" (Charles Edward Stewart). Scottish people wanted him to be king of the UK and reestablish the house of Stuart, but the rebelion was brutally suppressed and Prince Charles escaped on a boat and fled to the island of Skye, so he was "the lad that is gone" (lad = boy) "over the sea to Skye".

This adaptation for Outlander makes no use of the last stanza and makes only one change, but big enough though: it says "lass" (= girl) instead of "lad" (= boy). To understand why, we must know the TV series plot:

Claire Randall is a WWII combat nurse visiting Inverness, Scotland, with her husband, reacquainting themselves with each other after being separated for five years during the war. The morning after observing a modern Druid ritual among a set of standing stones on the hill of Craigh na Dun, Claire hears a strange noise coming from one of the stones. She places her hands on it and ... wakes up lying on the ground in the 18th century!

So if the original poem is talking about Prince Charles, now this version here is talking about Clair, the English woman who also lost everything and made a long journey to a remote part of Scotlad, the Scotland of two centuries earlier.


SASSENACH

Towards the end of the video you can see the word "Sassenach". That is the title of episode one. It is a pejorative word (an insult) used by the Scottish to refer to the English. It is originally a Celtic word, a distortion of the word "Saxon". Today, probably most Scottish people are descendants of the Saxons themselves (the original Celtic population survived mainly in the Highlands, the mountains to the north-west), but the word "sassenach" (pronounced  /sæsənæx/, /x/ = a strong /h/) is now used by Highlanders (of Celtic descent) referring to Lowlanders (of Saxon origin), but mostly by Scottish people in general referring to the English.

In Outlander, though, the word has a very positive sense. It sure is used by people to address Claire (an English woman) in a pejorative way, but mostly, it is used by Jamie (a Scotish young man in love with Claire) to address Claire, but in his lips, the word is a loving word, not an insult.

 
 
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