Tag Archives: The Spinning Wheel

The Spinning Wheel

12 May

I think everyone has a song that they love above all others.  The one song that they have myriad versions of stored around the place.  That song for me is the traditional Irish song “The Spinning Wheel”.

Mellow the moonlight to shine is beginning

Close by the window young Eileen is spinning

Bent o’er the fire her blind grandmother sitting

Crooning and moaning and drowsily knitting.

Merrily cheerily noiselessly whirring

Spins the wheel, rings the wheel while the foot’s stirring

Sprightly and lightly and merrily ringing

Sounds the sweet voice of the young maiden singing.

Eileen, a chara, I hear someone tapping

‘Tis the ivy dear mother against the glass flapping

Eileen, I surely hear somebody sighing

‘Tis the sound mother dear of the autumn winds dying.

What’s the noise I hear at the window I wonder?

‘Tis the little birds chirping, the holly-bush under

What makes you shoving and moving your stool on

And singing all wrong the old song of the “Coolin”?

There’s a form at the casement, the form of her true love

And he whispers with face bent, I’m waiting for you love

Get up from the stool, through the lattice step lightly

And we’ll rove in the grove while the moon’s shining brightly.

The maid shakes her head, on her lips lays her fingers

Steps up from the stool, longs to go and yet lingers

A frightened glance turns to her drowsy grandmother

Puts her foot on the stool spins the wheel with the other

Lazily, easily, now swings the wheel round

Slowly and lowly is heard now the reel’s sound

Noiseless and light to the lattice above her

The maid steps, then leaps to the arms of her lover.

Slower… and slower… and slower the wheel swings

Lower… and lower… and lower the reel rings

Ere the reel and the wheel stop their ringing and moving

Through the grove the young lovers by moonlight are roving.

I first heard “The Spinning Wheel” when I was about six.  It was on an LP my dad had of Australian bush balladeer Denis Gibbons.  The album had songs like “Botany Bay” and “Click Go the Shears” but it also had “The Spinning Wheel”.  Denis had a voice like a rusty gate hinge, but something about the tune and the lyrics wove an enchantment around me.  I would play that album for hours, just waiting from “The Spinning Wheel” to come up again.

I found Denis Gibbons recently on iTunes, but alas, “The Spinning Wheel” isn’t available.  Not that I mind much.  I already have three versions of the song.  A Foster and Allen version that omits the second and fourth verses, a full orchestral version, and my personal favourite, a tranquility arrangement by Phil Coulter.

This last is eerily beautiful.  I can imagine it being played in the Hollow Hills by Faerie bards.  Soothing and gentle, yet wreathed in magic.  The way I feel the song was always meant to be.  It’s very much the song of my soul.

What is your soul song?

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