Saturday, July 11, 2015

Theme Song from Outlander






Since it was several of you who got me started on the STARZ series, Outlander, I am sharing some interesting information on the theme song.  This tune just captivated me, and I started researching online.  Then the English major in me got hooked on the history of the lyrics to the song.  If you are not familiar with the song, listen to a YouTube clip; it is just one minute long. Theme to Outlander


Charles Edward Stuart
The composer who created the score for Outlander, is a man named Bear McCleary.  He adapted an old Scottish folk tune, "The Skye Boat Song."  It was first written to tell the story of when Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to the Isle of Skye after being defeated at The Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746.  Below are just a few verses from the original song:



 Original lyrics
[Chorus:] Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclouds rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.

[Chorus]

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep,
Battle of Culloden
Ocean's a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary head.

[Chorus]

Many's the lad fought on that day,
Well the Claymore could wield,
When the night came, silently lay
Dead on Culloden's field.

[Chorus]

Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men;
Yet ere the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.


In 1892, the Scottish poet, Robert Louis Stevenson, rewrote the lyrics of the original song into a poem titled "Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone."  I thought, perhaps, my father had read it to me in a book from my childhood, A Child's Garden of Verses.  (My father was born in Greenock, Scotland.)  I pulled out my copy, but it was not in there.  The writing style of the poem, though, was very familiar to me.  Stevenson was still writing about Charles Edward Stuart.  In the Outlander series, Claire is right in the middle of the Jacobite Uprising and tries to warn the Highlanders that it won't be successful.  Below is the Robert Louis Stevenson poem:

Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone

By Robert Louis Stevenson
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, Rum on the port,
      Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
      Where is that glory now?

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

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!

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.

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.

Finally, Bear McCleary changed the text of this poem from "lad" to "lass" to reflect the female character, Claire, and set the words to the melody of the folk tune.  There is one more verse in this adaptation that is not included in the opening to each episode.  It is such a beautiful theme, and Raya Yarbrough's voice is almost ethereal.  

Chorus:
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.

Repeat chorus 
Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone,
Give me the eyes, give me the soul
Give me the lass that's gone. 
Repeat chorus



9 comments:

  1. Ella,
    Thank you for sharing all your research. Wonderful!
    Meredith

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    Replies
    1. Hello Mere,
      I was excited by all the information I found. It reminded me of a paper I wrote long ago.
      Ella

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  2. Ella that is so cool! Every time my Scotsman and I watch Outlander he sings lyrics to the song! Now I am going to show him this post and ask which lyrics he is singing!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Minelle,
      Thanks. I want to hear what he says. Which lyrics does he know, and did he sing the song as a child?

      I do not remember my dad ever singing such a song. He did sing us some odd little tunes as lullabies, though.

      Please tell your Scotsman thanks for his input.
      Ella

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    2. Hubby sings the original lyrics!

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  3. Oh my gosh, Ella!! I couldn't love you more right now! Lol. First, I LOVE this theme song and even looked it up to research it a bit - but you took it so much further. I, too, am an English major, so those lyrics were one of the first things that caught me. Thank you so much for this!!

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  4. Thanks,Maggie,
    It is a beautiful song, and I love that now I can sing verses from the original folk tune. It reminds me of some songs in several Shakespeare plays that retell a battle and its hero. I am glad you liked it.
    Ella

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  5. Oh Ella, you need to visit the Isle of Skye! It is so wild and beautiful! My cousin lives just across the water and his first view each day is of Skye. How lovely to print the words and explain the theme tune for Outlander. Now you need to look up the legends of Flora MacDonald. You will be fascinated.

    Many hugs
    Ami

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  6. Hello Ami,
    The Isle of Skye does look beautiful; it looks like a painting, not a photo. I would love to see it someday!

    You are sending me off on another trail. I will find out about Flora.

    Hugs across the Pond,
    Ella

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