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Mary O'Meara is one of the classics of the filk genre. In Tomorrow's Songs Today, Gary McGath describes how Poul Anderson used the song in the 1967 novel World Without Stars and also its origin with the Norwegian song "Anna Lovinda", even if "Mary O'Meara" is usually sung using an original melody made by Anne Passovoy.

What McGath didn't cover that much was the song "Anna Lovinda" itself. Its lyrics and tune were written by Erik Bye, a popular Norwegian songwriter and media personality. It was released in 1960 on Erik Bye's first record, "Vi går ombord" (We Walk Aboard"), containing songs concerning sailing, sailors, and ships. It is available on Spotify in many different versions, including by Erik Bye himself. On Youtube you can find a monumental version with Sissel Kyrkjebø, Bjørn Eidsvåg, and Åge Aleksandersen from 2006, as well as recordings by many other artists.

The song quickly proved very popular in Norway, and also soon spread to Denmark. I have found a reference in a Danish library database of a Danish translation by Thøger Olesen (using the pen name Peter Mynte) published in 1960, and a Danish single using Olesen's translation was released in 1962, sung by Kjeld Ingrisch. I think it is likely that it is this recording that Poul and Karen Anderson encountered, given that Karen called the tune Danish, though I wouldn't be surprised if they later tracked down a copy of Erik Bye's record.

In the original recording of the song, Erik Bye makes the following introduction: "Here rests Anna Lovinda, dead April 12th 1872, 20 years old. She was the widow after Captain Ebenezer Hunt, who went down with his ship the same year, 25 years old. This inscription in an old churchyard on the coast of New England gave the inspiration to this song." According to Norwegian Wikipedia, the churchyard is located in Westport, Connecticut.

Based on the story behind Bye's "Anna Lovinda", we can see several points of similarity to "Mary O'Meara". Mary in "World Without Stars" was also buried in a small town in New England, and died young. I like to think that Poul Anderson was aware of Bye's introduction, but there is no real evidence. The English lyrics that Anderson wrote also very much parallel Bye's Norwegian and Olesen's Danish versions. Here are non-poetic translations of Bye's original Norwegian lyrics and of a Danish version, as sung by Fisker Thomas (stage name for Thomas Jensen), which I believe uses Olesen's translation.

Erik Bye's Norwegian lyrics Fisker Thomas Danish lyrics
Anna Lovinda, sleep easy beneath the stars
Sleep easy beneath the stars, you
A shanty is ringing from the night-black sea
And hush, can you hear it now?
Anna - Anna Lovinda
Hush can you hear it now

A ship is coming with shuttered lights
Sleep easy beneath the lilies tonight
An eye out there is peering from the rig
A skipper stands proud by the wheel
Anna - Anna Lovinda
My girl, I am coming tonight

Yes, sing me a shanty of Anna Lovinda,
She rests so easy beneath the heather
Sing while we're rising from seaweed-black forests
Yes, sing good shanty-man sing!
Anna - Anna Lovinda
Yes, sing good shanty-man sing!

And the song shall be carried on the wings of the seagull
And rocked by the wind towards land
Shall be whispered in the grass around where she lies
And hummed by the waves against shore
Anna - Anna Lovinda
Shall be hummed by the waves against shore

Yes, soft you can hear it, Anna Lovinda
Soon a ship will anchor in the harbour
Soon his footsteps will be heard on the path below
He stops and whispers your name:
Anna - Anna Lovinda
He stops and whispers your name

Yes sleep beneath the lilies, Anna Lovinda,
sleep well beneath lilies and leaves
A wanderer has uncovered his head in the evening
a thought has knelt by your remains
Anna - Anna Lovinda
A thought has knelt by your remains
Anna Lovinda, sleep sweet beneath the stars
Sleep sweet beneath the stars, you
A song is sounding from the foaming white waves
And hush, can you hear it now?
Anna - Anna Lovinda
Hush can you hear it now

A ship is coming with shuttered lights
Sleep sweet beneath the lilies tonight
A sailor out there is peering from the rig
And the skipper stands by his wheel
Anna - Anna Lovinda
My girl, I am coming tonight

Yes, sing me a song of Anna Lovinda,
She rests so easy beneath the heather
Sing while we're rising on foaming white waves
Yes, sing good boatswain sing!
Anna - Anna Lovinda
Sing good boatswain sing!

And the song shall be carried on the wings of the seagull
And rocked by the wind towards land
Shall be whispered in the grass around where she lies
And hummed by the waves against shore
Anna - Anna Lovinda
Shall be hummed by the waves against shore

Hush, can you hear it, Anna Lovinda?
Soon a ship seek its harbour
Soon his footsteps will be heard on the path below
He stops and whispers your name:
Anna - Anna Lovinda
He stops and whispers your name

Yes sleep beneath the lilies, Anna Lovinda,
sleep well beneath lilies and leaves
A wanderer has uncovered his head in the evening
A thought has knelt by your remains
Anna - Anna Lovinda
A thought has knelt by your remains


Alex Campbell has done an English translation (YouTube) from Olesen's Danish version, and hews very closely to it.

As can be noted by my non-lyrical translations, Olesen's Danish translation have only very slight and few differences in content to Bye's original; this is a common theme in song translation between Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish.

Coming back to "Mary O'Meara", Poul Anderson's translation is much freer, even considering that "Mary O'Meara" is in English and the song is moved out to space. "Anna Lovinda" is impersonal, despite the high emotions, especially in Erik Bye's version describing the relation between Anna Lovinda and the sailors on the sunken ship, and there is an element of fantasy there that is missing in Olesen's Danish translation. Here "Mary O'Meara" is intensely personal, especially in the third verse, with a clear narrator present within the song. The line content is also very much changed, especially in the third verse.

In structure, story, and emotional content "Mary O'Meara" is however identical to both versions of "Anna Lovinda". The first verse introduces Anna/Mary, with references to stars, night, and lilies. The second verse introduces the coming ship, someone watching, and referencing coming back to her. The third verse is about singing to or about Anna/Mary. The fourth verse tells how the song will reach her, carried by waves, surf, and winds. The fifth verse further references her hearing the song and how the traveller arrives to her hill and announces his presence. The last verse refers back to the first verse, and confirms the sense of love, sorrow, and loss the traveller feels for her. The imagery of stars, night, lilies, waves, and the wind is also used by all three.

For completeness sake, I will also include my own "Mary O'Meara in the original Norwegian", that I have sung at GAFilk and Quoi de Neuf. This is based on Bye's original version, with rather minimal changes to bring the song into space.

Mary O'Meara, sov stilt under stjerner,
sov stilt under stjernene, du,
Det klinger en shanty fra nattsvarte rommet,
Og tyss, kan du høre det nu?
Mary - Mary O'Meara,
Tyss kan du høre det nu?

Det kommer et romskip for slukte lanterner,
sov stilt under liljer i natt.
Det speider et øye fra riggen der ute,
det kneiser en skipper bak ratt.
Mary - Mary O'Meara,
Min pike, jeg kommer i natt.

Ja, syng meg en shanty om Mary O'Meara,
hun hviler så lunt under lyng.
Syng mens vi kommer fra stjernerne bleke,
ja, syng, gode shantymann, syng!
Mary - Mary O'Meara,
ja, syng, gode shantymann, syng!

Og sangen skal bæres på solskipets vinger,
og vugges med vind imot land,
skal hviskes i gresset omkring hennes leie
og nynnes av bøljer mot strand.
Mary - Mary O'Meara,
Skal nynnes av bøljer mot strand.

Ja, tyss kan du høre det, Mary O'Meara,
snart lander ett romskip i havn.
Snart lyder hans fottrinn på stien der nede,
han stanser och hvisker ditt navn:
Mary - Mary O'Meara,
Han stanser och hvisker ditt navn.

Ja, sov under stjernene, Mary O'Meara,
sov blidt under liljer og løv.
En vandrer har blottet sitt hode i kvelden.
En tanke har knelt for ditt støv.
Mary - Mary O'Meara,
En tanke har knelt for ditt støv.

Date: 2017-05-13 07:19 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Ah, thanks for clarifying. In that case, you should know that "free to the original" is not idiomatic and is not clear at all. Hmm.....

«Coming back to "Mary O'Meara", Poul Anderson's translation is much more free to the original, even considering that "Mary O'Meara" is in English and the song is moved out to space.»

Coming back to "Mary O'Meara", Anderson's translation is very free, even allowing for moving the setting out to space.

Not telling you to revise this post; rather, advice on some odd points of this very confusing language that is native to me but not to you.

Me

kjn

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