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The Wandering Ballad – Song no. 10: Skön Anna

This is the tenth in a series of blogs about the songs on our new CD “The Wandering Ballad”.

Skön Anna (Sweden) is the same ballad as Skön Anna (Finland) with another melody variant.

I found this melody in the database made available online by Svenskt Visarkiv. Here you can access handwritten music noted down and collected by this institution through the ages. It has been scanned and mace accessible, a veritable treasure for all who are on the lookout for traditional Swedish music. Here you can find not only ballads and songs, but a vast number of instrumental tunes as well.

Skön Anna, like Les Tristes Noces and Fair Annie tell the sad story of the beautiful young Anna who is whisked away by a handsome stranger only to be abandoned by him after having born him seven sons.

Her lover marries another woman, a noblewoman who can give him real legitimate heirs. Anna serves at the wedding but finds it difficult to hide her feelings, something that is observed by the bride who finally demands to know who this woman is who walks around weeping at her wedding.

All is revealed and in this version the lover/bridegroom confesses that she is in fact his long time, live in mistress and mother to his seven sons.

One interesting note is, in some of the Scandinavian versions it is fact the mother of the lover/bridegroom who encourages Anna to go to the wedding to create a stir.

Here I have selected just three verses with this melody that is a slower variant of the one from Finland.

Skön Anna hon gångar åt lunden fram

(Fair Anna she walks through the grove)

Hon fäller så bitterliga tårar

(She sheds bitter tears)

Där fick hon höra brudespel

(There she heard bridal music)

Fioler fick hon höra

(Fiddles she heard)

Och bruden hon sade till brudgummen så:

(The bride told the bridegroom)

"Vad månde nu detta här vara?

(“What might this be?”)

Vad är det för en fru som kommer här in?

(Who is this lady who comes here?)

Hon sörjer och gråter så svåra.

(She grievs and cries so sadly.”)

Sanningen måste jag säga för dig

(“The truth I must tell you.)

Sanningen kan jag ej dölja

(The truth I can no longer hide.)

Det är skön Anna, frillan min

(It is fair Anna, my mistress)

Med henne har jag avlat sju söner

(With her I have sired seven sons.”)

In my translation above I have not attempted to create a singable text. I have given a literal translation as far as is possible. The texts of the ballads are not always grammatically logical and often use words in odd ways. It is not uncommon to find words used in a slightly odd way, but looking at several variants can sometimes reveal that it is a question of a kind of distortion that can happen when you learn something by heart. It is easy to remember something slightly differently than the original. Also in material that has been handed down for so long you encounter words that have changed meaning or are no longer in use, or take on new meanings.

The ballads were sometimes noted down from dictations which can introduce variations as well. To me these slightly unusual ways of using words actually add to the poetry and I like using them wherever possible and as long as it is still possible to understand the storyline.

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