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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace


Updated: Aug 10, 2020

By Van Morrison & The Chieftains (1988) on the Irish Heartbeats album.

This song is one of many variations performed and recorded over the years by countless artists. All based on the original Scottish folk song "The Water is Wide." Instead of singing "the water is wide", Morrison sings "the sea is wide". Carrickfergus is a village in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, near the town of Kilkenny. This is a love song, of someone seeking their true love, their true way, but being separated by the wide sea and unable to cross. It is a song of sadness and passion, of seeking a way when there may be none; of the longings, fears and hopes of our humanity. One can interpret this song on many levels thus its great variety and endurance across time and cultures. With distance, we often see clearer and then sometimes it may be too late or too far to go back or to cross over or we are just to awkward and afraid to try. The song also reflects the love of place and how people often find themselves longing for a time and a place where love and peace were alive for them, maybe this is home or a place of grand adventure. As the song calls us to look out over the sea, most of us have some feeling or memory for what this cleansing, private gazing is like for us, as the open sea does seem to somehow call to us. There is a spiritual dimension here also, of seeking unification with goodness, with one's full lived experience, with others, with those we love or with those we may have failed, with God, and facing that wide gulf that we must cross to reach any of these. It is such a vivid imaginative song and Morrison sings it with his full emotional presence. I hope you enjoy and find your own memories and meanings in this great song.

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