Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional and newer songs sung by Sangschule of Linlithgow

Firethief

by Karine Polwart (DOB 1971)

Who stole the heart of my bonnie laddie?
All alone and aloney O
And left me another lad in his body
Down where I cannot go
Down where I cannot follow

Who stole the light from my laddie's eyes
All alone and aloney O
And left me another lad in disguise?
Down where I cannot go
Down where I cannot follow

Who stole the words from my laddie's tongue
All alone and aloney O
And left me a rickle of skin and bone?
Down where I cannot go
Down where I cannot follow

Who stole today? And who stole tomorrow?
And left me with nothing, with nothing,
But doul and sorrow?
But doul and sorrow?

I know the name of the fire thief
All alone and aloney O
But you can't grow a tree from a fallen leaf
Down where I cannot go
Down where I cannot go
Down where I cannot follow

This song appears on Karine’s 2008 album This Earthly Spell. In a BBC review of the album, Chris White gives his opinion that with “Firethief” , “ a poignant lament to a young man stricken with AIDS”, Karine Polwart “really lives up to her reputation as a songwriter of true stature.” He continues that the “hauntingly insistent guitar line and some coruscating imagery combine with powerful effect to describe a mother’s “bonnie laddie” withering away to become “a rickle of skin and bone”.

Her website, www.karinepolwart.com , gives details of Karine’s awards for song-writing, eg her 2005 successes at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards, with ‘best album’ for Faultlines, ‘best original song’ for “The Sun’s Comin’ Over The Hill” and the Horizon Award. In 2007 she won “best original song” again with “Daisy”.

Karine has a master’s degree in philosophy and was a children’s rights worker. She allows “images, narratives, questions and wry comic asides to do much of her work. She tries never to say too much.” Karine admits that most of her songs are an attempt to make sense of the fact that "there are people in this world who don't think like you do".  She recorded two albums for release on her own micro label, hegri, while on maternity leave for the birth of her son. The first was Fairest Floo’er, with Scottish traditional songs and the second was This Earthly Spell, of original songs including “Firethief”.

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