September 24, 2014

DE TWA ROEKEN - "Twa Corbies"

Did you know that there is a Frisian version of "The Twa Corbies", a traditional Scottish ballad? The song's name translates as "The Two Rooks" (you can read more about rooks here if you are from the U.S. like myself and don't encounter them normally).

"De Twa Roeken" was translated into Frisian by Klass Bruinsma and sung by Doede Veeman. A recording and lyrics for the song are available at

Let's take a look at some useful vocabulary from this song:

Helje means "to pick" or "to sweep (in)" or "to blow."

One of the rooks asks the other:

Wêr helje wy ús miel hjoed wei?

Where will our meal sweep in from today?

Fortunately for our hungry rooks, a dead knight lies over the green dike only a short distance away. Nobody knows where he is except for his hawk, hound, and bride.

Inkeld means "a few" or "only."

Nimmen wit dat hy dêr leit 
inkeld syn houk, syn hûn, syn breid...
Nobody knows where he lies [literally: that he there lies]
except his hawk, his dog, his bride...

The knight's hawk is off catching birds, the hound is chasing hares, and the bride gave herself to another.

Fange means "to catch"
Bút  indicates a "prize" or "hoard."

Syn houk fangt fûgels as syn bút.
His hawk catches birds for its prize.

The dead knight has been been left all alone, so the rooks will have an excellent meal!

Skoan and skoander mean "excellent" or "alluring." Skoander can also mean "expensive."

Sa ha wy jûn in skoander miel.
So we have an excellent meal this evening.

The rooks can't eat the knight's hair, but that doesn't stop our resourceful feathered friends from putting it to good use:

Tek means "cover," "roof," or "blanket."
Sier means "ornament," "array," or "jewelry."

In lokke fan syn gouden hier
is foar ús nêst in tek en sier....

A lock from his golden hair
Is a cover and ornament for our nest....