She Moved Through the Code

The traditional song “She Moved Through the Fair” is the gold standard of the Irish ghost story.  It’s all the more powerful because we never quite learn if it really was a ghost or not, or if the “ghost’s” final speech is a memory–or a prophecy.

For the sake of the parody we have moved the setting into the modern world of debugging and telecommuting.  Whatever else computers may be, they can be highly absorbing:  those who work on them can easily become, as the expression is, dead to the world.  You begin to wonder if you’ll ever hear from them.

My first acquaintance with the lyrics came from the version on Loreena McKennitt’s album Elemental, which to me remains the creepiest version I’ve heard, and all the more effective due to the sparseness of the instrumentation.  Click here to see the original lyrics.

My love said to me, “I hope you don’t mind–
But this code’s due tomorrow. I’m running behind.”
She cast a glance at me, and this she did say:
“Just give me a moment, and we’ll be on our way.”

She turned away from me, and she moved through the code,
And softly she went into debugging mode.
She tapped the keys lightly, checking syntax and case
As the monitor’s colors cast a glow on her face.

People say, no code’s ever done.
When the debugging’s finished, and upgrade’s begun.
I thought as I watched her, this could take all year.
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

Last night I logged in to see what was new,
When an email message from my love came through.
I opened it quickly, and this it did say:
“Just give me a moment, and we’ll be on our way….”

Copyright 2005, 2010.

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