"We're the mystery of the lake when the water's still."

Part of the Annotated Lyrics Horslips Pages

We were wise, oh so wise,
Not given to lies or deceit.
We juggled secrets at our fingertips,
Wore diamonds at our feet.
We showed you ways to play old airs.
We said we could be friends.
But, when our backs were turned, you got us in the end.

We're the mystery of the lake when the water's still.
We're the laughter in the twilight
You can hear behind the hill.
We'll stay around to watch you laugh,
Destroy yourselves for fun.
But, you won't see us, we've grown sideways to the sun.

Recorded On:

  1. The Book of Invasions: A Celtic Symphony
  2. Horslips, The Best of

Source Tune:

Slan Cois Maigh

Recordings (After Horslips):

  1. Boys of the Lough, Lonesome Blues and Dancing Shoes

Covered By:

  1. Horslypse - Tribute with a Capital T, Omagh

General Notes from Albums:

The Tuatha's reign ended when they were defeated by the Sons of Mil at Tailteann, Co. Meath. The newcomers then divided Ireland in two. The half that was underground became the Tuatha's and the other half was given to the Sons of Mil. It has been argued that the Battle of Tailteann could have been a bloodless affair because Tailteann~ was the site of the Tuatha's games and because the Milesians are known to have been in awe of the Tuatha's druidic powers. Their first confrontation was alarming for the Milesians who faced spectres and monsters conjured by the Tuatha. Honourable in defeat, the Tuatha retired to a hidden world parallel to ours where life, immortal, goes on as before.

Notes on The Book of Invasions, Edsel Records

This one is written around a sad, slow air Slan Cois Maigh.

Notes on Horslips, The Best of..., Edsel Records

General Notes

"In the two verses, as in the title, the 'voice' is of a race we only know from lore and legend, and through intuition. It's that of the inhabitants of another psychic dimension or spiritual plane, a place where the normal rules of physics don't apply.

This was easy to imagine and visualise. Partly because over the years the band had located itself in some quite remarkable landscapes (by good fortune) while rehearsing. Sessiagh Lake at Dunfanaghy in Co. Donegal (the area AE had holidayed in, although we didn't know it at the time). Spooky Lough Gur near Hospital in east Limerick/west Tipperary. Also once in a cottage at the bottom of Knocknarea in Sligo.

It was easy, even then, to imagine how the otherworld might view our treatment of the planet.

The slow air Slan Cois Maigh is the intro and then the song follows its own path."

Eamon Carr, Interview to site, 2007

General Notes from the Official Guestbook:

Are we, through the unseen communication of the internet, like the Tuatha De Danann? Sideways to the Sun? For my part I always had an unquenchable thirst for any and all of the medias and formats that the band used to express themselves. My Horslips experience was to follow the band on a journey through an interwoven mix of music styles, literature and legend. I was drawn to the music by the melodic pastures of the Celtic Symphony, I was captivated by the crafted layers of sound and the rich images in the lyrics which I found here and in the other albums.

Stephen Ferris, Official Horslips Guestbook, Wednesday 05 April 2000 - 01:07:27 (BST)

We heard of the invasions
the battles fought and won
and why the Sluagh Sidhe
have gone sideways to the sun.

Our beings were overtaken,
The music cast a spell,
Then Charlie levitated
with his fiddle-break on 'Ride To Hell'!...........

not c Patrick Kavanagh, Official Horslips Guestbook, Saturday 20 May 2000 - 21:49:39 (BST)

I'd always felt as if I'd grown 'sideways to the sun'until I heard your songs. 'we're the mystery of the lake where the water's still, we're the laughter in the twilight you can hear beyond the hill' Can anyone tell me why this song makes me feel so utterly alone , desolate, and yet I love it as one of my favourites? I recommend you listen to it on a cold and foggy October night in front of a coal fire with a glass of wine to feel truly Irish.

peter mc dermott, Official Horslips Guestbook, Saturday 17 June 2000 - 01:37:08 (BST)

"'They were wearing a sort of.....metal!' said one drinker to another in the pub in Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal. 'They' were Horslips, the 'metal' was the sequinned suits the boys were wearing for a photo session on the beach.....Despite distractions like rowing boats, beautiful countryside, handy pubs and good cooking by two of the group's lady friends, Horslips have managed to get plenty of work done in preparation for their first album, to be recorded with the aid of the Rolling Stones mobile unit which arrives soon. The actual recording will be at Longfield House, Cashel. 'We got a lot done in the first week,' explained Barry Devlin, as we rowed across the lake after a strenuous hill-climb. 'But I don't know what Johnny (new guitarist Fean) thought. We brought him in and spent all the time practicing harmonies and standing around going "boom-boom-boom". He must have thought we were all mad.' Across the lake, Eamon Carr, in emerald green felt flying cap, Johnny and Charlie O'Connor, who was suddenly seen silhouetted against the skyline running madly along a hill top, were gradually disappearing into the gloom. Eamon signalled with a torch occasionally to let us see where they were. At the lakeside house....Jimmy Lockhart was playing the uillean pipes and the music drifted out across the peaceful water. Jimmy piped us ashore, although his greeting was extended when Barry and I managed to get the boat into a spot of bother with a submerged rock." (Dublin "Evening Herald", undated but clearly Autumn 1972) Ah, lads, the romance of it all, the sheer romance. Does Samantha Mumba does this kind of thing before cutting a new record, I wonder?

Chevron again, now fainting, Official Horslips Guestbook, Sunday, September 08, 2002 - 20:38:55 (BST)

We were wise, or half wise,
Wearing metal suits
We juggled torchs at our fingertips,
Wore green flying caps as we kept the beat
We showed you ways to play old airs.
And rowed across the lake
But, when our backs were turned, you sunk the bloody boat.

We're the mystery of the lake when the water's still.
We're the laughter in the twilight
You can hear behind the hill.
We'll stay around to watch you laugh,
Destroy yourselves for fun.
But, you won't see us, those batteries have run done.

unashamedly stolen from some misbegotten poets of old, Up Norde, Official Horslips Guestbook,
Sunday, September 08, 2002 - 23:29:01 (BST)

Annotated Lyrics:

"ways to play old airs"

The "slow airs" line is clearly a catch-all metaphor.

Eamon Carr, Interview to site, 2007

"sideways to the sun"

"The reference is to the fairies, the sluagh sidhe. We surmised that when threatened or insulted they would render themselves invisible to the coarse gaze of lesser mortals by turning sideways to the sun. We tried ourselves a few times but it didn't work."

Notes on Horslips, The Best of..., Edsel Records

"The powerful and the wealthy called the gods of ancient Ireland the Tuatha De Danaan, or the Tribes of the goddess Danu, but the poor called them, and sometimes still call them, the Sidhe, from Aes Sidhe or Sluagh Sidhe, the people of the Faery Hills, as these words are usually explained. Sidhe is also Gaelic for wind, and certainly the Sidhe have much to do with the wind."

W. B. Yeats, Notes in The Wind Among the Reeds, 1899

First Posted: September 7, 2007
Last Revised: September 7, 2007