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"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78.[1]

There are many different versions of this ballad.

Contents

Synopsis

A man mourns his true love for "a twelve month and a day". At the end of that time, the dead woman complains that his weeping is keeping her from peaceful rest. He begs a kiss. She tells him it would kill him and sends him away.

Variants

The version noted by Cecil Sharp[2] ends with "When will we meet again? / When the autumn leaves that fall from the trees / Are green and spring up again."

Variants and images of old broadsides can be found at Folkinfo.

Many verses in this ballad have parallels in other ballads: Bonny Bee Hom, Sweet William's Ghost and some variants of The Twa Brothers.[3]

The motif that excessive grief can disturb the dead is found also in German and Scandinavian ballads, as well as Greek and Roman traditions.[4]

Recordings

Kate Rusby, Lau, Joan Baez, Steven Wilson, The Dubliners, Barbara Dickson, Shirley Collins, Circulus, Faith and the Muse, Ween, Gryphon, Fire + Ice and more recently The O'Faolain Brothers and Isambarde have recorded versions of this song.

A single movement viola concerto by Australian composer Andrew Ford used the melody of the ballad as its foundation. Written in 1997, the concerto is pieced together from melodic fragments of the ballad and it is only in the final few minutes that the full theme emerges.

The Pennsylvania-based alternative rock band, Ween, recorded a version of the song (retitled "Cold Blows the Wind") on their 1997 album, The Mollusk.

The gothic/darkwave band Faith & the Muse recorded a version on their debut Elyria in 1994.

The folk-rock group Steeleye Span recorded a version on their 2009 Album Cogs, Wheels and Lovers.

References

  1. ^ Francis James Child, Scottish and English Popular Ballads, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch078.htm "The Unquiet Grave"
  2. ^ Cecil J. Sharp (Ed) (1975) One Hundred English Folksongs (For Medium Voice), Dover, ISBN 0-486-23192-5
  3. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 234, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  4. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 234-6, Dover Publications, New York 1965
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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Child's Collected Ballads
by Francis James Child

The Unquiet Grave is an English folk song, in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is Child Ballad number 78, and is thought to date from 1400. There are many different versions of this ballad, several of which are reproduced here.

Contents

Child 78a The Unquiet Grave

1
‘THE wind doth blow today, my love,
And a few small drops of rain;
I never had but one true-love,
In cold grave she was lain.
2
‘I’ll do as much for my true-love
As any young man may;
I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.’
3
The twelvemonth and a day being up,
The dead began to speak:
‘Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
And will not let me sleep?’
4
‘Tis I, my love, sits on your grave,
And will not let you sleep;
For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips,
And that is all I seek.’
5
‘You crave one kiss of my clay-cold lips;
But my breath smells earthy strong;
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,
Your time will not be long.
6
‘Tis down in yonder garden green,
Love, where we used to walk,
The finest flower that ere was seen
Is withered to a stalk.
7
‘The stalk is withered dry, my love,
So will our hearts decay;
So make yourself content, my love,
Till God calls you away.’

Child 78b The Unquiet Grave

‘HOW cold the wind do blow, dear love,
And see the drops of rain!
I never had but one true-love,
In the green wood he was slain.
‘I would do as much for my own true-love
As in my power doth lay;
I would sit and mourn all on his grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.’
A twelvemonth and a day being past,
His ghost did rise and speak:
‘What makes you mourn all on my grave?
For you will not let me sleep.’
‘It is not your gold I want, dear love,
Nor yet your wealth I crave;
But one kiss from your lily-white lips
Is all I wish to have.
‘Your lips are cold as clay, dear love,
Your breath doth smell so strong;’
‘I am afraid, my pretty, pretty maid,
Your time will not be long.’

Child 78c The Unquiet Grave

‘COLD blows the wind oer my true-love,
Cold blow the drops of rain;
I never, never had but one sweetheart,
In the greenwood he was slain.
‘I did as much for my true-love
As ever did any maid;
‘One kiss from your lily-cold lips, true-love,
One kiss is all I pray,
And I’ll sit and weep all over your grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.’
‘My cheek is as cold as the clay, true-love,
My breath is earthy and strong;
And if I should kiss your lips, true-love,
Your life would not be long.’

Child 78d The Unquiet Grave

‘PROUD BOREAS makes a hideous noise,
Loud roars the fatal fleed;
I loved never a love but one,
In church-yard she lies dead.
‘But I will do for my love’s sake
What other young men may;
I’ll sit and mourn upon her grave,
A twelvemonth and a day.’
A twelvemonth and a day being past,
The ghost began to speak:
‘Why sit ye here upon my grave,
And will not let me sleep?’
‘One kiss of your lily-white lips
Is all that I do crave;
And one kiss of your lily-white lips
Is all that I would have.’
‘Your breath is as the roses sweet,
Mine as the sulphur strong;
If you get one kiss of my lips,
Your days would not be long.
‘Mind not ye the day, Willie,
Sin you and I did walk?
The firstand flower that we did pu
Was witherd on the stalk.’
‘Flowers will fade and die, my dear,
Aye as the tears will turn;
And since I’ve lost my own sweet-heart,
I’ll never cease but mourn.’
‘Lament nae mair for me, my love,
The powers we must obey;
But hoist up one sail to the wind,
Your ship must sail away.’

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