Friday, May 24, 2019

The Unquiet Grave

The Unquiet Grave *, a traditional English folksong, from 1916, is the forerunner to Alan Schwartz story, “Cold as Clay”. This story can be found in his first book, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

This song and story are similar. Both highlight two lovers separated by death. But in the traditional song the woman dies, in Schwartz’s story, the man dies.

In both versions, the dead lover comes back as a ghost.

*  Other variations of this ballad include William and Margaret and Scarborough Fair.

The Unquiet Grave

Cold blows the wind to my true love,

And gently drops the rain,
I never had but one sweetheart,
And greenwood she lies slain.

I'll do as much for my sweetheart

As any young man many;
I'll sit and mourn all on her grave
For a twelvemonth and a day.

When the twelvemonth and one day was past,

The ghost began to speak;
Why sittest here all on my grave,
And will not let me sleep?

There's one thing that I want, sweetheart,
There's one thing that I crave,
And that is a kiss from your lilly-white lips
Then I'll go from your grave.

My breast is cold as clay,

My breath smells earthly strong;
And if you kiss my cold clay lips,
Your days they won't be long.

Go fetch me water from the desert,

And blood from out of a stone;
Go fetch me milk from a fair maid's breast
That a young man never had known.

O down in yonder grove sweetheart,

Where you and I would walk,
The first flower that ever I saw
Is withered to a stalk.

The stalk is wither'd and dry, sweetheart,

And the flower will never return;
And since I lost my own sweetheart,
What can I do but mourn?

When shall we meet again, sweetheart,

When shall we meet again?
When the oaken leaves that fall from the trees
Are green and spring up again.

Here is one version of The Unquiet Grave song.

Whereas the song picks up the story after the true love has died, in Alvin Schwartz’s tale, Cold as Clay the backstory for this tragedy is described.

A farmer’s daughter is denied her love and sent to live with relatives. Her male lover dies of a broken heart. The farmer regrets his mistake and cannot tell his daughter her lover has died.

Her lover appears to bring her home. She goes with him, not knowing he is a ghost.

Here is Schwartz’s version.

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