The Unquiet Grave
Traditional, arr. Calhoun, recorded on Telfer's Cows. (Child #78)
This expresses the belief that excessive grieving disturbs the dead ‚ it's seen as a disapproval of the will of God, of Nature's way. The notion that the tears of mourners wet the shrouds of the dead, upsetting them, is commonplace in folklore. Another angle sees the anguish as mutual; she's as unhappy about her condition as he is, and asks him to respect that—to find another form for his love.
Cold blows the wind tonight, sweetheart,
And soft fall the drops of rain;
I never had but one sweetheart
In cold clay she is lain.
I'll do as much for my true love
As any a young man may;
I'll sit and mourn at her graveside
For a twelvemonth and a day.
When twelve months and a day had passed,
The ghost began to speak;
"Whose salten tears come tricklin' down
And wet my winding sheet?"
"It's only I, your own true love;
There's just one thing I crave,
That's one kiss from your sweet lips,
Then I'll go from your grave"
"Your breath is sweet as roses, love,
My breath is earthy strong;
If you get one kiss from my clay cold lips,
Your time will not be long.
Go and fetch me water from the desert,
Blood from out of a stone;
Go and bring me milk from a maiden's breast
That young man never has known."
"All down in yonder garden, love
Where you and I did walk;
The fairest flower that ever grew
Is withered to a stalk."
"The stalk is withered and dry, sweetheart
The flower no more we'll see
Go make yourself content, my love
Lament no more for me."