Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 2 of 8 from 1860 edition

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes




Share page  Visit Us On FB



Previous Contents Next
YOUNG BENJIE.
299
causing the dead body to speak, is, setting the door ajar, or half open. On this account, the peasants of Scot­land sedulously avoid leaving the door ajar, while a corpse lies in the house. The door must either be left wide open, or quite shut; but the first is always pre­ferred, on account of the exercise of hospitality usual on such occasions. The attendants must be likewise careful never to leave the corpse for a moment alone, or, if it is left alone, to avoid, with a degree of super­stitious horror, the first sight of it.
" The following story, which is frequently related by the peasants of Scotland, will illustrate the imaginary danger of leaving the door ajar. In former times, a man and his wife lived in a solitary cottage, on one of the extensive Border fells. One day the husband died suddenly; and his wife, who was equally afraid of staying alone by the corpse, or leaving the dead body by itself, repeatedly went to the door, and looked anx­iously over the lonely moor for the sight of some per­son approaching. In her confusion and alarm she ac­cidentally left the door ajar, when the corpse suddenly started up, and sat in the bed, frowning and grinning at her frightfully. She sat alone, crying bitterly, una­ble to avoid the fascination of the dead man's eye, and too much terrified to break the sullen silence, till a Catholic priest, passing over the wild, entered the cot­tage. He first set the door quite open, then put his little finger in his mouth, and said the paternoster back­wards ; when the horrid look of the corpse relaxed, it fell back on the bed, and behaved itself as a dead man ought to do.
" The ballad is given from tradition. I have been informed by a lady, [Miss Joanna Baillie,] of the high­est literary eminence, that she has heard a ballad on







E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III