Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

An Extensive Investigation Into The Sources And Inspiration Of National Folk Song

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the loved one lost is not lifted to spiritual forms, but dwells upon the painful figures of the charnel house. The ghosts that visit the living have the fatal breath of decaying mortality, and are sum­moned back by the cock to the winding sheet and the worm. The ballads that deal with this subject are all in the same strain, and repeat the same phrases. The lady asks her dead lover if there is any room at his head or any room at his feet in his new bed, and he answers that there is none, it is made so narrow, and that the worms are his only bedfellows ; and warns her that he cannot give the kiss she craves, for his breath would be fatal. Sometimes the images of mortality are extremely powerful as well as grotesque, as in the ballad of Sweet William's Ghost: —
My meikle toe is my gavil post,
My nose is my roof tree, My ribs are kebars to my house ;
There is no room for thee.
Sometimes they have a touch of homely pathos, which relieves them from the conventional note of sorrow, as when the three sons of The Wife of Usher's Well are called back to the grave by the crowing cock, and the youngest says: —
Fare ye weel, my mother, dear ; Farewell to barn and byre,
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III