Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Unquiet Grave

Child #78

This song is one of the Child Ballads. Although many have claimed that the origins of the ballad are ancient, no evidence of the existence of the song before 1800. 

The main theme of the song, that over long mourning by the living will disturb the rest of the dead, is widespread in European Folklore and this has been taken as pointing to the song being of great antiquity - possibly pre-Christian. However as Steve Roud and Julia Bishop point out in The New Penguin Book of English Folk Song
"...the problem with 'ancient' motifs which have remain current in society, as this one had, is that they are available for incorporation into a song at any time in their history, not just at the beginning of it and their presence is no proof of antiquity"
Leaving all this aside, this is a great song and the theme of warning against excessive grief which is how I see the song is a timeless one.

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