Spontaneous Poetics (Ballads) – (The Unquiet Grave)

AG: Getting back to ballad(s). There was one that Helen Adam didn’t read. She also sent a message about her ballads..where’s that?..yeah,.the ballads she can recommend as her favorites are (were) “Thomas the  Rhymer” and “May Colvin”.. and “Young Tam Lin”. I’ll try and get ahold of those. (But) did she read “The Unquiet Grave”, do you remember?

Student: No

AG: It’s sort of short and interesting. [Allen reads “The Unquiet Grave” in its entirety – “The wind doth blow today, my love,/ And a few small drops of rain,/ I never had but one true love,/In cold grave she was lain./  “I’ll do as much for my true-love/As any young man may,/I’ll sit and mourn all at her grave/For a twelve-month and a day”./ The twelve-month and a day being up,/The dead began to speak,/”Oh who sits weeping on my grave,/And will not let me sleep?”/ “‘Tis I, my love, sits on your grave,/And will not let you sleep,/For I crave one kiss of your clay-cold lips/And that is all I seek./ “You crave one kiss of my cold-clay lips,/But my breath smells earthy strong,/ If you have one kiss of my cold-clay lips,/Your time will not be long./ “‘Tis down in yonder garden green,/Love, where we used to walk,/The finest flower that e’er was seen/Is withered to a stalk./ “The stalk is withered dry,my love,/So will our hearts decay,/So make yourself content, my love,/Till God calls you away” – Actually, rather sweet sentiment. She denies him the kiss, I guess.  You know what’s funny?  [Allen begins singing] – “‘Tis down in yonder garden green,/Love, where we used to walk” – this meter (and the very language) is the archaic original of almost all country ‘n western rhetoric. The American radio country ‘n western all comes from “The Unquiet Grave”, oddly – from this classic background [Allen continues singing (with country ‘n western intonation)  – “‘Tis down in yonder garden green,/Love, where we used to walk”..

Student: Does it say where that verse came from?

AG: Yes. Child Ballads #78A. The Norton Anthology is pretty good. I’ll try and get the Child Ballads for the library. Our problem there is we don’t have a lot of money..

Student: (It’s rural is) cowboy music. It came from there. As the country spread westward, the only music that they (the people) had was the music of the settlers and what they brought over (with them)…

AG: Yeah

Student: So that’s what they..

AG: Well, it was a bunch of Scotchmen, a lot of Scotchmen and Englishmen and Irishmen , that moved through, what? Where is the ballad country in America?

Student(s): Appalachia

AG: Appalachia. So what groups were they?

Student: Scotch/Irish

AG: Scotch/Irish. They just brought their own music and their songs, and were isolated, and kept singing the same songs. The American tradition has got a direct transfusion of that. But those lines are so obviously right out of the radio, right out of the American Southern radio.

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