The Unquiet Grave

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"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78.[1]

There are many different versions of this ballad.

Synopsis[edit]

A man mourns his true love for "a twelve month and a day". At the end of that time, the dead woman complains that his weeping is keeping her from peaceful rest. He begs a kiss. She tells him it would kill him. When he persists, wanting to join her in death, she explains that once they were both dead their hearts would simply decay, and that he should enjoy life while he has it.

Variants[edit]

The version noted by Cecil Sharp[2] ends with "When will we meet again? / When the autumn leaves that fall from the trees / Are green and spring up again."

Variants and images of old broadsides can be found at Joe Offer's copy of the folkinfo archive.

Many verses in this ballad have parallels in other ballads: Bonny Bee Hom, Sweet William's Ghost and some variants of The Twa Brothers.[3]

The motif that excessive grief can disturb the dead is found also in German and Scandinavian ballads, as well as Greek and Roman traditions.[4]

Recordings[edit]

  • The Romantic composer Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote several arrangements for "How Cold the Wind doth Blow (or The Unquiet Grave)". The best known, from 1912, is for piano, violin and voice. It was recorded in 1976 by Sir Philip Ledger, Hugh Bean and Robert Tear. [1]
  • Kate Rusby, Lau, Joan Baez, Steven Wilson, The Dubliners, Solas, Barbara Dickson, Shirley Collins, Circulus, Faith and the Muse, Ween, David Pajo, Gryphon, Fire + Ice and more recently The O'Faolain Brothers, Isambarde, Alien Skin [2], and Astro Al have recorded versions of this song.
  • A single movement viola concerto by Australian composer Andrew Ford used the melody of the ballad as its foundation. Written in 1997, the concerto is pieced together from melodic fragments of the ballad and it is only in the final few minutes that the full theme emerges.
  • The Pennsylvania-based alternative rock band, Ween, recorded a version of the song (retitled "Cold Blows the Wind") on their 1997 album, The Mollusk.
  • The gothic/darkwave band Faith & the Muse recorded a version on their debut Elyria in 1994.
  • The folk-rock group Steeleye Span recorded a version on their 2009 Album Cogs, Wheels and Lovers.
  • Electro noir artist, Alien Skin, former with Real Life (of 80s 'Send Me An Angel' fame) recorded his version on the 2010 album, The Unquiet Grave.
  • Orcadian singer Kris Drever recorded a version of this song on a music of his own in "Lau""s CD "Lightweight and gentlemen" in 2009.
  • The eleven-piece folk band Bellowhead recorded a version of the song for their album, Hedonism in 2010. On the album it is called 'Cold Blows the Wind'.
  • Electronic Arrangement by Vladislav Korolev sung by Lori Joachim Fredrics and premiered on April 13, 2013
  • The German Electronica/Darkwave band, Helium Vola includes a rendition on their 2013 album, "Wohin?"
  • British folk singer/songwriter Elliott Morris included an arrangement of Unquiet Grave on his 2013 EP "Shadows and Whispers"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Francis James Child, Scottish and English Popular Ballads, "The Unquiet Grave"
  2. ^ Cecil J. Sharp (Ed) (1975) One Hundred English Folksongs (For Medium Voice), Dover, ISBN 0-486-23192-5
  3. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 234, Dover Publications, New York 1965
  4. ^ Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, v 2, p 234-6, Dover Publications, New York 1965