Sunday Poetry – Death & Destruction

One last folk song from the Penguin anthology &, appropriately, it’s about death. The Unquiet Grave is one of my favourite ballads, I remember reading it in the poetry anthology I used at school. It’s always appealed to me because the ghost speaks such good sense to the poor fool sitting on her grave, preventing her from resting in peace. I can imagine the woman in life using just that loving but exasperated tone to her lover when he was mooning around instead of doing something useful with his life. Here’s a version of the song by the Dubliners.

“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 twelvemonth and a day.”

The twelvemonth and a day being up,        
    The dead began to speak:           
“Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
    And will not let me sleep?”

“’T is 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 clay-cold lips,        
    But my breath smells earthy strong;        
If you have one kiss of my clay-cold lips,        
    Your time will not be long.

“’T is down in yonder garden green,        
    Love, where we used to walk,        
The finest flower that e’re 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.”

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