In this supernatural folksong, a beautiful, young, well-to-do maiden is confronted by her own mortality… literally.
From Mainly Norfolk:
The ballad Death and the Lady was collected in 1946 by Francis M. Collison from Mr Baker of Maidstone, Kent, and published in Ralph Vaughan Williams and A.L. Lloyd’s Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.
Waterson:Carthy sang Death and the Lady in 2002 with somewhat different verses on their fourth album, A Dark Light. Martin Carthy commented in the album’s sleeve notes:
Norma learned Death and the Lady from [the Cecil Sharp collection; One Hundred English Folk Songs(1916)]. It’s a dark song here and she did what was second nature to the Watersons in their heyday, transforming the tune by altering just a couple of notes.
Death and the Lady
As I walked out one day, one day
I met an aged man by the way.
His head was bald, his beard was grey,
His clothing made of the cold earthen clay,
His clothing made of the cold earthen clay.
I said, “Old man, what man are you?
What country do you belong unto?”
“My name is Death—have you not heard of me?
All kings and princes bow down unto me
And you fair maid must come along with me.”
“I’ll give you gold, I’ll give you pearl,
I’ll give you costly rich robes to wear,
If you will spare me a little while
And give me time my life to amend,
And give me time my life to amend”
“I’ll have no gold, I’ll have no pearl,
I want no costly rich robes to wear.
I cannot spare you a little while
Nor give you time your life to amend,
Nor give you time your life to amend”
In six months time this fair maid died;
“Let this be put on my tombstone,” she cried,
“Here lies a poor distressed maid.
Just in her bloom she was snatched away,
Her clothing made of the cold earthen clay.”
(Repeat first verse)