Death and the Lady

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.”

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Molly Malone

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One of Ireland’s most well-known songs is also a ghost song. If you’ve never listened through to the last verse, you might not know. Here’s Sinéad O’Connor with this classic in a stripped-down version.

Molly Malone

In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

A-live a-live O! A-live a-live O!
Crying cockles and mussels alive a-live O!

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The Holland Handkerchief

For Halloween this year I have to post one of my favorite “ghost ballads.” You have to listen to the whole song to find the ghost, but it’s worth it. I first heard it off of Connie Dover back in the mid ’90s. Here’s it’s sung by Mary McPartlan.

The Holland Handkerchief

A wealthy squire he lived in our town
And he was a man of high renown
He had one daughter, a beauty bright
And the name he called her was his Heart’s Delight

Many young man far to court her came
But none of them could her favour gain
Till there came one of the low degree
And above them all why she’d fancy he

But when her father he came to know
That his lovely daughter loved this young man so
Over fifty miles he sent her away
All to deprive her of her wedding day

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