The Unquiet Grave

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is that communicated to the Folklore Record (vol. i. p. 60) by Miss Charlotte Latham, as it was written down from recitation by a girl in Sussex (1868).

The Story is so simple, and so reminiscent of other ballads, that we must suppose this version to be but a fragment of some forgotten ballad. Its chief interest lies in the setting forth of a common popular belief, namely, that excessive grief for the dead 'will not let them sleep.' Cp. Tibullus, Lib. 1. Eleg. 1, lines 67, 68:--

'Tu Manes ne laede meos: sed parce solutis
Crinibus, et teneris, Delia, parce genis.'

The same belief is recorded in Germany, Scandinavia, India, Persia, and ancient Greece, as well as in England and Scotland (see Sir Walter Scott, Red-gauntlet, letter xi., note 2).

There is a version of this ballad beginning--

'Proud Boreas makes a hideous noise.'

It is almost needless to add that this is from Buchan's manuscripts.


'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?'

''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 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.

''Tis down in yonder garden green,
Love, where we used to walk;
The finest flower that ere 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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