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This ballad is a Canadian variant of Child Ballad #77 (Sweet William's Ghost).
Sweet William's Ghost was printed in Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany in 1740 and in Percy's Reliques in 1765. Percy believed that the last stanzas were later additions and Child agrees that the last two verses are later additions, but though the words seem more modern, the fact that Lady Margaret dies on her lover's grave is probably original.
Sir Walter Scott wrote that he had heard a similar story from an old woman in Shetland and had based Advertisement to the Pirate on it. A lady who was broken of an engagement to her fiance went to see him in London to find him already dead. She touched the corpse's hand to "resume the troth-plight." According to superstition it was the only way to free herself from a visit by his ghost.
Variants and alternate titles include: Marjorie and Wiliam and Sweet William and May Margaret.
For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.
Lady Margaret sitting in her own lone home,
Alone, O all alone,
When she thought she heard a dismal cry,
She heard a deadly moan.
"Is it my father Thomas?" she said,
"Or is it my brother John?
Or is it my love, my own dear Willie
Come home to me again?"
"I am not your father Thomas," he said,
"Nor am I your brother John,
But I am your love, your own dear Willie,
Come home to you again."
"Then where are the red and rosy cheeks
That even in winter bloom?
And where is the long and yellow hair
Of the love I lost too soon?"
"The ground have rotten them off, my dear,
For the worms are quick and free,
And when you're so long lying in your grave,
The same will happen thee."
He took her by the lily-white hand
And begged her company;
He took her by her apron band,
Says, "Follow, follow me."
She took her underskirts one by one
And wrapped them above her knee,
And she's over the hills on a winter's night
In a dead man's company.
They walked, they walked to the old churchyard,
Where the grass grow grassy-green:
"Here's the home where I live now,
The bed I do lie in."
"Is there any room at your head, my love,
Is there any room at your feet?
Is there any room about you at all
For me to lie down and sleep?"
"My father is at my head, dear girl,
My mother is at my feet,
Upon my heart are three hell-hounds
Bound my soul to keep.
One is for my drunkenness
And another is for my pride,
And one is for promising a pretty fair girl
That she should be my bride."
She took the cross from all on her bosom
And smoted him on the breast,
"Here's your token I kept so long:
God send you a happy rest."
"Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight, my love,
Farewell, dear girl," said he;
"If ever the dead may pray for the living,
My love, I'll pray for thee."
|Lyrics from Barry Taylor
Information from The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.