To celebrate this week of Halloween I’ve found another little spooky treat for you today. The Unquiet Grave is an English folk song which tells the tale of a young man who mourns his dead love, so much so that she cannot rest in peace. The song is thought to date right back to 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child as Child Ballad number 78 (the Child Ballads being 305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland, with their American variants, anthologized by Francis James Child during the second half of the 19th century)
The Unquiet Grave documents the story of a man who mourns his deceased true love for “a twelve month and a day.” At the end of that time the dead woman exclaims that his weeping prevents her from peaceful rest, for which he then begs a kiss, declaring that “I crave one kiss from your cold clay lips, And that’s all I seek.” He is then told that “If you get one kiss from my cold clay lips, your time, it won’t be long,” but he persists nonetheless, wanting to join her in her death. He is then told that once they were both dead that their hearts would simply decay and that he should live life and enjoy it whilst he has it.
The haunting rendition that I have chosen to feature today comes from American folk singer-songwriter and musician, Hedwig Grace West, better known as Hedy West. West used a unique three-fingered ‘claw-hammer’ picking technique on her guitar & banjo playing and this, as far as I’m concerned, makes her rendition stand out heads above the rest…not to mention her striking vocals! Her glorious version can be found on her 1967 Ballads album.. check it out above.