John Gordon comes to court Mary, saying her lover, his brother, is long dead. She agrees to marry him. She hears the dead brother speak, saying John stole his land, wife, and life. When John Gordon awakes, Mary is gone, her bones by the brother's grave
Ghost's Bride, The Complete text(s) *** A *** From the Frank C. Brown collection, Volume II, #58, pp. 216-218. Collected from "Mrs. Graybeal" around 1920. 1 Oh Mary dear, lay down your grief And do not sorrow so; Your lover dear he met his death More than a year ago. 2 His brother John to court he came; He kneeled upon his knee: 'I've loved you true for many a year; Oh, won't you marry me?' 3 Her gown of black she laid aside, Put on a gown of green; She promised for to be his bride. She outshone the country's queen. 4 The wedding day came clear and bright, And to the church they went. The young folk danced, the children laughed, All was on pleasure bent. 5 He mounted her on a milk-white steed Himself on a prancin' roan. Away they rode across the fields Toward his brother's home. 6 Your brother's bride, your brother's home, Your brother's prancin' horse, You stole them all, John Gordon bold; You'll surely feel remorse. 7 As she rode up between the trees, A-goin' to his home, The wind blew cold and the wind blew hard; She thought she heard a groan. 8 'What is that sound, O husband dear? It moans like a heart dismayed.' 'It is the wind,' John Gordon said, 'So do not be afraid.' 9 That night she lay beside him there Upon a feather bed. The wind blew cold and the wind blew hard. She saw his hand was red. 10 The wind blew cold and the wind blew hard, It made a fearsome sound. She heard the hoof of a prancin' steed Galloping o'er the ground. 11 She heard the sound of the dead man's voice: My brother stole my bride, He stole my house and he stole my land, He stole my blood's red tide. 12 My bones lie bleaching on the rocks At the foot of a dark, dark dale. He pushed me off the tall rock cliff All in the moonlight pale. 13 The wind blew cold and the wind blew hard, 'I'm comin' fur my own. My bride I'll take, you keep the rest,' She heard the dead man moan. 14 She saw him stand beside her bed All in the moon's pale light. 'Oh, come with me, my promised bride; My love you shall not slight.' 15 The morning came; John Gordon woke, Woke up to find her gone. He searched the house, he searched the grounds; For days the search went on. 16 Her bones they found in the dark, dark dale Beside those of her lover. 'She was his bride," the searchers said; 'She never loved his brother.'
This song, "A Gentleman of Exeter," and "Susannah Clargy" are all essentially the same story, and looking at the titles in the Broadside Index, I wonder if they haven't cross-fertilized -- or aren't retellings of some epic original. (Note that the story is almost "Hamlet.")
The notes in Brown describe this as the best of the lot, and it is certainly vividly told. If there is any complaint against it, it is that it is a little *too* perfect, and the Brown copy seems to be the only collection. Perhaps it was composed in the family of the informant? - RBW