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JB3 Lyr Req: Lover's Ghost (32) Lyr Add: THE GREY COCK or THE LOVER'S GHOST 27 Jul 98


The version of "The Grey Cock" or "The Lover's Ghost" sung by Eliza Carthy can be found in "The Peguin Book of English Folk Songs" edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A. L. Lloyd.

sung by Mrs. Cecilia Costello, Birmingham 1951

I must be going no longer staying,
The burning Thames I have to cross
I must be guided without a stumble
Into the arms of my dear lass

When he came to his true love's window
He knelt down gently on a stone
And it's through a pane he whispered slowly
It's my dear girl are you alone?

She rose her head from her down-soft pillow
And snowy were her milk-white breasts
Saying: Who's there, who's there at my bedroom window
Disturbing me from my long night's rest?

Oh, I'm your lover and don't discover
I pray you rise, love, and let me in
For I am fatigued from my long night's journey
Besides I am wet into the skin.

Now this young girl rose and put on her clothing
She quickly let her own true love in
Oh they kissed, shook hands and embraced together
Till that long night was near an end

O Willie dear, O dearest Willie
Where is that colour you'd some time ago?
O Mary dear, the grave has changed me
I'm but the ghost of your Willie O.

Then O cock, O cock, O handsome cockerel,
I pray you not crow until it is day
And your wings I'll make of the very first beaten gold
And your neck I'll make of the silver grey

But the cock it crew and it crew so fully
It crew three hours before it was day
And before it was day, my love had to leave me
Not by the light of the moon or the light of day

Then it's Willie dear, O dearest Willie,
Whenever shall I see you again?
When the fish they fly love, and the sea runs dry, love
And the rocks they melt in the heat of the sun

(Eliza has a few words different, improvements, really. The tune is the same.)

Cecil Sharp collected a version of the song in 1916, at Hot Springs N.C., sung by Mrs. Jane Gentry. Still called "The Grey Cock" (#36 in his collection), but lacking the supernatural element, it's simply a plea for the cock not to crow too soon, as it would mean the lovers' parting.

All on one summer's evening when the fever were a-dawning
I heard a fair maid make a mourn.
She was a-weeping for her father and a-greiving for her mother
and a-thinking all on her true love John.
At last Johnny came and he found the doors all shut
And he ding-led so low at the ring
Then this fair maid she rose and she hurried on her clothes
To make haste to let Johnny come in.

Al around the waist he caught her and unto the bed he brought her
And they lay there talking awhile.
She says: O you feathered fowls, you pretty feathered fowls,
Don't you crow till 'tis almost day
And your comb it shall be of the pure ivory
And your wings of the bright silver-grey.
But he a-being young, he crowed very soon
He crowed two long hours before day
And she sent her love away, for she thought 'twas almost day
But 'twas all by the light of the moon.

It's when will you be back, dear Johnny, she said,
When will you come back and see me?
When the seventh moon is done and past and shine on yonder lea
And you know that will never be
What a foolish girl I was when I thought that he was true As the rocks that grow to the ground
But since I do find he has altered in his mind
It is better to live single than bound.

Another fragment of this song is "Fly Up My Cock", which I believe was recorded by Maddy Prior, but I forget just where. This is my recollection of the lyrics:

Fly up my cock, you're my well-feathered cock
But don't cry til the break of day
And your red rosy comb shall be of the beaten gold
And your neck of the silvery grey

My cock, he flew up and my cock, he flew down
But he crowed one hour too soon
This young man arose and he hurried on his clothes
But it was all by the light of the moon

When will you come back, my dear Jimmie, she said
For to wed with a gay gold ring
Seven moons said he shining on yonder lea
And the sky to yield up no more rain

For now I do see all the contrary way
A man is forced to live single or be bound.

Cheers,

June


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