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Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine 08 Jul 97 - 12:44 PM
Jim Dixon 30 Jul 10 - 02:51 PM
Steve Gardham 30 Jul 10 - 03:41 PM
Steve Gardham 30 Jul 10 - 03:46 PM
Jim Dixon 30 Jul 10 - 06:21 PM
GUEST,SteveG on Gill's laptop 31 Jul 10 - 05:52 PM
GUEST,Vic Gammon 01 Aug 10 - 01:23 PM
Steve Gardham 01 Aug 10 - 05:30 PM
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Subject: Alonzo and Imogine
Date: 08 Jul 97 - 12:44 PM

Does anyone know something about popularized versions of the ballad Alonzo and Imogine (from Lewis' The Monk)?

The plot is like this: a girl and a knight are in love. He goes to fight in Palestine and she swears to be true to him and not to marry anyone else, even if he dies and doesn't return. And, she says, if she breaks this promise, may he return as a ghost in the day of her marriage. After one year, she meets a very rich man and agrees to marry him. During the wedding, the knight (who had died) returns as a ghost and takes her away with him. The richman dies some time later. The castle where the marriage had taken place is now haunted by both the girl's and the knight's ghosts.

I know that in 1945 one version of it was published (collected from oral tradition in Nebraska, U.S.A., with very little change from Lewis' text), and would like to know if there are other oral versions.

Thank you very much for your help.

J. J. Dias Marques

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From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Jul 10 - 02:51 PM

Here's the original, from The Monk: A Romance by Matthew Gregory Lewis (London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1907 [originally published 1796]), page 250:


A warrior so bold and a virgin so bright
    Convers'd, as they sat on the green;
They gaz'd on each other with tender delight:
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the knight,
    The maid's was the Fair Imogine.

'And oh', said the youth, 'since to-morrow I go
    To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon leaving to flow,
Some other will court you, and you will bestow
    On a wealthier suitor your hand.'

'Oh, hush these suspicions!' Fair Imogine said,
    'Offensive to love and to me!
For, if you be living or if you be dead,
I swear by the Virgin, that none in your stead
    Shall husband of Imogine be!

'If e'er I, by lust or by wealth led aside,
    Forget my Alonzo the Brave,
God grant, that, to punish my falsehood and pride,
Your ghost at the marriage may sit by my side,
May tax me with perjury, claim me as bride,
    And bear me away to the grave!'

To Palestine hastened the hero so bold;
    His love she lamented him sore:
But scarce had a twelvemonth elapsed, when behold,
A baron all covered with jewels and gold
    Arrived at Fair Imogine's door.

His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain,
    Soon made her untrue to her vows:
He dazzled her eyes; he bewildered her brain;
He caught her affections so light and so vain,
    And carried her home as his spouse.

And now had the marriage been blest by the priest;
    The revelry now was begun:
The tables they groaned with the weight of the feast;
Nor yet had the laughter and merriment ceased,
    When the bell of the castle told—'one!'

Then first with amazement Fair Imogine found
    That a stranger was placed at her side:
His air was terrific; he uttered no sound;
He spoke not, he moved not, he looked not around,
    But earnestly gazed on the bride.

His vizor was closed, and gigantic his height;
    His armour was sable to view:
All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight;
The dogs, as they eyed him, drew back in affright;
    The lights in the chamber burned blue!

His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay;
    The guests sat in silence and fear.
At length spoke the bride, while she trembled: 'I pray,
Sir Knight, that your helmet aside you would lay,
    And deign to partake of our cheer.'

The lady is silent: the stranger complies:
    His vizor he slowly unclosed:
Oh God!—what a sight met Fair Imogine's eyes!
What words can express her dismay and surprise,
    When a skeleton's head was exposed!

All present then uttered a terrified shout,
    All turned with disgust from the scene:
The worms they crept in, and the worms they crept out,
And sported his eyes and his temples about,
    While the spectre addressed Imogine:

'Behold me, thou false one! Behold me!' he cried;
    Remember Alonzo the Brave!
God grant that, to punish thy falsehood and pride,
My ghost at thy marriage should sit by thy side,
Should tax thee with perjury, claim thee as bride,
    And bear thee away to the grave!'

Thus saying, his arms round the lady he wound,
    While loudly she shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide-yawning ground:
Nor ever again was Fair Imogine found,
    Or the spectre who bore her away.

Not long lived the baron; and none, since that time,
    To inhabit the castle presume;
For chronicles tell that, by order sublime,
There Imogine suffers the pain of her crime,
    And mourns her deplorable doom.

At midnight four times in each year does her spright,
    When mortals in slumber are bound,
Array'd in her bridal apparel of white,
Appear in the hall with the Skeleton-Knight,
    And shriek as he whirls her around.

While they drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave,
    Dancing round them the spectres are seen:
Their liquor is blood, and this horrible stave
They howl: 'To the health of Alonzo the Brave,
    And his consort, the False Imogine!'

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Jul 10 - 03:41 PM

A version pretty close to the above but with tune is given by Kenneth Peacock in 'Songs of the Newfoundland Outports' Vol 2 p380 as performed by Harry Curtis. He called it 'Irish Ghost Song' and as well as singing it he recited it.

A 16 stanza version is given in Flanders and Brown 'Vermont Folk-Songs and Ballads' (1931) p126 contributed by Mary A Towne from the singing of her Vermonter relations, but I suspect this is the Nebraska version you refer to above.

Not surprisingly, like many traditional ballads, the ballad was mercilessly burlesqued by the likes of Sam Cowell on both sides of the Atlantic in the early Music Hall.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 30 Jul 10 - 03:46 PM

JJ when you say 'popularised' do you mean the burlesque? I can give references to oral versions of the burlesque version. It was published in Sam Cowell's 121 Comic Songs and there is a copy of the sheet music on the Levy website. There are numerous references in Kilgarriff and Bob Copper collected a recited version.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Jul 10 - 06:21 PM

Steve: It's not likely JJ will answer you. The original request was posted in 1997.

I was looking up information about THE LADY ALL SKIN AND BONE, which contains a line "The worms crawl'd out, the worms crawl'd in." A footnote in Gammer Gurton's Garland mentioned that the same line occurs in ALONZO AND FAIR IMOGENE, which I had never heard of, so I looked that up, and I also looked to see whether it had ever been posted at Mudcat. It hadn't, but I found this unanswered request. That's how I happened to refresh the thread.

Sorry to have misled you, but it's good to have the information here anyway, even if the original requestor is no longer looking for it.

I wonder if there is some connection to the familiar children's rhyme:

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.
The worms play pinochle on your snout….

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine
From: GUEST,SteveG on Gill's laptop
Date: 31 Jul 10 - 05:52 PM

The name of the OP looks familiar as someone who writes on balladry. Senility allows me to disregard things like posting dates.

It would certainly seem that 'Skin and Bones' derives its 'worms crawling' line from AAFI. I'll have a look at the burlesques and see if any more of 'Skin and Bone' is derived from this.

I'll also have a look at the relationship between all 4 pieces as I have plenty of versions of all 4, i.e., original, burlesque, song and rhyme. It might throw up an interesting progreesion. The most likely order of descent is as given here.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine
From: GUEST,Vic Gammon
Date: 01 Aug 10 - 01:23 PM

Hello Folks,

As ever Steve is pretty much on the target. I discuss this briefly in my book 'Desire Drink and Death' pp. 242-3. (Get it from a public library if you cannot afford it!) There does seem to be an earlier set of crawling worms in song.

In the song 'Lumps of Pudding' (Pills to Purge Melancholy, 6 p.300), we read, 'She hung them up upon a pin / The fat run out and the maggots crept in.'

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Alonzo and Imogine
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 Aug 10 - 05:30 PM

Thanks, Vic.
Indeed it is Vic I have to thank for my copy of '120 Comic Songs sung by Sam Cowell'.
Sam's burlesque uses a splendid medley of contemporary well-known tunes to send up the original. Unfortunately old Sam missed a trick here and didn't include any of the graphic description of the corpse/ghost.

Looking at the other 2 pieces, 'Skin and Bone' text is found in Gammer Gurton's Garland 1810 and Petrie gives it with a tune in 1855. Neither tune nor text vary much. Although it occurs in oral tradition in America it survived more in the nursery of the well-to-do on this side of the Atlantic. If pushed I'd certainly guess at a literary origin. Both this and 'Alonzo' are undoubtedly pandering to the Gothic Horror market of the late 18th early 19th centuries.

'The Hearse Song' seems to have originated in the US and was certainly popular during WWI in all of the American forces but particularly the airborne services. I have no versions that predate this. The tune is of course 'Chopin's Funeral March'.

It is very likely that the line in question in 'The Hearse Song' is derived from 'Skin and Bone' as there are other similarities not found in 'Alonzo'.

'And from his nose unto his chin
The worms crept out, and the worms crept in'

'The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out,
They crawl all over your chin and mouth.'

Incidentally even for its shorter reign in oral tradition THS shows much greater variation than SAB.

Whatever the line of descent the splendidly ghastly line would seem to predate 'Alonzo'.

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