Lake of the Dismal Swamp
DESCRIPTION: A man plans to meet his dead love at the Lake of the Dismal Swamp where she paddles her canoe all night long. He doesn't return but the two of them are often seen at midnight paddling their white canoe.
AUTHOR: Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
EARLIEST DATE: 1803 (Moore)
KEYWORDS: love death America lover ghost
FOUND IN: US(SW)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Bronner-Eskin1 21, "The Dismal Swamp" (1 text, 1 tune)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #1209, p. 83, "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp" (2 references)
ADDITIONAL: Thomas Moore, The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore Complete in One Volume (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1845 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 107-108, "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp" ("They made her a grave, too cold and damp") (1 text)
ST BrE1021 (Full)
NOTES [219 words]: Moore, p. 107: "Written at Norfolk, in Virginia. Norfolk, it must be owned, presents an unfavourable specimen of America.... At the time when we arrived the yellow fever had not yet disappeared, and every odour that assaulted us in the streets very strongly accounted for its visitation." Moore quotes an anonymous source as introduction: "They tell of a young man, who lost his mind upon the death of a girl he loved, and who, suddenly disappearing from his friends, was never afterwards heard of. As he had frequently said, in his ravings, that the girl was not dead, but gone to the Dismal Swamp, it is supposed that he had wandered into that drear wilderness, and had died of hunger, or been lost in some of its dreadful morasses." In his preface to "Poems Relating to America," Moore concludes that, "few have now the leisure to read such trifles, and I most sincerely regret that I have had the leisure to write them."
Bronner-Eskin1 is close to Moore's original but omits verses 5 through 7 and, in each verse, repeats the fifth line. - BS
According to Edwin Wolf 2nd, American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads, and Political Broadsides 1850-1870, Library Company of Philadelphia, 1963, p. 83, there were at least two mid-nineteenth century broadsides of this piece, which may have helped it enter tradition. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.5
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.