Sweet William's Ghost [Child 77]

DESCRIPTION: (Sweet William) dies while engaged. Since he has an unfulfilled commitment, his spirit cannot rest. He goes to his sweetheart, who begs him to wed her/kiss her/etc. When she learns that he is dead, she releases him from his promise
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1740 (Ramsey)
KEYWORDS: ghost promise freedom death
FOUND IN: US(NE,SE) Canada(Newf) Britain(Scotland(Bord)) Ireland
REFERENCES (24 citations):
Child 77, "Sweet William's Ghost" (8 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #1}
Bronson 77, "Sweet William's Ghost" (11 versions+ 1 in addenda)
BronsonSinging 77, "Sweer William's Ghost" (4 versions: #1, #3, #9, #12)
ChambersBallads, pp. 217-219, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text)
Morton-Ulster 8, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text, 1 tune)
Percy/Wheatley III, pp. 130-133, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text)
Butterworth/Dawney, p. 48, "Willie the Waterboy" (1 text, 1 tune, short enough that it might be Child #77 or Child #248 or a combination or perhaps independent; Roud files it with Child #248, but Dawney with Child #77)
Davis-More 21, pp. 152-156, "" (1 text, so fragmentary that it might be some other ballad with intrusions from "Sweet William's Ghost")
Flanders/Brown, pp. 240-241, "Lady Margaret and Sweet William" (1 text, taken from the Green Mountain Songster)
Flanders-Ancient2, pp. 178-183, "Sweet William's Ghost" (2 texts, the first being the Green Mountain Songster version)
BrownII 23, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text)
BrownSchinhanIV 23, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 excerpt, 1 tunes)
Greenleaf/Mansfield 9, "Lady Margaret" (1 text)
Peacock, pp. 390-395, "Lady Margaret" (1 text, 6 tunes)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 9, "Sweet William's Ghost" (2 texts, 9 tunes) {Bronson's #3}
Leach-Labrador 4, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 256-262, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text plus a Danish text for comparison)
Leach-Heritage, pp. ix-xi, "Sweet William's Ghost (Lady Margaret)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Friedman, p. 47, "Sweet William's Ghost" (2 texts)
Gummere, pp. 203-205+348-349, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 74-75, "Sweet William and May Margaret"; pp. 75-76, "Sweet William's Ghost"; pp. 76-77, "William and Marjorie" (3 texts)
HarvClass-EP1, pp. 78-80, "Sweet William's Ghost" (1 text)
DT 77, WILIGHOS* WILIGHO2 (GHOSWILL? -- a very worn down version that might be derived from this piece)
ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #428, "Sweet William and May Margaret" (1 text)

Roud #50
RECORDINGS:
Mrs. Gerald S. Doyle, "Lady Margaret" (on PeacockCDROM)
Mike Kent, "Lady Margaret" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Paddy Tunney, "Lady Margaret" (on Voice03)

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Harding B 5(1), "Sweet William's Ghost," unknown, n.d.
NOTES: Child versions A, B, C and G end the ghost's visit with crowing cocks; in Ireland (Morton-Ulster 8 and Paddy Tunney on Voice03) the cock may be replaced by the moor cock. The ghost/cock motif accounts for the connection, by some, of "Willy O!" to Child 77. - BS
Tom Shipley, in The Road to Middle-Earth (third edition), p. 210, notes that Herd's text of this (Child's B) mentioned "Middle-Earth," implying that this song might have been a small part of the inspiration of the world (though not the plot) created by J. R. R. Tolkien. Rather a stretch -- but interesting, the more so as Tolkien did have a strong affinity for folklore and folk song. And Shippey, pp. 214-215, notes that in the crisis of Gondor, as the Witch-King is confronting Gandalf at the gate of Minas Tirith, a cock crew -- a token of the change from the triumph of dark to the triumph of light. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: C077

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