Lady Alice [Child 85]

DESCRIPTION: Lady Alice sees a beautiful corpse being carried by and learns it is her lover. She bids the bearers leave it; she will herself be dead by the next evening. They are buried apart but roses from his grave grow to reach her breast until severed by a priest.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1810
KEYWORDS: death corpse love burial flowers
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South)) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (35 citations):
Child 85, "Lady Alice" (4 texts)
Bronson 85, "George Collins (Lady Alice)" (43 versions)
BronsonSinging 85, "George Collins (Lady Alice)" (6 versions: #2, #18, #24, #26, #29, #34)
Bell-Combined, p. 347, "Lady Alice" (1 text)
SharpAp 25 "Giles Collins" (6 short texts, 6 tunes){Bronson's #13, #15, #14, #28, #5, #42}
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 452-453, "Lady Alice" (notes plus a text derived from Child C)
Peacock, pp. 738-739, "Young Collins Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
Karpeles-Newfoundland 12, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-Maritime, p. 85, "George Collins" (1 text)
Randolph 22, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #27}
Davis-Ballads 25, "Lady Alice" (7 texts apart from the appendix, 5 tunes entitled "Johnny Collins," "George Collins"; 10 more versions mentioned in Appendix A)
Davis-More 26, pp. 199-206, "Lady Alice" (3 texts plus a fragment, 4 tunes -- but the fourth, fragmentary, text and tune could as well be "Fare You Well, My Own True Love" or something similar) {Bronson's #41, #32, #31, #29, #2}
BrownII 28, "Lady Alice" (8 texts plus 2 excerpts, a fragment, and mentions of 4 more)
BrownSchinhanIV 28, "Lady Alice" (9 excerpts, 9 tunes)
Chappell-FSRA 14, "Georgie Collins" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #18}
ReedSmith, #IX, pp. 142-143, "Lady Alice (Giles Collins)" (1 text)
Joyner, p. 40, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
Morris, #162, "Lady Alice" (3 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #26, #20}
Hudson 16, pp. 107-111, "Lady Alice" (4 texts)
HudsonTunes 7, "George Collum" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronsons' #9}
Moore-Southwest 25, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bronner-Eskin1 4, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
MHenry-Appalachians, p. 47, "George Collins" (1 short text)
Cambiaire, p. 76, "George Collins" (1 short text)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 117-122, "Lady Alice," with individual texts titled "George Collins," "George Collins," (no title), "George Collins," (no title), "George Allien" (4 texts plus 2 excerpts, 4 tunes on pp. 393-394) {Bronson's #22, #19, #1, #11}
OBB 154, "Lady Alice" (1 text)
Warner 96, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
Niles 37, "Lady Alice" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 246-247, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 32, "George Collins" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHCox 17, "Lady Alice" (5 texts)
Morgan-Medieval, pp. 62-63, "Lady Alice" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 151, "George Collins" (1 text)
DT 85, GEOCLLNS* GEOCOL2 GEOCLLN3
ADDITIONAL: Bob Stewart, _Where Is Saint George? Pagan Imagery in English Folksong_, revised edition, Blandford, 1988, pp. 125-127, "Giles Collins" (1 text)

ST C085 (Full)
Roud #147
RECORDINGS:
Emry Arthur, "George Collins" (Paramount 3222, 1930; rec. 1929)
Dixon Brothers, "Story of George Collins" (Montgomery Ward M-7580, 1938)
Henry Griffin, "George Collins" (on HandMeDown2)
Spud Gravely, "George Allen" (on Persis1)
Roy Harvey & the North Carolina Ramblers, "George Collins" (Brunswick 250, 1928; on ConstSor1)
Kelly Harrell, "The Dying Hobo" (Victor 20527, 1926; on KHarrell01 -- a rather strange version combining the first verse of "The Dying Hobo" with a plot, taken from "George Collins," of a girl mourning her dead lover) {Bronson's #30}
Dick Justice, "One Cold December Day" (Brunswick 367, 1929 -- like the Harrell recording, this starts with a "Dying Hobo" verse, then parallels "George Collins")
New Lost City Ramblers, "George Collins" (on NLCR02)
Frank Proffitt, "George Collins" (on Proffitt03)
Riley Puckett, "George Collins" (Montgomery Ward M-4551, 1934)
Enos White, "George Collins" (on FSB4, FSBBAL1, Voice03)
Henry Whitter, "George Collins" (OKeh 45081, 1927, rec. 1926) (Broadway 8024, c. 1931); Henry Whitter & Fiddler Joe [Samuels], "George Collins" (OKeh, unissued, 1926)

ALTERNATE TITLES:
Earl Colvin
Young Collins
George Coleman
Dame Alice was Sitting on Widow's Walk
George Collum
George Promer
NOTES: A number of scholars (including Coffin and Lloyd, with some support from Bronson) believe that "Lady Alice" is a fragment of a larger ballad (called "George Collins" or the like). The first half is found in "Clerk Colville" [Child 42]; "Lady Alice" forms the second half. Lloyd writes, "Either these are two separate songs which have been combined to form George Collins or (which seems more likely) they are two fragments of the completer ballad."
Paul Stamler provides this description of the composite ballad:
George Collins, out walking, kisses a pretty maid, who warns him he won't live long. He kisses her, goes home and dies. His lover kisses his corpse goodbye; she dies too. In the last verse, it's said that six pretty maids died in one night for his sake. Many have interpreted the "pretty maid" as a water-fairy whom Collins has been trysting with; when she finds he's been betrothed, she gives him a poisoned kiss. - RBW, PJS
The supernatural explanation seems reasonable. But sudden death transmitted by a kiss -- has no one suggested communicable disease?
The ballad is found throughout western Europe, including a manuscript poem from Germany dated c. 1310. - PJS
[For discussions of the question of whether this is one ballad], see Barbara Craster in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society 2:4 (15) (1910) pp. 106-109 (comparisons) and in Coffin, Brit. Trad. Ballad in N. America (1977 edn.) p. 51 and pp. 86-88, 241 - JM
[Ewan] MacColl in The Long Harvest... feels there is little left to doubt and combines them. He cites S.P. Bayard, "No two ballads in English are more closely allied." Harbison Parker gives much detail and together, says MacColl, "make an almost watertight for the two Child ballads as springing from one and the same source. - AS
In general I have followed the policy of listing "George Collins" versions here, without further notes, as the "Lady Alice" portion is more integral to the story.
Bob Stewart, who thinks everything goes back to ancient legend, says on p. 127 that "the plot is almost identical to a tale told of the Daghdha (The Good God), one of the leaders of the Tuatha De Danaan. He met with a woman on the ancient feast day of Samhain,,, who was standing astride a river.... He made love to her, and she identified herself as being the Goddess of fate and slaughter, who was believed to appear before a battle washing the bodies of those doomed to die." This is indeed an attested story of the Daghdha (although not one of the better-known ones; only one of the four other sources I checked repeated it), and I see the thematic link, but I would hardly call it "almost identical"; the odds of dependence are slight. - RBW
A curious thing is that Sharp calls the ballad "Giles Collins", but the protagonist is "George" in 5 of his 6 examples, and "Charles" in the sixth.
Again this [Silber's version] is fragmentary; George Collins, driving home, is taken sick and dies. His Nell opens his coffin to kiss him goodbye, then laments his passing. That's it; nothing else happens. Nothing to connect it to Lady A. except George's name. Arghh. - PJS
Last updated in version 4.1
File: C085

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 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.