Suffolk Miracle, The [Child 272]

DESCRIPTION: A squire's daughter loves a lowborn man. The squire sends her away. In time her love comes to bear her home. His head hurts; she binds it with her kerchief. She arrives home. Her father says her love is dead. She finds his dead body wearing her kerchief
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1689? (broadside, dated to that year by Wood)
KEYWORDS: love courting separation death father lover ghost supernatural corpse travel horse grief
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West)) US(Ap,NE,SE,So) Ireland Canada(Mar,Newf)
REFERENCES (32 citations):
Child 272, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text)
Bronson 272, The Suffolk Miracle" (13 versions)
BronsonSinging 272, "The Suffolk Miracle" (3 versions: #1a, #2, #6)
Butterworth/Dawney, pp. 22-23, "Its of a farmer all in this town (The Suffolk Miracle)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 90, "Lover's Ghost" (1 text)
SharpAp 37, "The Suffolk Miracle" (4 texts plus 1 fragment ("C") that might be almost anything, 5 tunes) {Bronson's #4, #2, #3, #1a, #8}
Wells, pp. 217-219, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #3}
BarryEckstormSmyth p. 314, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 fragment)
Randolph 32, "Lady Fair" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #12}
Flanders/Olney, pp. 145-147, "The Holland Handkerchief" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
Flanders-Ancient4, pp. 50-62, "The Suffolk Miracle" (3 texts, 2 tune, all weeming somewhat mixed -- e.g. "A" has the rose-and-briar ending) {Bronson's A=Bronson's #10, B=#7}
Flanders-NewGreen, pp. 86-89, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #10}
JHCox 27, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text)
Gainer, pp. 84-85, "The Lady Near New York Town" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownII 41, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text)
BrownSchinhanIV 41, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Morris, #169, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #11}
Davis-Ballads 42, "The Suffolk Miracle" (2 texts plus a scrap which could be anything, 2 tunes, one of them for the unidentifiable fragment) {Bronson's #8, #5}
Moore-Southwest 49, "The Farmer's Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton/Senior, pp. 88-90, "The Suffolk Miracle" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Peacock, pp. 407-408, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 645-649, "The Suffolk Miracle" (2 texts)
OBB 175, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text)
Niles 56, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text)
Huntington-Gam, pp. 198-201, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text, 2 tunes)
SHenry H217, pp. 432-433, "The Lover's Ghost" (1 text, 1 tune)
McBride 40, "The Holland Handkerchief" (1 text, 1 tune)
Munnelly/Deasy-Lenihan 12, "The Holland Handkerchief" (1 text, 1 tune)
BBI, ZN2961, "A wonder stranger ne'r was known"
DT 272, SUFFMRCL* SUFFMRC2 SUFFMRC3*
ADDITIONAL: Leslie Shepard, _The Broadside Ballad_, Legacy Books, 1962, 1978, p. 136, "The Suffolk Miracle" (reproduction of a broadsheet by John White, closely related to but not the same as Child's a)
ADDITIONAL: John Ashton, _A Century of Ballads_, Elliot Stock, London, 1887; reprinted 1968 by Singing Tree Press, pp. 110-114, "The Suffolk Miracle" (1 text)

Roud #246
RECORDINGS:
Freeman Bennett, "The Suffolk Miracle" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Packie Manus Byrne, "The Holland Handkerchief" (on Voice03)
Dol [Adolphus G.] Small, "There Was an Old and Wealthy Man" (AFS, 1950; on LC58) {Bronson's #1b}

BROADSIDES:
Bodleian, Douce Ballads 2(207b), "The Suffolk Miracle" or "A Relation of a Young Man Who a Month After His Death Appeared to his Sweetheart," F. Coles (London), 1678-1680; also Wood E 25(83) [some lines illegible; "MS annotation following imprint: 1689"], Douce Ballads 3(88a)[many illegible lines], "The Suffolk Miracle" or "A Relation of a Young Man Who a Month After His Death Appeared to his Sweet[-]heart,"
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Maid of Sweet Gurteen" (theme)
SAME TUNE:
My Bleeding Heart (per broadsides Bodleian Douce Ballads 2(207b), Wood E 25(83) and Douce Ballads 3(88a))
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Sad Courtin'
The Richest Girl in Our Town
Lucy Bouns
NOTES [389 words]: Child complains of this song, "This piece should not be admitted here on its own merits.... It is not even a good specimen of its kind. Ghosts should have a fair reason for walking, and a quite particular reason for riding...." Child prints the song for the sake of its foreign analogs.
Presumably Child thinks the ghost should do more, e.g. take the girl to the grave with him, as in the tale-type known from Burger's "Lenore" (Thompson #365, "The Dead Bridegroom Carries Off His Bride"). In those, it is sometimes a drowned sailor who comes to collect the girl.
All I can say is, the plot may be somewhat defective, but the full forms of the ballad itself are quite beautiful and pathetic. It does corrupt easily, though, as the Flanders texts show.
More interesting is the way the story is expressed. Legends of ghosts are of course common, and legends of the fate of spirit and body affecting each other not rare (e.g. if a living person slashes at a ghost, the ghost may appear to be intact but the corpse will bear a scar, perhaps healed). In this song, the ghost actually comes to bear an artifact. That is not often encountered.
The idea of a ghost leaving its grave for cause and then coming back bearing the mark of what it did may predate all those legends of Child's. One of the most famous collections of tales of the Middle Ages was the Golden Legend, which exists in many manuscript copies and was printed in translation by William Caxton. In the legend of Saint Julian, we hear of Mercury, a knight who had been slain by Julian the Apostate (not the Saint Julian of the legend, obviously!), who was summoned back from the grave to fight against the Emperor. Supposedly Mercury's body was missing the next day, then showed up on the morning after that, with armor and weapons covered with blood -- and the report was that the Emperor Julian died soon after. (See Judy Ann Ford in Jason Fisher, editor, Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, McFarland & Company, 2011, p. 138). Part of the story -- that Julian died saying "Galilean [i.e. Jesus], you have conquered" -- is recorded in authentic history. The rest of the story is not. But the tale is doubtless very old.
The "Holland Handkerchief" of certain versions is not a cloth woven in the Netherlands; rather, the adjective refers to the pattern of the weave. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
File: C272

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