Geordie Cunningham

DESCRIPTION: Geordie would have sex with his sister. She rejects him "for there's a day o judgement." He says "there is nae heaven abune us Nor ony hell beneath." He is stricken down by God immediately. There's nothing ahead "but death I plainlie see"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1675 (broadside, Bodleian Douce Ballads 2(258a))
KEYWORDS: incest seduction rejection punishment brother sister fire
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Bord))
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Lyle-Crawfurd2 83, "Geordie Cunningham" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: John Ashton, _A Century of Ballads_, Elliot Stock, London, 1887; reprinted 1968 by Singing Tree Press, pp. 94-100, "A Wonderful Example of God's Justice shewed upon one Jasper Conningham...." (1 text)

Roud #15528
Bodleian, Douce Ballads 2(258a), "A Wonderful Example of Gods Justice, Shewed upon Jasper Conningham" ("It was a Scotch man, a Scotch man lewd of life"), F. Coles (London), 1663-1674
NOTES [395 words]: The first part of the Bodleian broadside and Lyle-Crawfurd2 are close, with the broadside adding details: the brother, Jasper Cunningham, "long had lived unlawful from his wife" and the sister was "worshipfully wedded unto a worthy knight." The brother considers his sister's "Godly Christian talk" to be no more credible than "a tale of Robin Hood." When the brother is struck down it is by fire. The second part of the broadside, almost entirely missing from Lyle-Crawfurd2 83, describes the brother's suffering for the two hours it takes him to die. Then "his carkase stunk more fit then any carrion beast." It ends with a warning for all blasphemers also missing from Lyle-Crawfurd2. - BS
The Bible offers a number of prohibitions on incest (although the King James Bible never uses that word); in Leviticus 18 we read, e.g., "None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to uncover nakedness" (18:6; to "uncover nakedness" means to have sexual relations). There are more than a dozen such prohibitions in Leviticus 18:6-20 (all directed at men), forbidding e.g. couplings with one's mother, stepmother, sister, half-sister, and aunt. (Nieces are not explicitly mentioned, which would be important in New Testament times; several of the Herodian kings married nieces). These are reinforced in Leviticus 20:17-21.
Thus it is rather ironic to note that the accounts in Genesis tell of multiple incests. Abraham and his wife Sarah were supposedly half-siblings (Genesis 20:12); Isaac and Rebekkah were first cousins once removed (Genesis 14:15), and Jacob/Israel was at once the first cousin (Genesis 29:10, etc.) and the second cousin once removed of his wives Rachel and Leah. (Perhaps it's little wonder that both the Abraham/Sarah marriage and the Isaac/Rebekkah pairing proved almost sterile. One wonders how many miscarriages the two women went through that the Bible does not record....)
Of course, all that was before the Law was given to Moses. There is an incident of incest after that -- the ugly rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon, told in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon ended up dead, but not at once, and not as the result of direct divine action. And the whole thing is blamed on David's adultery with Bathsheba anyway. So this particular story perhaps goes a little beyond what the Bible warrants. On the other hand, it's certainly smart in genetic terms.... - RBW
Last updated in version 3.1
File: LyCr2083

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.