Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogene
DESCRIPTION: Alonzo, leaving for the wars in Palestine, bids Imogene be faithful, but another wins her hand. At the wedding, Alonzo's spectre, a rotting skeleton in armor, appears and bears Imogene away. (Four) times a year, the couple will appear at a ball and dance
EARLIEST DATE: 1796 (Lewis, The Monk; see NOTES)
LONG DESCRIPTION: Alonzo, leaving for the wars in Palestine, bids Imogene be faithful to him, but another wooer wins her hand. At the wedding, the spectre of Alonzo, a rotting skeleton clad in armor, appears and bears the false Imogene away, to the horror of all. It is said that three times a year the couple will appear at a ball and dance
KEYWORDS: love wedding promise war separation reunion betrayal corpse death supernatural lover soldier ghost marriage
FOUND IN: US(MW) Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Flanders/Brown, pp. 126-129, "Alonzo the Brave and The Fair Imogene" (1 text)
Peacock, pp. 380-381, "Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogene" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST RcAtBaFI (Partial)
Warde Ford, "Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene" (AFS 4195 B1, 1938; tr.; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Charles E. Walker(s), "Alonzo the Brave" [tr. only] (in AMMEM/Cowell)
Bodleian, Harding B 5(45), "Alonzo the brave, and the fair Imogene," S. Carvalho (London), no date; also Harding B 11(43), "Alonzo the Brave and The Fair Imogine," unknown, no date; Harding B 11(44)=B 11(45), "Alonzo the Brave and The Fair Imogene," unknown, no date (a sort of a musical built around the poem, with various tunes suggested); Johnson Ballads 2876, "The Spectre Knight," unknown, no date (barely legible); Firth b.27 (530), "Alonzo the brave, and the fair Imogine," unknown, no date;
cf. "A Gentleman of Exeter (The Perjured Maid)" [Laws P32] (plot)
cf. "Susannah Clargy" [Laws P33] (plot)
cf. "The Ghost's Bride" (plot)
cf. "The Worms Crawl In" (lyrics)
The Maggoty Ghost
Irish Ghost Song
NOTES: [A text was] sent to [Flanders and Brown] by Mary A. Towne of Omaha, Nebraska, from the singing of her mother and grandmother, and as written out by her aunt, Agnes Trumbell Somers, who was born in Greenboro, Vermont in 1849. All of her family was from Vermont, although her grandmother's parents both came from near Glasgow, Scotland. "My aunt [sings] the sixteen stanzas of this song from memory now, and that her mother sang it to a cousin who called it The Maggoty Ghost." - AF
Peacock considers this to be an Irish song, although Irish versions seem rare. He may have a case; references to the Virgin seem to imply Catholic origin. But it may be simply that the song is based on an old chronicle.
The Bodleian web site lists this as by Eliza Buttery, but doesn't explain the attribution. Granger's Index to Poetry gives the source as Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk. It certainly looks literary. I don't think we can list an author with certainty, but the case for Lewis is strong; Dan Clore tells me, "'Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogene' is almost word-for-word the same as in M. G. Lewis's 1796 novel The Monk, though it's fascinating to learn that people kept singing it for so long. It only shows the sort of variation in wording you would expect.
"I believe that 'The Worms Crawl in' owes this line to the ballad. Checking an online copy of Gammer Gurton's Garland, I see a footnote that says that this line was adopted in 'Alonzo the Brave.' I suspect it was the other way around. I don't think the children's rhyme can be found before The Monk."
What appears to be the earliest reference to this song comes from an item, "SAM COWELL'S SONG-BOOK, Containing all his best Copyright Songs, for SIXPENCE." The songs listed on the cover include "The Ratcatcher's Daughter, Alonzo the Brave, Billy Barlow, Richard III, La Somnambula, Mazeppa, Aladdin, The Forty Thieves, The Merchand of Venice, Lord Lovel, Hamlet, and Othello. Since I have not seen the book, only the cover, I cannot prove that it's the same Alonzo the Brave, but obviously it is likely. If so, then the song can be pushed back to before 1864, the year in which Cowell died. For more on Cowell, see the notes to "Billy Barlow (II)." - RBW
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