Margaret discovered this gem, the story of a man in love with a woman about to
marry another fellow. He follows her to church, watches the ceremony from afar and
leaves “not knowing where to roam.” At knifepoint, the groom scolds him, saying, “By
courting too slowly, you’ve lost this fair maid. Now be gone, for you never will enjoy
her.” The dejected suitor digs his own grave, covers it with flowers and lays himself
down, believing it to be the only way to forget her.
The song was collected from the English poet Robert Graves while he lived on the
northern ridge of Mallorca, one of the Spanish Balearic Islands. Alan visited him
several times while on vacation. Graves’s diary from August 6, 1960 reads: “Alan
Lomax and Shirley Collins turned up; wouldn't stop the night. We sang.” Graves
claims to have invented the tune but not the words.28 The song was published by Irish
folk collector Padriac Colum in his “Anthology of Irish Verse” in 1922.
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