“Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogene”

Alternate titles: “The Maggoty Ghost”; “Irish Ghost Song”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1930 (Flanders & Brown)
Keywords: love wedding promise war separation reunion betrayal corpse death supernatural lover soldier ghost marriage
Found in: US(MW) Canada(Newf)

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

Supplemental text

Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogene
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Kenneth Peacock, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, Volume II,
pp. 380-382. Sung by Harry Curtis, Joe Batt's Arm, July 1952.

A warrior so bold and a virgin so bright
COnversed as the sat on the green;
They gazed at each other with tender delight,
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the knight,
And the maiden's name was fair Imogene.

"And oh," said the youth, "since tomorrow I go
To fight in some far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon ceasing to flow
Some other will court you and you will bestow
On a wealthier suitor your hand."

"Hush hush these suspicions" fair Imogene said,
"Offensive to love and to me;
For if you be living or if you be dead
I'll swear by the Virgin that none in your stead
Shall husband of Imogene be."

And now had the marriage been blessed b y the priest
The revelry now was begun,
The tables they groaned with the weight of the feast,
Nor yet had their laughter and merriment ceased
When the bell at the castle tolled one.

His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay,
The guests sat in silence and fear;
At length spake the bride, while trembling, "I pray
Sir knight, that your helmet aside you would lay,
And deign to partake of our cheer."

The lady was silent, the stranger complied,
His visor he slowly unclosed;
Great God what a sight met fair Imogene's eyes,
What words an express her dismay and surprise
When a skeleton's head was exposed!

All present then uttered a horrified shout,
And turned with disgust from the scene;
The worms they crept in and the worms they crept out,
They sported his eyes and his temples about
While the spectre addressed Imogene:

So saying his arms 'round the lady he wound
While loudly she shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide yawning ground
And never again was fair Imogene found,
Or the spectre that bore her away

(Stanzas 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14 of 17)

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

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. But I don't think we can list an author. - RBW

Cross references

Broadsides

Recordings

References

  1. Flanders/Brown, pp. 126-129, "Alonzo the Brave and The Fair Imogene" (1 text)
  2. Peacock, pp. 380-381, "Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogene" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. ST RcAtBaFI (Partial)
  4. Roud #4433
  5. BI, RcAtBaFI