The Child Ballads are a collection of over 300 19th century English and Scottish ballads collected by, you guessed it, a man by the name of Francis James Child. This is one of them, and it is about a dude who marries some kind of supernatural creature.
Except what I’m pretty sure this song is actually about is dudes justifying their anger when the womenfolk don’t want to sleep with them. (“And she wouldn’t sleep with me, man, because she like WASN’T EVEN HUMAN. Duuuuude.”) There are a lot of songs about that. So let’s just hope we can take this one literally and be happy for the woman who got away because I am sick and fucking tired of folk songs about men punishing women who don’t want to sleep with them, or blaming the women on the women not wanting to sleep with them.
This is still a beautiful and haunting song though, however you read it. Mostly because instead of ending in rape or murder, it ends with a scared dude and a lady who got away.
Read the full lyrics of The Griesly Bride:
Lie down, my newly married wife;
Lie easy as you can.
You’re young, and ill-accustomed yet
To sleeping with a man.”
The snow was deep, the moon was full
As it shown on the cabin floor.
His young bride rose without a word
And ran barefoot through the door.
He up and followed, fast and sure,
And an angry man was he,
But his young bride wasn’t e’er in sight,
And only the moon shone clearly.
He followed her track through the new deep snow,
Calling out loud her name.
Only the dingoes in the hills
Yowled back at him again.
Then the hair stood up along his neck
And his angry mind was gone,
For where the two-foot track gave out,
A four-footed track went on.
Her nightgown lay upon the snow
As it might on a bed sheet,
And the tracks that led from where it lay
Were never of human feet.
He first started in to walkin’ back,
Then he began to run,
And his quarry turned all in her track
And hunted him in turn.
An empty bed still waits for him
As he lies in a crimson tide.
Beware, beware, oh trapper men,
Beware of a griesly bride.