Thursday, 6 March 2014

Irish Vampire Folk Song? 'She Moved Through the Fair'

My young love said to me,
My mother won't mind
And my father won't slight you
For your lack of kine.
And she stepped away from me
And this she did say:
It will not be long, Love,
'Til our wedding day.

The people were saying,
No two e'er were wed
But one had a sorrow
That never was said.
And I smiled as she passed
With her goods and her gear,
And that was the last
That I saw of my dear

As she stepped away from me
And she moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her
Move here and move there.
And then she made her way homeward,
With one star awake,
As the swan in the evening
Moved over the lake

Last night she came to me,
My dead love came in.
So softly she came
That her feet made no din.
As she laid her hand on me,
And this she did say:
It will not be long, love,
'Til our wedding day.

One of the most beautiful traditional Irish songs in melody, but lyrically one of the strangest. The last two verses suggest the death of the young girl and then her visit as a ghost to her lover in a dream. However, if one digs a little deeper it hints at something more sinister. In the third verse we are told that of her journey home a single star came out - Venus or Lucifer - and in Irish folklore, the transformation from one human state to another is represented by the allegory of the Swan (Children of Lir). Finally, at night she comes to her love and tells him he too will be dead too soon...and they will be married after all.

What makes this interesting is the legend of the Vampire was common in Ireland for hundreds of years as a kind of Blood Fairy - 'Dearg-due' (Red Blood Drinker) -  and that this was the inspiration for Bram Stoker in his novel Dracula. Stoker's mother hailed from rural County Sligo and filled his mind with such stories during his childhood. Even more telling, is that the 'Dearg-due', is traditionally a beautiful young woman who commits suicide when forced into a marriage and then rises from her grave to seek revenge by killing her father and husband. 

The song She Moved Through the Fair has been traced back as far as Medieval times by the Irish scholar Padraic Colum. And yet, another variation of the final lyrics hints at the supernatural to an even greater degree as she leaves via the window with 'another':

According to promise at midnight he rose
But all that he found was the down clothes
The sheets they lay empty 'twas plain for to see
And out of the window with another went she

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