Open main menu

Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/42

This page needs to be proofread.

In six weeks' time, when the 'sizes came on, Young Polly appeared in the form of a swan, Crying, Jimmy, young Jimmy, young Jimmy is clear; He never shall be hung for the shooting of his dear.

And he is, of course, acquitted.

The transformation of the damsel into a swan stalking into the Court and proclaiming the innocence of her lover is unquestionably the earlier form of the ballad; the Devonshire version is a later rationalising of the incident. Now, in neither form is the ballad very ancient; and in the passage of the girl's soul into a swan we can see bow that among our peasantry to a late period the notion of trans-migration has survived.

I was visiting an old woman who was bedridden when one day she said to me: "I saw my brother last night; he came flapping his wings against the window." I stared, and asked for an explanation. Her brother had died some time previously. "He came as a great black bird, like a rook but larger, and he kept beating against the glass. He is come to call me." I endeavoured to give a natural explanation of the phenomenon, but she would not hear of that. She knew it was her brother by the tone of the voice. "Beside, he warn't an over good man, and so he wouldn't