> Cyril Tawney > Songs > There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone

There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone

[ Roud 501 ; Ballad Index R069 ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Old Lady All Skin and Bones in 1961 on his Folkways album Two-Way Trip. The album's liner notes commented:

‘Death and the Lady’ has been a common theme in European art from the Middle Ages onwards. Most of the songs on this theme retain something of the medieval homiletic poem. In modern times the theme has inspired a number of lugubrious ditties, the most noteworthy being those which were sung by American soldiers in World War I and by British airmen in World War II. Perhaps the most assimilated folk version of the subject is in the Scots nursery rhyme, The Strange Visitor.

Cyril Tawney sang There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone on his 1970 Argo album Cyril Tawney Sings Children’s Songs from Devon and Cornwall. He commented in his sleeve notes:

A favourite ‘scarey’ song to startle the unsuspecting. I recorded this version from Molly Spooner of Yelverton, Devon, in June 1964.

Jo Freya sang There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone in 1992 on her Saydisc album Traditional Songs of England.

The Devil's Interval sang Lady All Skin and Bone in ca. 2005 on their EP Demon Lovers and Jim Causley sang it in 2007 on his WildGoose solo album Lost Love Found.

Lyrics

Ewan MacColl sings Old Lady All Skin and Bones The Devil's Interval sing Lady All Skin and Bone

There was a lady all skin and bone,
And such a lady was never known;
It happened on a holiday,
The lady went to church to pray.

There was a lady all skin and bone,
And such a lady was never known;
It happened on a holiday,
The lady went to the church to pray.

And when she came unto the stile,
She tarried there a little while;
And when she came unto the door,
She tarried there a little more.

And when she came unto the stile,
She tarried there a little while;
And when she came unto the door,
She tarried there a little more.

And when she came unto the aisle,
She had a sad and woeful smile;
She'd come a long and a weary mile,
Her sin and sorrow to beguile.

And when she came unto the aisle,
She had a sad and a woeful smile;
She had come a long and a weary mile,
Her sin and sorrow to beguile.

And she walked up and she walked down,
And she saw a dead man upon the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crept out and the worms crept in.

Well, she's walked up and she's walked down,
And she saw a dead man all on the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crept out and the worms crept in.

Then the lady to the sexton said,
“Shall I be so when I am dead?”
And the sexton to the lady said,
“You'll be the same when you are dead.”

And as the worms through him did creep,
Then asked the lady while sore she did weep,
“Will I be this way oh when I die?”
And the dead man turned his head and he answered, “Aye!”

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Add: Lady All Skin and Bone.