Today we're going to feature one of my fav tragic ballads "The Silver Dagger." I first learned this song in NC as Katie Dear. It's a bit tricky to play at first because there's a measure with only 2 beats. I really like the Old Crow Medicine Show's version; we played a show with them back in 2000.
Below is my painting of the Silver Dagger. (Click to enlarge)
Silver Dagger: 30" by 40" Acrylic on canvas. C 2008. The Silver Dagger is one of the oldest tragic ballads found in the Appalachian Mountain region. The chronology of the "Drowsy Sleeper" Songs can be traced from a broadside from Chrome, Sheffield, 1817 entitled the "Drowsy Fleeper" (Drowsy Sleeper) in the Bodelian Library, England, to "Katie Dear" in the 1930’s in the US.
Other names include "Silver Dagger;" "Awake, Awake;" "Who's That Knocking?;" "Peggy Dear;" "Kentucky Mountain;" "Julianne;" and "Willie Darling." The lyrics are from several versions but the plot compares to Romeo and Juliet. There are five separate scenes telling the sad story.
"Who's that knocking at my window,
Knocks so loud and won't come in?"
'Tis your own true-hearted lover
Rise you up and let him in.
Her hair was gold and her eyes was sparkling,
And her cheeks were diamond red.
And on her breast she wore a lily
To morn the tears that I did shed.
"Oh Katie dear go ask your mother,
If you can be a bride of mine.
If she says yes come back and tell me,
If she says no we'll run away."
"Oh Willie dear I cannot ask her,
She's in her room up taking a rest.
And by her side is a silver dagger,
To slay the man that I love best."
Then he picked up that silver dagger
And stove it through his weary heart.
Saying, "Goodbye Katie, goodbye darling,
At last the time has come to part.
"Then don't you see that cloud a rising
To shield us from the rising sun;
Oh, won't you be glad my own true lover
When you and I become as one?"
Then she picked up that bloody dagger,
And stove it through her lily-white breast.
Saying, "Goodbye Willie, goodbye mother,
I'll die with the one that I love best."