> Folk Music > Songs > Young Charlotte / Frozen Girl

Young Charlotte / Frozen Girl

[ Roud 260 ; Laws G17 ; Ballad Index LG17 ; trad.]

John Wright sang Young Charlotte or The Frozen Girl or A Corpse Going to a Ball in 1978 on his Topic album Unaccompanied. He noted:

The last [title] mentioned, according to Art Rosenbaum and Pat Dunford, is the original title to this American ballad, a chilling story in more ways than one, written by one Seba Smith and published in 1843 in The Rover (vol 11, no 15, p 225), the event having reportedly taken place on the eve of 1 January 1840. My version was taken from a Library of Congress recording of I.G. Greer, a Kentucky doctor and a fine singer. Greer’s version is interesting in that the song seems well on its way towards being a traditional ballad, with the worst of the Victoriana skimmed off, the drama being built up more through repetition of phrases than by the use of over-colourful language. I nevertheless filled out the end of the story with words from a more melodramatic version sung by Vern Smeltzer, Paoli, Indiana (Folkways FS 3809)—a phrase like “he kissed her marble brow” was just too good to miss! One can laugh, but in our sheltered island we tend to forget just how violent nature can be.

Debra Cowan sang Young Charlotte —as collected by Helen Hartness Flanders on 14 March 1945 from Mrs. Charles Scott of Westborough, Maine—in 2005 on her album of songs from the Flanders Collection, Dad’s Dinner Pail. She noted:

I chose this song from Mrs. Scott because Mrs. Flanders collected it in Westborough, Maine, a town I lived in from 1999-2004. Until now, I was not familiar with the song, and as I got to know it, I found this to be an interesting story of how harmful pride can be.

The Dovetail Trio sang Frozen Girl in 2015 on their CD Wing of Evening. Rosie Hood noted:

A song recommended to us by fiddler/singer Nancy Kerr found on the 1995 Cordelia’s Dad album Comet. A tragic story from America about a girl travelling in the freezing winter. It’s apparently true. This version is based on Seba Smith’s 1843 poem, and, I think, is quite hauntingly beautiful.

Kitty Macfarlane sang Frozen Charlotte on her 2018 CD Namer of Clouds. She noted:

A North American ballad inspired by a poem by Seba Smith, based on a grisly event of 1839. Bizarrely, little porcelain dolls called Frozen Charlottes were made popular in the Victorian era by this haunting ballad.


Debra Cowan sings Young Charlotte

Young Charlotte lived by the mountain side, in a wild and a lonely spot;
Not a dwelling house for five miles around, except her father’s cot.
Yet on many a winter’s eve, young swains would gather there
For her father kept a social board and she was very fair.

Her father loved to see her dressed, fine as a city belle,
For she was the only child he had and he loved his daughter well.
’Twas New Year’s Eve, the sun went down, wild looked her anxious eyes
Along the frosty window pane to see the sleighs pass by.

At the village inn, fifteen miles round, there’s a merry ball tonight.
The air is freezing cold above, but the hearts are warm and light.
And while she looked with longing eyes, then a well-known voice she hears,
And dashing up to the cottage door, young Charlie’s sleigh appears.

Her mother says, “My daughter dear, this blanket round you fold.
For it’s a dreadful night abroad, you’ll take your death out cold.”
“Oh no! Oh no!” young Charlotte said and she laughed like a gypsy queen,
“For to ride in blankets muffled up, I never could be seen.

“My silken coat is quite enough, ’tis lined you know, throughout,
And then I have a silken scarf, to tie my face about.”
Her gloves and bonnet being on, she jumped into the sleigh
And away they ride over the mountainside and o’er the hills away.

There’s merry music in the bells, As o’er the hills they go;
For the creaking rake the runners make, As they bite the frozen snow.
Then o’er the hills and faster o’er, and by the cold starlight
When Charles in these frozen words at last the silence broke.

“Such a night as this I never knew, My reins I scarce can hold.”
Young Charlotte said With a trembling voice, “I am exceeding cold!”
He cracked his whip which urged his steed much faster than before,
And then the other five miles ’round in silence were rode o’er.

“How fast,” says Charles, “the freezing ice is gathering on my brow.”
Young Charlotte said with a trembling voice, “I am growing warmer now.”
Then o’er the hills and faster o’er, and by the cold starlight
Until they reached the village inn, And the ballroom was in sight.

They reached the inn and Charles sprang out and giving his hand to her,
“Why sit you like a monument what have no power to stir?”
He called her once, he called her twice, but yet she never stirred.
He called her name again and again, but she answered not a word.

He took her hand in his, O God, ’t was cold and hard as stone;
He tore the mantle from her brow and the cold stars on her shone.
Then quickly to the lighted hall her lifeless form he bore,
For Charlotte was a frozen corpse and a work spake never more.

He threw himself down by her side and the bitter tears did flow.
He said, “My young intended bride I nevermore shall know.”
He flung his arms around her neck and kissed her marble brow,
His thoughts went back to the place she said, “I’m growing warmer now.”

He bore her out into the sleigh and with her he rode home,
And when they reached the cottage door, oh, how her parents mourned!
They mourned for the loss of their daughter dear and Charles mourned o’er the gloom,
When Charles’ heart with grief did break—they slumber in one tomb.

The Dovetail Trio sing Frozen Girl

Young Charlotte lived by the mountain side,
In a wild and a lonely spot.
Not a dwelling house for five miles around,
Except her father’s cot.

On many pleasant winter’s night,
Young folks would gather there.
Her father kept a social house,
And she was young and fair.

Her father liked to see her dressed
As fine as a city belle
For she was the only child that he had,
And he loved his daughter well.

It was New Year’s Eve, the sun was low,
Joy beamed in her bright blue eyes.
As to the window she would go
And watch the sleighs pass by.

It was New Year’s Eve, the sun was low
Joy beamed in her bright blue eyes.
She watched until her true love’s sleigh
Came swiftly riding by.

In a village fifteen miles away,
There’s a merry ball tonight.
The piercing air was cold as death,
But her heart was warm and dry.

“Oh daughter dear”, her mother said
“This blanket around you fold,
It’s a dreadful night to go abroad
And you’ll catch your deathly cold.”

“Oh no oh no”, the daughter said
And she laughed like a gypsy queen
To ride in a sleigh all bundled up
I never shall be seen.”

“My silken coat it is quite warm,
It’s lined throughout you know.
Besides I have a silken scarf
Which around my neck I’ll throw.”

Her cloak and bonnet soon were on,
They stepped in to the sleigh.
And around the mountain side they went,
For many miles away.

There’s life in the sound of the merry bells,
As over the hills they go.
What a creaking sound the runners make
As they bite the frozen snow.

With muffled faces silently,
Over five long miles they pass.
When Charlie with these frozen words,
The silence broke at last.

“Such a night as this I never knew,
These lines I scarce can hold.”
And Charlotte said in a very feeble voice
“I’m growing very cold.”

He cracked his whip, he urged his steed
Much faster than before
Saying “it’s ten long dreadful miles to go
And it’s o’er ice and snow.”

“How fast”, said Charles, “the frosty ice
Keeps gathering on her brow.”
And Charlotte said in a very feeble voice,
“I’m growing warmer now.”

And on they ride through the frosty air,
And the glittering cold starlight.
Until at last the village inn,
And the ballroom are in sight.

He drove up to the ballroom door,
Stepped out and reached his hand.
He asked her once, he asked her twice,
He asked her three times o’er.

“Why sit you there like a monument,
Within is power to stir”.
He called her by her name again,
But she said not a word.

He took her hand in his, oh God,
It was cold and hard as stone.
He tore the mantle from her brow,
And there the cold stars shone.

And then in to the lighted hall,
Her lifeless form he bore.
Charlotte was a frozen corpse,
And words spoke never more.

Young Charles knelt down all by her side,
The bitter tears did flow.
“My own, my true intended bride,
I never more shall know.”

He twined his arms around her neck,
The bitter tears did flow.
And his thoughts turned back to the place where she said,
“I’m growing warmer now.”