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Whistling aloud to bear his courage up...

Posted by ESC on June 05, 2004

In Reply to: Whistle past the graveyard / cemetary posted by ESC on June 05, 2004

: : I am trying to find the origin / definition of the phrase "whistling past the graveyard"... I found whistle in the dark (close) but not quite. please share what you know!! thanks. john b

: I'm posting this because it does mention "grave."

: WHISTLING IN THE DARK -- "Be cheerful or optimistic in a situation that doesn't warrant cheer or optimism. It is a great temptation to try to cheer oneself up by whistling or singing in a dark and lonely place...The notion that one should whistle in difficult circumstances to show that one is not concerned or frightened can be found in Robert Blair's 'The Grave' : 'The Schoolboy...Whistling aloud to bear his Courage up." From "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).

Excerpt from "The Grave":

".Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,
The sound of something purring at his heels;
Full fast he flies, and dare not look behind him,
'Till, out of breath, he overtakes his fellows,
Who gather round and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition tall and ghastly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
Evanishes at crowing of the cock."