PRETTY POLLY (folk ballad)

Reprinted in AppLit with permission from the James Taylor Adams Collection
U of Virginia's College at Wise/Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College

Collected by James M. Hylton

Wise, Virginia 

NOTE: This text was recopied directly from a typewritten copy in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute. James Taylor Adams (1892-1954) kept typewritten copies of the folklore he and others collected during the last thirty years of his life, while he lived in Wise County, VA. Typographical errors in the original have not been corrected, except for some obvious errors in spacing. In Hylton's introduction, the word "mothet" was surely meant to be "mother." For other tales and songs about girls named Pretty Polly, see "Pretty Polly" in AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales.


James M. Hylton  

20 Lines

Wise, Virginia.

 (Folk Ballad) Songs )


Told to this Writer November 14, 1941, at Wise, Virginia, by Lovell J. Johnson, aged 38 yrs., and a son of Aunt Polly Johnson of whom much interesting material has been obtained for this Project. He is a brother to Jesse J. Johnson who also furnished this Writer with a version of Pretty Polly. He recalls hearing his mother and father and other brothers sing the song many a time when young and growing up in the home. At the home of this mothet during a late-night visit he sang this song to the Writer upon request and it will b be seen at once that it differs somewhat from the words and lines as submitted by Jesse and his mother at an earlier date. He has roamed around a good lot of his time throughout the Country on the highways and the railroads getting a ride or left here and there as he can. He says he has heard another good version of this song if he can only rig it into his memory.

"  Pretty Polly  "

  Over in London, where I did dwell, nothing concerning but beauty can tell

I courted Pretty Polly one live-long night and led her over mountains green

And deep, and then Pretty Polly began to weep.

"Oh William, Oh William. I'm afraid of your way,

I'm afraid your pleasure will lead me astray.

"Oh Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly, you've spoken just right,

"I dug on your grave the biggest part of last night.

"Oh William, remember your infant and spare me my life.

"Let me to destruction if I cant be your wife.

He struck her in the head which caused the blood to flow.

And into the grave her poor little body did go.

He throwed the dirt over her and away Willie did go

Leaving nothing behind but the wind and Polly both to moan.

A ship was on the ocean and away he did ride fast

When Pretty Polly's ghost come after him at last.

"Oh Pretty Polly, Pretty Polly. Oh yonder she stands

"The ring in on her finger, her lillie-white hands.

"Oh William, Oh William, you scoundrel, your in hands content".

The ship sprung a leak, and down to the bottom she went.


Replacement photocopy made by BRI, 9/1992

copyright 2007 U of Virginia's College at Wise/Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College
all rights reserved

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