Polly Oliver (Kenneth Peacock)

See also: Pretty Polly (MacEdward Leach)

It was down in the lowlands
pretty Polly did dwell,
In every degree like a man
she dressed so well,
Went to her father's stable
and she viewed the 'orses 'round,
Till at length she found one
that could travel 'bove the ground.

With a pair of bright pistols
and a broadsword by her side,
On her father's great stallion
like a man she did ride;
She rode until she came
to a part of London town,
When at length was held up
by the sound of a drum.

The first man she met
was a young Irish lord,
The next it was the captain
Polly Oliver adored,
She says, "I have a letter here
from Polly your friend,
And in under the sealing
there's a guinea to be found,
Oh that you and your ship's company
drink Polly's health around."

Her health it can't be drunk
by one or by two,
But her health it must be drunk
by the joyful ship's crew;
For the first flowing glass
it went around in their hands,
Saying, "Drink a health to Polly Oliver,
she's now on dry land!"

Well "Jack" he felt drowsy
and he hung down his head,
And called for a candle
to light himself to bed.
When up speaks our captain,
"There's a bed all at your ease,
You can lie all night beside me,
young man, if you please."

"To lie with the captain
it is a dangerous thing,
For since he is enlisted
to fight for his king;
To fight for his king oh
on sea and on land,
Oh but since you are the captain
I will be at your command."

'Twas early next morning
pretty Polly arose,
And dressing herself
in her own suit of clothes;
While coming down stairs
from her bedroom up above,
Singing, "Here comes Polly Oliver,
oh the captain's true love!"

The captain he smiled
and he laughed at the fun,
And greatly recommended her
for what she had done.
"If I did not please you last night,
love, the fault it is not mine,
I'm in hopes to please you better,
love, so now is the time."

This couple got married
and they lived at their ease,
Goes out when they likes
and comes in when they please.
She leaves her old parents
in sorrow to mourn,
Who'd give thousands and millions
oh for Polly's return.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, Polly Oliver (Pretty Polly) [Laws N14] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, Polly Oliver's Ramble, published by J Pitts (London) between 1802 and 1819, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 17(240b) ....####
Collected in 1952 in St John's by Kenneth Peacock from Gordon M Willis [1911-2001] of Fogo, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 2, pp.344-345, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that these double entendre ballads are very popular with sailors, probably because nothing so interesting happens in real life at sea. Polly Oliver is not an ancient ballad, but it has been traced back at least as far as 1740.

A variant was collected in 1951 from Peter Molloy [c.1876-?] of St Shott's, NL, and published as Pretty Polly in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A very similar variant was also collected in 1929 by Elisabeth Bristol Greenleaf and Grace Yarrow Mansfield from Gordon M Willis [1911-2001] of Fogo, NL, and published as #23, Polly Oliver, on page 51 in Ballads And Sea Songs Of Newfoundland (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1933; and Folklore Associates, Hatboro, PA, 1968).


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