Pretty Polly (MacEdward Leach)

See also: Polly Oliver (Kenneth Peacock)

It was out in old Ireland pretty Polly did dwell,
She was courted by a captain who did love her right well;
And when her old father this news came to hear,
He said he would part her many miles from her dear.

Pretty Polly lay down on her soft downy bed,
And some foolish notion ran into her head,
Saying, father or mother won't make me false prove,
I will dress like a soldier and follow my love.

Early next morning pretty Polly arose,
She dressed herself up in a suit of men's clothes;
Both waistcoat and trousers pretty Polly put on,
And in every appearance she looked like a man.

She went down to the stable, viewed the horses all 'round,
Until she found one that was fit for the ground;
With a brace of loaded pistols and a sword by her side,
In search of her true love pretty Polly did ride.

She rode along till she came to the first seaport town,
It was there she put up at the sign of the Crown;
The first one she met was the young Irish lord,
And the next one she met was the captain she loved.

She took off her hat and she made a low bow,
Saying, here is a letter from Polly you know;
In opening this letter it was soon to be found,
Drink a health to pretty Polly with the nobles all 'round.

In opening this letter he shed many's a tear,
At the end of each line he cried, Polly, my dear,
It shall not be drank by one or by two,
But it shall be drank by the whole of the crew.

It being late after supper, Polly hung down her head,
And asked for a candle to light her to bed;
Saying, I have a bed I can lie at my ease,
And you can lie with me, young man, if you please.

For to lie with an officer it's an unusual thing,
For I'm only a poor soldier just serving my king;
Serving my king on sea or on shore,
Drink the health to pretty Polly, she's the girl I adore.

Early next morning pretty Polly arose,
She dressed herself up in her own suit of clothes;
Coming down the stairs she appeared like a dove,
I think 'pon my soul, the captain's true love.

It is now they are married, they can live at their ease,
With a coach and six horses for to drive where they please;
She left her old father and mother behind,
Went in search of her true love and it's him she did find.

####.... 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 1951 from Peter T Molloy [1876-?] of St Shott's, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

A variant was collected in 1952 from Gordon Willis [1911-2001] of St John's, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published as Polly Oliver 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.


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