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Origins: Pretty Saro

DigiTrad:
AT THE FOOT OF YONDER MOUNTAIN
PRETTY SARAH (5)
PRETTY SARO
PRETTY SARO (4)
PRETTY SARO 2
PRETTY SARO 3


Related thread:
Lyr Req: Pretty Saro (Doc Watson) (2)


Lesley N. 04 Dec 99 - 07:56 AM
bunkerhill 04 Dec 99 - 09:38 AM
Lesley N. 04 Dec 99 - 10:01 PM
raredance 04 Dec 99 - 11:42 PM
raredance 04 Dec 99 - 11:57 PM
doug 05 Dec 99 - 12:18 AM
Lesley N. 05 Dec 99 - 12:30 AM
raredance 05 Dec 99 - 12:47 AM
Mary in Kentucky 05 Dec 99 - 11:19 AM
Lesley N. 05 Dec 99 - 12:14 PM
Mary in Kentucky 05 Dec 99 - 12:23 PM
bunkerhill 05 Dec 99 - 01:00 PM
Mary in Kentucky 05 Dec 99 - 01:39 PM
Lesley N. 05 Dec 99 - 02:04 PM
harpgirl 07 Oct 01 - 12:29 AM
Amos 07 Oct 01 - 11:08 AM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 07 Oct 01 - 04:44 PM
SharonA 08 Oct 01 - 11:13 AM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 08 Oct 01 - 11:31 AM
harpgirl 08 Oct 01 - 01:06 PM
Peter T. 08 Oct 01 - 01:10 PM
harpgirl 08 Oct 01 - 01:18 PM
harpgirl 08 Oct 01 - 01:34 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 08 Oct 01 - 06:28 PM
Joe Offer 08 Oct 01 - 06:42 PM
harpgirl 08 Oct 01 - 08:11 PM
GUEST,Saro 01 Nov 01 - 12:30 PM
Mary in Kentucky 01 Nov 01 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,saro 01 Nov 01 - 12:46 PM
Desert Dancer 01 Nov 01 - 01:54 PM
GUEST,saro 02 Nov 01 - 04:26 PM
harpgirl 02 Nov 01 - 08:29 PM
GUEST,guest sarah 24 Apr 02 - 06:40 PM
GUEST 24 Apr 02 - 06:46 PM
Hrothgar 24 Apr 02 - 08:12 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 24 Apr 02 - 08:28 PM
GUEST,Wee Willie 25 Apr 02 - 01:27 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 25 Apr 02 - 01:51 PM
RolyH 25 Apr 02 - 02:41 PM
Uncle_DaveO 25 Apr 02 - 05:22 PM
GUEST,Joan Sprung 26 Apr 02 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,WeeWillie 26 Apr 02 - 05:06 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 26 Apr 02 - 05:14 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 26 Apr 02 - 05:19 PM
Malcolm Douglas 26 Apr 02 - 05:49 PM
Uncle_DaveO 27 Apr 02 - 07:24 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 27 Apr 02 - 07:57 PM
Uncle_DaveO 28 Apr 02 - 12:55 PM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 29 Apr 02 - 10:21 AM
John Minear 14 Aug 02 - 06:23 PM
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Subject: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Lesley N.
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 07:56 AM

Pretty Saro is in the database and there is a thread with Doc Watson's lyrics as well - but no information on the song. I've traced it to Sharpe's English Folksongs from teh Southern Appalachians but haven't found anything else. Does anyone know something about the suspected origins of the song?


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: bunkerhill
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 09:38 AM

It's related somehow to the Irish song "Bunclody." The first lines of the first three verses are 1. Oh were I at the moss house where the birds do increase...2. Oh, tis why my love slights me as you might understand...3. Oh were I a clerk and could write a fine hand.... My hunch is Pretty Saro came first, but maybe it could help with your trace?


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Lesley N.
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 10:01 PM

Thanks very much. I managed to find a bit at the Ballad Index on Pretty Saro - but haven't found anything on Bunclody!!


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Subject: Lyr Add: PRETTY SARO (from North Carolina)^^
From: raredance
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 11:42 PM

The Frank C Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (Duke Univ Press 1952) describes Pretty Saro (aka Pretty Sarah) "a favorite song in the South, and carried thence to the Midwest. It is reported as as a traditional song from Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, the Ozarks, Indiana, and Iowa.... The author - if it had one - has not been discovered." Two text versions and six tune variations are included in the FCB Collection. The first is rather much longer than most.

PRETTY SARO

When first to this country a stranger I came,
I placed my affection on a handsome young dame.
I looked all around me, and I was alone
And a poor stranger and a long way from home.

CHORUS:
Oh Saro, pretty Saro, I love you, I do
I love you, pretty Saro, wherever I go;
No tongue can express it, no poet can tell
How truly I love you, oh I love you so well.

Down in some lonely valley, in some lonesome place,
Where the small birds are singing and the notes to increase
The thoughts of pretty Saro, so neat and complete,
I want no better pastime than to be with my sweet.

Oh I wish I was a poet and could write some fine hand;
I would write my love a letter that she might understand
And send it by the waters where the island overflows,
And think of pretty Saro wherever I go.

My love she don't love me, as I understand,
She wants some freeholder, and I have no land.
But I can maintain her with the silver and gold
And all the pretty fine things that my love's house can hold.

Oh Saro, pretty Saro, I must let you know
How truly I love you - I never can, though;
No tongue can express it, no poet can tell
How truly I love you, I love you so well.

It's not the long journey I'm dreading to go
Nor leaving of this country for the debts that I owe;
There is but one thing that troubles my mind,
That's a-leaving pretty Saro, my true love, behind.

Farewell my dear father, likewise my mother too,
I'm a-going to ramble this country all through.
And when I get tired, I'll sit down and weep
And think of pretty Saro wherever she be.

Oh I wish I was a little dove, had wings and could fly,
Straight to my love's bosom this night I'd draw nigh
And in her little small arms all night I would lay
And think of pretty Saro till the dawning of day.

I love you, pretty Saro, I love you, I know.
I love you, pretty Saro, wherever I go.
On the banks of the ocean and the mountain's sad brow
I love you then dearly, and I love you still now.
^^
Note that verses 5 and 9 borrow heavily from the chorus.

rich r


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Subject: Lyr Add: PRETTY SARO (from North Carolina)^^
From: raredance
Date: 04 Dec 99 - 11:57 PM

Here is the second text from the Frank C Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore.

PRETTY SARO

Pretty Saro, pretty Saro, I love you, I know,
I love you so dealy I never can show.

On the banks of old Cowie, on the banks of said brow,
I loved you dearly, and I love you still now.

Down in some lonely valley, in some lonely place,
I hear small birds singing their notes to increas.

I makes me think of pretty Saro, her ways were so complete
. . . . . . . .

It's not this long journey that troubles my mind,
NOr the country I'm leaving behind.

My true love won't have me, so I understand;
She wants a freeholder, and I have no land.

Whenever I get tired I set down and weep
And think of pretty Saro wherever I be.
^^

The book suggests that that the odd line "banks of said brow" might be a corruption of the line in verse 9 of the other version which has "the mountain's sad brow"

rich r


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: doug
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 12:18 AM

like the lyrics, how can i get the tune? (i don't know how to get tunes in general) thanks doug


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Lesley N.
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 12:30 AM

You can find the tune (one of them at least) at Pretty Saro (http://www.contemplator.com/folk6/saro.html).

Interesting variations. Vance Randolph also has the song In Eighteen Hundred and Forty-Nine in Vol. 4 - says it took parts of Pretty Saro and Jack of Diamonds as well. The version I have of PS doesn't have the verse about wishing to be a dove - which is similar to Fair and Tender Ladies... Seems like much cross pollination is going on and isn't likely to be all sorted out. Such is both the pleasure and frustration of folk music...


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Subject: Lyr Add: PRETTY SARO / PRETTY SARAH^^
From: raredance
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 12:47 AM

Dorothy Scarborough in "A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains, American Folk Songs of British Ancestry" (Columbia University press, 1937) includs two versions that she collected in 1930. One was from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, the other was collected in the Asheville, North Carolina area near the Smoky Mountains. She has a somewhat different take on the origins of the song as indicated by the book title and the following passage from the book:

"Mrs. Stikeleather also sang it (i.e Pretty Saro) into my Dictaphone and contributed it to this collection. She told me that while the date 'eighteen-forty-nine' is used in some of the versions of the song, 'seventeen-forty-nine' is more probably correct, as that year witnessed considerable immigration to North Carolina from Ireland and Scotland, and this old English song was no doubt adapted to its new setting at that time"

This is an interesting anecdote, and plausible too, but can't be considered strong evidence because there is no connection made to the purported English predecessor. Later Scarborough says that the use of the phrase "free-holder" indicates the song is of British origin. I am not sure how the distinction is made between a song brought over from Britain and a song assembled in the USA by recent English-speaking immigrants. Here is the text she collected in NC

PRETTY SARO

I came to this country in seventeen-forty-nine,
I saw many a true love, but I never saw mine.
I looked all around me and found I was alone.
And me a poor stranger, and a long way from home.

Down in some lonesome valley, down in some lonesome place,
Where the wild birds do whistle their notes to increase,
I think of pretty Saro whose waist is so neat,
And I know of no better pastime than to be with my sweet.

I wish I were a poet and could write a fine hand,
I would send my love a letter that she could understand.
And I'd send it by a messenger where the waters do flow
And think of pretty Saro wherever I go.

And here is the text collected in Virginia:

PRETTY SARAH

Down in some low valley in some lonesome place,
Where the small birds to whistle their notes do increase.
I think on pretty Sarah and her ways air so compleat,
I could wish no better pastime than to be with my sweet.

I came to this country eighteen-sixty-nine,
I saw many lovers but I never saw mine.
I looked all around me, I found I was alone,
And I a poor soldier and a long ways from home.

I wish I was a larks man and had wings and could fly
Down in my love's window this night I would lie.
All day and all night I would set down and cry,
And in my love's lily white arms this night I would lie.

I wish I was a penceman (pen-man, i.e writer)and could write a fine hand,
I would write my love a letter that she might understand
I would send it by the waters and the Island do flow
I think on pretty Sarah wherever I may go.

My love she won't have me because I am poor
She says I am not worthy of entering her door.
But I could maintain her on silver or gold
And meny other fine things that my love's house could hold.

My love she won't have me, as I understand
She wants some free-holder that has houses and land.
But she will repent it when her love's all in vain,
For love is a torment and a heart-breaking thing.
^^

Notice the 1800's date in the second version and how the folk process converted "waist is so neat" to "ways air so complete" or vice versa.

rich r


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Subject: Lyr Add: HARD IS THE FORTUNE
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 11:19 AM

Hi Lesley,

Yep, it's me, Mary!

Talk about knock my socks off when I heard your "Pretty Saro." It's one of my favs, but I've always known that tune as "HARD IS THE FORTUNE." My tune starts out just like yours, but then is a little different. Here are the words:

Hard is the fortune
of all womankind
She's always controlled,
she's always confined.
Controlled by her parents
until she's a wife,
Then a slave to her husband
the rest of her life.

My horses are hungry,
They won't eat your hay;
So goodbye, little darlin'
I'm going away.
Your parents don't like me,
They say I'm too poor;
They say I'm not worthy
To enter your door.

TTYL,
Mary (AKA, Mary in Kentucky)


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Lesley N.
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 12:14 PM

How interesting. Sounds like the woman's answer to Prety Saro! I'll see if I can find anything on it. In case I can't - do you have the tune anywhere Mary? I suppose it could be one of the variations in Randolph or Sharpe... I'd love to put it up!


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 12:23 PM

I'll send it to you. It was the first song I sequenced and is only two voices.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: bunkerhill
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 01:00 PM

Mary in Ky: "Hard is My Fortune" lyrics look a lot like the ones I first heard as "Bachelor's Hall" and later as "Wagoner's Lad." Since I just came in from another planet, could someone explain why oppression of women was such a popular theme? Lesley N.: I've got no notes on Bunclody. Found it in "Ireland the Songs: Book 4" (publisher's US rep is Walton Music Inc., 110 Elm St., Westfield, MA, 01085). Penultimate line is "I am bound for Amerikay, my fortune to try," which may point toward famine-gold rush year of 1849 referenced in some of the other postings. (And if you're the Lesley N. behind the Carolan site, THANKS).


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 01:39 PM

You're right Markf. I just noticed that another name is "Wagoner Lad."...As far as oppression, can't answer that. But I do know that when I first heard these words in 1968 (and in college near Appalachia....pre-women's movement) the words really grabbed me.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BACHELOR'S HALL
From: Lesley N.
Date: 05 Dec 99 - 02:04 PM

I'm with Mary. I don't know why it strikes a chord with others, but when I was working my way through college as a temporary secretary I was treated with less than respect a good bit - and when came out of college with a BA in economics the employment agency wouldn't offer me anything but secretarial positions. I also volunteered for a battered women's shelter for many years. So it strikes a chord with me even though I was never the sort to march or burn my bra!

And yes, the Carolan site is mine - at least this one is Turlough O'Carolan (http://www.contemplator.com/carolan.html). It languishes a bit because I can't find full arrangements of his music, but I'm very pleased to have introduced a lot of people to his wonderful work - and to Barry's fantastic arrangements of them.

Good call on BACHELOR'S HALL! Here are the American lyrics from my site (from the Appalachians again)

Oh hard is my fortune and hard is my fate,
Controlled by my mother so early and late,
And when I get married just to end all the strife,
Controlled by a man for the rest of my life.

O, young men go a-courtin' they dress up so fine,
They cheat the girls up, that is all their design;
They'll titter, they'll tatter,
They'll laugh and they'll lie,
They'll cheat the girls up till they're ready to die.

When young men go a-courtin' they stay up all night,
Get out in the mornin' and look like a fright;
They saddle their horses, they rock and they reel,
Dag-gone them old girls, how sleepy I do feel!

O, bachelor's hall it is bound to be best,
Get drunk or stay sober, lay down take your rest,
No woman to scold you, no children to bawl,
So happy is the man that keeps bachelor's hall.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: harpgirl
Date: 07 Oct 01 - 12:29 AM

resound


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Oct 01 - 11:08 AM

Ref-rush!


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 07 Oct 01 - 04:44 PM

Lesley N- The "Bachelors' Hall" lyrics you gave are the ones from my (Ritchie) family of Viper, KY. The song was first recorded on one of my earliest recordings, Elektra (EKL-25, 1954, "O Love is Teasin'" album). I know these are my lyrics because of the very slight changes I made when singing it in my younger days.

Also, the three verses and melody given here in the DT version are the ones from our family. Recorded in 1957 on Folkways 2316, "The Ritchie Family." Most recent recorded on Greenhays (GR714-distr.by Rounder) on "The Most Dulcimer" album, 1984.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: SharonA
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 11:13 AM

Wow. How curious that this thread was refreshed on October 7th (yesterday). Later that day, I heard "Pretty Saro" sung by Marti Rogers (who has appeared on Mudcat Radio) during a memorial service for a dear man and an anchor of our local folk-song society, Tor Jonassen. He had named his daughter Saro (actually, as one of her middle names), and Marti had often sung the song for him.

Tor passed away on September 12th. BTW, his extensive (and I do mean EXTENSIVE) collection of folk recordings is to be bequeathed to Sing Out! magazine, and will be preserved with his name in the title of the collection as a tribute.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 11:31 AM

SharonA- I'm so sorry to learn of the death of Tor Jonassan...this is a loss. But what a lovely gesture- to leave his music to Sing Out!

I just re-read my note above, and I neglected to say that the second paragraph refers to, "Pretty Saro," and not "Bachelors' Hall." Jean R.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 01:06 PM

...I refreshed this thread because I wanted to see if I could track down possible origins of the version of Pretty Saro that Iris Dement does in "Songcatcher." I'd like to see Dorothy Scarborough's book! Anyone have an opinion or know????


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Peter T.
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 01:10 PM

Is there something you are looking for specifically from Dorothy's book? or just seeking general info. I have access to a copy (it was the inspiration for my part in the Mudcat Star Trek adventure).

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 01:18 PM

...Actually, Peter, I'd like to have a copy of the book. I wanted to see just how closely the version that Iris Dement sang was to what was collected in this particular book. I must confess I haven't read anything from the Songcatcher threads. Perhaps I should.

Prior to seeing the movie and purchasing the CD I sang a version of "Pretty Saro" that I got from a dulcimer book. I think it is Jean's version but I have to go back home and look today.

I liked the "Songcatcher" movie version a lot. hg


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 01:34 PM

...Well, I read all the threads (didn't take long, they were mostly about how we had all these threads) and the most interesting thing is that Dorothy Scarborough may have been the inspiration for the movie as katlaughing points out.

I do think the CD is very good and despite all the Nashville stars, it is an interesting mix of versions of the old songs. I recommend it.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 06:28 PM

I heard that the "heroine" in the script of "Songcatcher" was based upon the life of Olive Dame Campbell. She and her husband, John C. Campbell, founded the John C. Cambbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC (Name recently shortened to Campbell Folk School).

Olive Campbell collected songs in our part of Eastern Kentucky, early in the last century; also, Josephine McGill (Uncle Jason Ritchie squired her around on horseback to introduce her to singers, and always afterward referred to her as, "a right fine girl.").


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 06:42 PM

For the sake of completelness, I think I'll post the Ballad Index entry. Sandy Paton e-mailed and told me that the the book A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains was for sale at Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller, but I couldn't find the dang thing in their catalog or Website. I bought a copy used for $15, which seems to be the going price for used copies of the 1966 reprent of this 1937 book.
-Joe Offer-

Pretty Saro

DESCRIPTION: The singer loves Pretty Saro, but she shows no interest in him: "She wants a freeholder and I have no land." Nor can he write her a letter "in a fine hand" as he would wish to. In despair he vows to "wander by the river" (or kill himself?)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1911 (Lomax, North Carolina Booklet, according to Randolph)
KEYWORDS: love poverty river
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE,So)
REFERENCES (16 citations):
Randolph 744, "Pretty Saro" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune); cf. 745, "In Eighteen-Forty-Nine" (2 texts, 2 tune) and the Hudson text cited below
High, p. 11, "A Corting Miss Sarrow" (1 fragment, perhaps this although several lines could be from other songs)
BrownIII 252, "Pretty Saro" (2 texts)
BrownSchinhanV 252, "Pretty Saro" (6 tunes plus text excerpts)
Hudson 48, pp. 164-165, "Pretty Saro" (1 text, beginning with stanzas from "In Eighteen-Forty-Nine" and ending with "Pretty Saro," plus mention of 1 more text)
Browne 9, "Pretty Saro" (2 fragments, 2 tunes; the first text is solely this; the second begins with the first verse of "In Eighteen-Forty-Nine" and continues with a verse of "Pretty Saro")
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 327-328, "Pretty Saro" (2 texts, with local titles "Pretty Saro," "Pretty Sarah"; 2 tunes on p. 443)
Brewster 99, "Pretty Sairey" (1 text)
Stout 85, pp. 106-107, "Pretty Sarah" (1 text)
SharpAp 76, "Pretty Saro" (4 texts, 4 tunes)
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 39, "Pretty Saro" (1 text, 1 tune, with one stanza omitted)
Ritchie-Southern, p. 68, "Pretty Saro" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuson, p. 115, "Lone Valley" (1 text)
Chase, pp. 152-153, "At the Foot of Yonder Mountain" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 148, "Pretty Saro" (1 text)
DT, PRETSARO* YONDRMTN

Roud #417
RECORDINGS:
Horton Barker, "At the Foot of Yonder's Mountain" (on Barker01)
Glen Neaves, "1809" (on Persis1)
Ritchie Family, "Pretty Saro" (on Ritchie03)
Jean Ritchie, "Pretty Saro" (on RitchieWatsonCD1)
Pete Seeger, "Pretty Saro" (on PeteSeeger40)
Cas Wallin, "Pretty Saro" (on OldLove, DarkHoll)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "In Eighteen-Forty-Nine" (floating lyrics, tune)
cf. "If I Were a Fisher" (floating verses)
cf. "Go Away From Me, Willie" (floating verses)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
Pretty Sarah
NOTES [68 words]: This piece seems to break up into two families, "Pretty Saro" (which appears to be more popular) and "At the Foot of Yonder Mountain." In the latter, the woman is "Mary," not "Saro." Broadwood and Gilchrist argued that all this is based on an ancient hymn to the Virgin Mary. If so, that would argue that the "Yonder Mountain" form is older. But we all know how active some folklorists' imaginations are. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.3
File: R744

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2018 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



Here's the Jean Ritchie version:

PRETTY SARO

Down in some lone valley in a lonesome place
Where the wild birds do whistle and their notes do increase,
Farewell, pretty Saro, I bid you adieu,
But I’ll dream of pretty Saro wherever I go.

My love she won’t have me, so I understand,
She wants a freeholder and I have no land;
I cannot maintain her with silver and gold,
Nor buy all the fine things that a big house can hold.

If I were a merchant and could write a fine hand,
I would write my love a letter that she’d understand,
I’d write it by the river where the waters o’erflow,
But I’ll dream of pretty Saro wherever I go.


Copyright 1940 Jean Ritchie
from Jean Ritchie's Swapping Song Book (page 82)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4q8Wrd5IYQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL0ikqy8IYo


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Oct 01 - 08:11 PM

I dunno Jean...Dorothy Scarborough still rings truer for me...(see my remarks on the Songcatcher thread I refreshed earlier today while I was goofing off...)hhhggg


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,Saro
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 12:30 PM

Oddly enough, I came here to find some mp3s on my namesake. I am named Saro after this song. My father grew up in North Carolina and fell in love with this song along with many others. I've heard him sing it to me since I was a little girl, but I was looking for some of the other versions I've heard about and when I saw this page, I thought it might interest you to hear from me. One more thing, just to date this equation, I am a 19 year old college student in Idaho.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 12:41 PM

Saro, do you also know the song, Rock About My Saro Jane? I always think about that one when I talk to a friend from Georgia named Sara Jane.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,saro
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 12:46 PM

i've heard of that song, i have it in a book, but i've never actually heard anyone sing or play it


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 01 Nov 01 - 01:54 PM

Harpgirl,

Not to set this thread adrift too far (and I'm getting tired of saying this on every Songcatcher thread I encounter), but the Songcatcher screenwriter, publicity materials, and movie credits all say that the story was inspired by Olive Dame Campbell. She and Marguerite Butler founded the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1925, naming it for Olive's late husband. Also, as a friend of mine says, "without Olive Campbell, Cecil Sharp would have had just a nice walk in the woods." She gets credit on the title page of "English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians", but not much of the glory. More info (and a picture!) on Olive Campbell on the Folk School's site here.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: Lyr Add: PRETTY SARO
From: GUEST,saro
Date: 02 Nov 01 - 04:26 PM

Mary in Kentucky,

I'm sure you've heard many versions of the song, but I've only heard the one my father sings to me and I've also seen one in an old book that I have that is very similar. My father learned from his dad in the mountains near Asheville and here are the words as we know it, (they're pretty straightforward, I think):

Down in some lone valley, in a far lonesome place
Where the wild birds do whistle and their notes do increase
Farewell my pretty Saro, I'll bid you adieu
And I'll dream of my darling wherever I go.

My love, she won't have me, so I understand
She wants a freeholder and I have no land
I cannot maintain her with silver or gold
Or buy all the fine things that a large house would hold

It's not the long journey; I'm dreading to go
Nor leaving my country for debts that I owe
The one thing that grieves me and troubles my mind
Is leaving my darling, pretty Saro behind

Farewell to my father, and my old mother too.
I'm going to ramble this country all through,
And when I get tired, I'll sit down and weep
And dream of my Saro, pretty Saro my sweet

I wish I were a sparrow and had wings and could fly
This night to her window, I would draw neigh
And in her lily-white arms, all night I would stay
And I'd sing to my darling 'till dawn becomes day

I wish I were a merchant and could write a fine hand
I'd write my love a letter that she'd understand
I'd write it by the river where the waters o'erflow
And I'll dream of my darling wherever I go

Down in some lone valley, in a far lonesome place
Where the wild birds do whistle and their notes do increase
Farewell, my pretty Saro, I bid you adieu
But I'll dream of my darling wherever I go

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 16-Aug-02.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: harpgirl
Date: 02 Nov 01 - 08:29 PM

...lovely version, Guest,saro. I'll bow to the experts regarding Dame Olive but sometimes I give a dissenting opinion just to stimulate conversation, my friends. Dialectics you know .......harpy


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Subject: pretty saro
From: GUEST,guest sarah
Date: 24 Apr 02 - 06:40 PM

has anyone deciphered the lyrics to the last verse of iris dement's recent version from 'Songcatcher' where she sings something like

"far away to my lover's bodzine" ????

thanks


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Apr 02 - 06:46 PM

Lyrics to Iris Dement's version can be found on this page (scroll to the bottom)


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Hrothgar
Date: 24 Apr 02 - 08:12 PM

I just came into this thread, and noticed Joe Offer's posting that suggests a meaning for "wander by the river" might be suicide.

I was talking to Kevin Baker (a fine songwriter down Wollongong way) a few years ago, and he mentioned some social research he had done in the Riverina district of New South Wales. He had come across the expression "walking into the dam" as a euphemism for suicide in the area. This had developed because drowning oeself in a farm dam was a method used in a number of suicides.

Is there any more information on the "wander by the river" expression?


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Apr 02 - 08:28 PM

In an earlier post, it is stated that Scarborough believed that the song is of British origin because of the term freehold. The term is used in United States law as well. In brief, freehold is defined as "a tenure of real property by which an inheritance in fee simple or fee tail of an estate for life is held." Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Greek? Yep. And not quite correct, either.
The "'Lectric Law Library" has a simpler definition: "an interest in land which permits the owner to enjoy possession of real estate during his life without interference from others."
The citizens of Freehold, New Jersey, would be surprised that their area was not a product of freehold.
There is still no evidence that the song has British origins (or that it is exclusively American either).
See: freehold The definition here goes on to give a simple example.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,Wee Willie
Date: 25 Apr 02 - 01:27 PM

Danny Doyle recorded Pretty Saro on an LP in the late 60s or early 70s, this is a beautiful recording. Wee Willie


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Apr 02 - 01:51 PM

Danny Doyle, with Terence Folan, has written the book, "The Golden Sun of Irish Freedom," based on the 1798 Rebellion. It includes the traditional ballads with music and guitar notation. He has several good cds out, but none includes Pretty Saro.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: RolyH
Date: 25 Apr 02 - 02:41 PM

Notes on the song by Alan Lomax from 'The Penguin Book of American Folk Songs'

'This song refers,fleetingly,to the motive which forced many settlers into the wild and rugged mountain country.All avialable good land in the lowland South had been taken up by the time of the American Revolution,and the 'poor white'who wished to better himself had to move on West.This love-sick frontiersman feels 'lonesome';he is not sure that he is wanted or has roots anywhere.This 'lonesome'feeling increasingly pervaded Southern songs,giving rise,ultimately to the 'lonesome blues'of the Negro.'

Sounds a bit like living in Suffolk.(except for the mountains)


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 25 Apr 02 - 05:22 PM

GUEST,Saro, the version you posted is almost exactly the version I have, recorded by Pete Seeger.

This version makes A LOT more sense than most of the others posted, some of which imply that the singer doesn't have land, but he could take care of her with silver and gold!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,Joan Sprung
Date: 26 Apr 02 - 03:55 PM

Since so many lines are similar, there's surely a link between Bunclaudy and Saro. Which came first is a good question. Surely someone can come up with the text; I can't seem to find it. Must be in that safe place I put it in case I wanted it...


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,WeeWillie
Date: 26 Apr 02 - 05:06 PM

Dicho, Danny Doyle DID record Pretty Saro, also on the LP My old Howth gun,John O`Hallrohan, The rising of the Moon, and far and away the best rendering of Mary from Dungloe. At this moment I am having the pleasure of listening to DANNY DOYLE SINGING PRETTY SARO. Wee Willie


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Apr 02 - 05:14 PM

Yep, Doyle did- I said it is not listed now, not that he didn't sing it.
Bunclody seems to be the most common spelling. The version in Mudcat, posted by Stewie under Buncloudy, is in thread 17880: Buncloudy
Another version is at Bunclody


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Apr 02 - 05:19 PM

Capitols? Aargh!
17080: Buncloudy


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 26 Apr 02 - 05:49 PM

Although large parts of both Saro and Bunclody are composed of "floating" verses, the quite close parallel certainly would seem to suggest a connection; both songs being descended from a common ancestor, perhaps. There are some broadside examples of the second half of the 19th century at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads; only one, an issue by Brereton ("The World's Worst Printer") is legible, though, and that barely. However, it's virtually identical to the text given by Colm O Lochlainn in his Irish Street Ballads, which he learned from his father, who would have been around 10 years old when the Brereton sheet was issued.

The maid of Bonclody Printed c.1867 by P. Brereton, 56 Cook Street, Dublin.

Lochlainn's tune for Bunclody doesn't much resemble the best-known Saro tune, but one that does is the melody used by A.P. Graves for his song My Love's an Arbutus. As Bruce Olson pointed out in the thread where that was posted, the tune is from Stanford-Petrie (no. 507), where it is called I rise in the morning with my heart full of woe, or, The Coola Shore. At this point I grasp at a tenous connection; in Sam Henry's Songs of the People, there is a song, If I Were a Fisher, which begins When I rise in the morning, to my garden I'll go... which, like the song that follows it, The Star of Benbradden, is pretty clearly a member of the Saro / Bunclody song-family. I don't think it's only my imagination that detects a kinship between the Fisher tune and that of I rise up, either.

Of course, the floating verses mostly turn up in English songs, too, but given the structure of the text and these apparent tune correspondences, in this case the strongest argument seems to be for placing Saro as an Irish song changed in some, relatively minor, particulars to suit its new life in America.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 27 Apr 02 - 07:24 PM

Dicho reported, concerning "freehold" or ownership in fee simple, that: The "'Lectric Law Library" has a simpler definition (: "an interest in land which permits the owner to enjoy possession of real estate during his life without interference from others."

The "'Lectric Law Library" is wrong. If the definition goes no further than as quoted, it would merely be a "life estate" rather than outright ownership.

"Freehold" or "fee simple" gives the owner all rights, including the right to sell during his life or to dispose by will after death.

Then there's "fee tail", which sounds strange, and we need no bawdy jokes here, but it can be thought of as an relative of the "life estate" I referred to above. In this case, the thought is that the estate in question really belongs to the family or line of succession; it is "entailed". The holder of fee tail may use, lease out, build upon, or whatever during his lifetime, but may not sell the land, and may not will it to anyone else, because it must go to (is entailed to), for example, his oldest son, who then will have the same rights during his life, and it passes on to HIS (for example) oldest son, and so on forever.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Apr 02 - 07:57 PM

Dave, read on in their definition- A lot more is there. My lawyer son is not here so I should have just stopped with the statement that, yes, there is such a thing as freehold in USA law.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Apr 02 - 12:55 PM

I just took your quotation as you gave it. As given, it was wrong.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 29 Apr 02 - 10:21 AM

I've just noticed this thread - I've been after the origins of Pretty Saro for years. I vaguely remember someone once telling me that it was collected in Somerset and this made sense to me as I've interpreted the version I know as fitting in very neatly with the emigrations from Wiltshire and Somerset to Upper Canada in the 1820s and 1830s. Many of these emigrants, whose passage was paid for by the parish were ex soldiers, and their letters home were published at the time in order to encourage other poor people to emigrate. In 'my' version one of the verses is

'I wished I was a poet and could write a fine hand I'd write my love a letter, so she'd understand I'd send it by the islands, where the waters overflow, And I'd think on Pretty Saro, wherever I go.'

Letters out of Upper Canada (like the emigrants who came in) would have been carried thought the St lawrence and through its rapids and the many islands between Quebec, Montreal and Kingston.


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Subject: RE: Info on Pretty Saro?
From: John Minear
Date: 14 Aug 02 - 06:23 PM

Almost a year ago, Harpgirl asked about the origin of Iris Dement's version of "Pretty Saro" that she sings in SONGCATCHER. On both the CD and the website listed above for the lyrics, the song is marked "traditional". And traditional I think it is, but from a rather special tradition. I would suggest this lineage:

1. Iris Dement learned this song from the dialect and song coach for the film SONGCATHER, who happened to be Sheila Kay Adams, the ballad singer from Sodom, North Carolina.

2. Sheila says she learned this song from Cas Wallin, a cousin of hers, also from Sodom. I think she was also influenced by Cas' nephew, Doug Wallin.

3. Doug says he learned his version from his great-aunt, Mary Sands. I would imagine that Cas also either learned his version from Mary Sands or was at least influenced by her version, and that Sheila drew from Sands'(printed) version.

4. Mary Sands sang her version for Cecil Sharp on August 5, 1916, and it appears as No.76, version A, in his book ENGLISH FOLK SONGS FROM THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS, Vol. II, p. 10.

For comparative purposes, I will post these various versions in two more messages.


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