The Girl I Left behind Me
For some account of the range of this favorite song of soldiers
and sailors — and others — both in the old country and in America,
both in print and in oral tradition, see BSM 198; and add to the
references there given Connecticut (FSONE 79-80, a dance song),
Virginia (FSV 127-8), North Carolina (FSRA 137-9), the Ozarks
(OFS I 283-8, III 352-4, the latter as play-party songs), Indiana
(Wolford 46, play-party), Michigan (BSSM 98-100), Iowa
(MAFLS XXIX 48), and Wisconsin (JAFL lii 35-40, from Ken-
tucky). Sometimes it is known as 'Peggy Walker,' even (in our
collection) as 'The Tennessee Girl.' While it is always referable
to the same original song (least clearly in the Iowa version listed
above), it is surprising to note its infinite variety in detail. This
is apparent in the North Carolina texts here given.
'The Girl I Left Behind.' Secured for L. W. Anderson by Irene Meek-
ins from Mrs. H. G. Haywood of Colington, Dare county. Date not
I My parents reared me tenderly, they had no child but me.
My mind was bent on rambling, but with them I could not
Until I became a rover bold; it grieved their hearts full
I left my aged parents that I never shall see any more.
OLDER BALLADS MOSTLY BRITISH 379
There was a wealthy gentleman living in that part ;
He had one only daughter dear, and I had won her heart.
She was noble-minded, tall, and true, so beautiful and fair,
With Columbus^ fairest daughters she surely could
I told her my intentions was soon to cross the main.
I asked her if she would prove true until I returned again.
She threw her arms around my neck, she. Oh, so gently
'Fear not,' said she, 'for, brave youth, my love can never
'I had a dream the other night which I cannot believe;
It's distance breaks the links of love and leaves fair maids
I pressed a kiss upon her lips, I told her, 'Never fear.'
I vowed by him who rules the sky that I would be sincere.
According to agreements I went on board my ship
And to the town of Galveston I made a pleasant trip.
There I found gold was plentiful and the maidens somewhat
Of course the gold destroyed my love for the girl I left
It was handsome Jenny Wilkins first took me by the hand ;
Says she, 'I've gold a-plenty, and love, you will find.
The gold I possess is yours, and I will constant prove ;
But your parents dear and other friends that you have
Don't never, if you marry me, bear them into your mind.*
To this I soon consented, and I owned it to my shame ;
For how can a man be happy when he knows he is to
'Tis true I've gold in plenty and my wife is somewhat kind,
But my pillow is often haunted by the girl I left behind.
My mother in the winding sheet, my father too appears,
The girl I love stands by their side to wipe away their
They all died broken-hearted ; but it is now too late ; I find
That God has seen my cruelty to the girl I left behind.
The Maid I Left Behind.' From Mrs. Charles K. Tillett of Wanchese,
Roanoke Island. Fairly close to A, yet with numerous minor differences.
^ Should probably be "Columbia's."
380 NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE
1 My parents raised me tenderly; they had no child but me.
And I, being bent on rambling, with them could not agree.
2 So I became a rover soon, which grieved their hearts full
I left my aged parents I never shall see no more.
3 There was a wealthy gentleman who lived within this part.
He had a loving daughter fair, and I had gained her heart.
4 And she was noble-minded, too, most beautiful and fair,
And with dumblus^ daughter she surely would compare.
5 I went unto my true love, I told her my sad tale ;
With aching hearts and broken sighs we both did weep and
6 I told her my intention was quite soon to cross the main.
Says I, 'Will you prove faithful, love, till I return again?'
7 The drops of tears came in her eyes, her bosom held a
'Dear you,' said she, 'fear not for me ; my love can never
8 'Tho,' said the maid, 'I had a dream, which I cannot
That distance breaks the link of love and leaves the maid
9 I pressed a kiss upon her cheek, saying, 'Love, have no
And swore by him who rules the skies that I would prove
10 'Well, go,' said she, 'my prayers shall be for health and
May heaven grant you safe return to the maid you left
11 According to the agreement then I got on board the ship
And to the town of Glasgow first made a pleasant trip.
12 I found that gold was plenty there, the girls were free and
My love began to cool a bit for the girl I left behind.
13 For Rumford's town we next set sail, to" that hospitable
Where handsome Jinnie came on board and took me by the
* See the corresponding place in A.
OLDER H A I, I. A U S M S T L Y H K I T I S H 381
14 Says she, 'I've gold a-plenty, fine houses and rich land.
If you'll consent to marry me, shall he at your command.'
15 With her of course I soon agreed, I'll own it in my shame;
For what man is contented when he knows himself to
16 'Tis true I've gold a-plenty, my wife is somewhat kind.
My ])illow haunted every nigJit hy the maid 1 left behind.
17 My mother is in her winding sheet, my father t()[o|
appear [s] ;
The girl 1 loved sets by their side a-kissing of| f | the tears.
18 With broken hearts they all have died; and now too late
That God has seen my cruelty to the girl I left behind.
No title. Obtained from James York of Olin, Iredell county, in August
1939. Here the story has changed ; he resists the allurements of the
new girl with all her gold, and returns to his first love.
I I asked that girl to remember me as I crossed over the
She said she would remember me till I returned again.
W^e two shook hands and parted ; for Missouri I was bound.
I reached that dear old country ; I rambled round and
I found money and work a-plenty, the people were all kind.
But the girl I left behind was the object of my mind.
3 At length I hired to a merchant. A stranger he was to me.
He had a loving daughter fell deep in love with me.
One day when we were talking, she says, 'Young man.
don't cry ;
For I have money a-plenty to serve both you and I.
4 'If you'll consent to marry me and roam this world no
Your pockets shall be filled with gold and your silver have
'I can't consent to marry you, for I would be to blame ;
For the girl I left behind me would laugh at me for shame.'
5 One day I was in the city a-standing on the square.
The mail boy he came riding up while I was standing there.
382 NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE
The postmaster handed me a letter which gave me to
That the girl I left behind me had married another man.
6 I threw myself around and around and knew not what to do,
But I kept reading farther down, and found it was not true.
Card-playing I'll give over, dram-drinking I'll resign.
And I'll return back home again to the girl I left behind.
'Maggie Walker.' Reported by Professor Abrams, Boone, Watauga
county; he does not say from whom. The story is like that of C except
that the girl he left behind him does marry another man. The second
girl is Maggie Walker; the places are different, all being in the United
States. After he parts from the wealthy farmer's daughter the story
6 Then I became a roamer, strange faces oft to see.
Till I met Miss Maggie Walker, who fell in love with me.
7 Said : 'If you'll consent to marry me and say you'll roam
Your pockets shall be lined with silver, and labor you'll
8 'No, Maggie, I can't marry you, for I should be to blame ;
For all of my connection would look on me with shame.
9 'For I loved a girl in Tennessee, and she's engaged to ine.'
10 Oh, when I left Missouri, for the Salt Lake I was bound.
I got [to] Salt Lake City and viewed the city all around.
11 Labor and money was plenty and the girls to me proved
But the only object of my heart was the girl I'd left behind.
12 While roving around one evening down at the public
The mail-coach being arriven, I met the driver there.
13 He handed me a letter which gave me to understand
That the girl I loved in Tennessee had married another
14 I read on down a little further till I found that this was
I turned all around and about there and didn't know what
OLDER BALLADS — MOSTLY BRITISH 383
15 My horses I'll turn over, your company I'll resign,
And I'll rove around from town to town for the girl I left
'The Girl I Left Behind.' Written down by Fannie Grogan for Mrs.
Julia Grogan of Zionville, Watauga county, in 1922. Essentially the
same version as D, with some corruptions apparently due to mishearing.
'The Girl I Left Behind.' From the collection of Miss Edith B. Fish
of White Rock, Madison county. She sent this text to C. Alphonso
Smith in 1913. The tune accompanying it is as sung by Miss Fannie
Grogan, June 22, 1927. Similar to D but with Irish coloring.
1 When I became a rover it grieved my heart most sore
To leave my aged parents, to never see them more.
2 My parents did treat me tenderly; they had no child but
But my mind was bent on roving ; with them I couldn't
3 There was a noble gentleman in yonder town drew nigh,
He had one only daughter ; on her I cast my eye.
4 She was young and tall and handsome, most beautiful and
There wasn't a girl in that whole town with her I could
5 I told her my intention ; it was to cross the main.
It's 'Love, will you prove unfaithful till I return again?'
6 She said she would prove faithful till death did prove
We kissed, shook hands, and parted ; I left my girl behind.
7 It's when I left old Ireland, to Scotland I was bound.
I'll march from Zion to me^ to view the country round.
8 The girls were fair and plenty there, and all to me proved
But the dearest object of my heart was the girl I left
9 I walked out one evening, all down the George's Square;
The mailcoach ship had just arose, when the postboy met
* So the manuscript seems to read. The editor has no suggestion to
384 NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE
10 He handed me a letter, which gave me to understand
That the girl I left behind me had wedded to another man.
1 1 I advanced a little further ; I found the news was true.
I turned myself all round about, I knew not what to do.
12 I'll serve my trade, I'll give my woe,- bad company I'll
I'll rove around from town to town for the girl I left
'The Tennessee Girl.' This, like the D text, is from Professor Abranis
at Boone, sent in in October 1937. He does not say from whom he had
it. The text is a compound ; the first six stanzas are a form of 'The
Girl I Left Behind Me' that leaves out entirely the episode of the
second girl ; the last five constitute a version of 'Bill Stafford,' sometimes
called 'The Arkansas Traveler,' and will be given under that title.
The first six stanzas run :
1 My parents treated me tenderly, they had no child but me.
Since father's been out roving he and I couldn't agree,
And I left my aged parents, and them I never shall see,
2 There was a wealthy farmer who lived very close by.
He had a handsome daughter on whom I cast an eye.
She was so long and slender, so handsome and so fair,
There's never been a girl in this wide world with her I
3 I asked her if it made any dififerenqe if I crossed over the
She says, 'It makes no difiference, if you'll return again.'
So we shook hands and parted, and I left my girl behind
4 So when I left old Tennessee, for the Salt Lake City I'se
When I got to the Salt Lake I viewed that city around.
Labor and money was plentiful, the girls proved to me
But the only object of my heart was the girl I left behind.
5 So I went out one morning, all on the public square.
The mail car being just around, I met the driver there.
He handed me a letter that gave me to understand
That the girl I left in Tennessee had married another man.
6 I read on down a little farther to see if it was true.
I turned all around and about there like I didn't know what
' So the manuscript. I cannot guess the meaning.
I'll turn my mules and wagon, this company I'll resign;
I'll travel all around from town to town for the girl I left
And then, without any indication of a break, follows
My name it is Bill Stravage ....
The Girl I Left Behind
'The Maid I Left Behind.' Sung by C. K. Tillett. Recorded at Wanchese,
Roanoke Island; no date given. Our version has only half of the stanza as
given in BSSM 98-100. Mentioned by Malcolm Laws, Jr., as one among nu-
merous songs, many of which have been traced to British broadsides.
For melodic relationship cf. ***FSRA I37-
Scale: Mode IH, plagal. Tonal Center: f. Structure: abed (2,2,2,2). Circu-
lar Tune (V).
'The Girl I Left Behind.' Miss Fannie Grogan. Recorded as ms score at
Zionville, Watauga county, in 1922. The text is identical with that of SharpK
II 62, No. 96A.
For melodic relationship cf. *SharpK ii 62, No. 96 A, measures 1-2.
Scale: Mode III, plagal. Tonal Center: f. Structure: aaiba2 (2,2,2,2) =
Reprisenbar. Circular Tune (III).
'The Girl I Left Behind.' Sung by Miss Fannie Grogan. Recorded at White
Rock, Madison county, June 22, 1927. The musical score and comments per-
taining to it are the same as for the preceding version.