Lily of Arkansas

(Traditional; arr. copyright Bob Coltman)
side 1, Band 3 .

Dave: guitar
Cathy: hammered dulcimer

Bob Coltman, of South Chelmsford, Mass., sang this song for us during our first trip to New England with Ed Trickett. Bob said he found the words in Ozark Country by Otto E. Rayburn (Duell, Sloane & Pearce, New York, 1941) and put them to the tune of "Walking in the Way With Jesus," recorded by West Virginia fiddler and singer Blind Alfred Reed, who can be heard on Rounder 1001. Rayburn's informant told him that "The Lily of Arkansas" was popular all over the Missouri "Laplands" - the border region in the Ozarks where some say Arkansas "laps over" into Missouri, or vice versa.

Vance Randolph includes it in Ozark Folksongs (Missouri State Historical Society, 1946) with a melody different from the one we learned from Bob. Randolph says the song is derived from the British ballad "The Lowlands of Holland" and prints a second variant. We further confuse the song's lineage by adding two verses from Randolph's second version to the first. (DP)

My father built the boat,
The ship that sailed the sea,
With four and twenty good sailor lads
To keep him company.

The wind and the waves kept a-beatin'
While sailin' on the sea;
Lie low, the Lily of Arkansas
Has parted you and me.

I fear my love's been drownded,
I fear my love's been slain;
I fear my love's been drownded
On his way to France and Spain.

There's girls enough in Texas
And I know there's one for me,
While my own dear and lonely one
Is far away from me.

Neither will I marry,
I all tell you the reason why:
I love the girl who once loved me,
I all love her till I die.

My father built a bonny ship,
A ship that sailed the sea;
I only have the one true love,
He's far away from me.

. © 1986, Folk Legacy Records, Inc.