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This tune is credited to both Canada and America, with a Canadian origin more likely. According to The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs it may have originated in Ontario before spreading throughout the Maritimes and the Northern U.S. It also states the tune is based on an older unidentified English ballad. The Lomaxes' American Ballads and Folk Songs states this is a fragment of a longer Canadian ballad about the death of a young lumberjack.
It appears in Laws' Native American Balladry, which states that the tune appeared as early as 1886 in Maine.
The Blantyre Explosion, which relates the tale of the Oct 22, 1877 explosion in a mine near Glasgow that killed more than 200, is closely related to this tune.
All alone as I strayed by the banks of the river
Watching the moonbeams as evening drew nigh
All alone as I rambled, I spied a fair damsel
Weeping and wailing with many a sigh.
Weeping for one who is now lying lowly
Mourning for one who no mortal can save
As the foaming dark water flow gently about him
Onward they speed over young Jimmy's grave.
She cries, "Oh, my darling, please come to me quickly
And give me fond kisses that oft-times you gave
You promised to meet me this evening, my darling
So now, lovely Jimmy, arise from your grave."
Slowly he rose from the dark, stormy waters
A vision of beauty more fair than the sun
Saying "I have returned from the regions of glory
To be in your dear loving arms once again."
"Oh, Jimmy, why can't you tarry here with me
Not leave me alone, so distracted in pain."
"Since death is the dagger that's cut us asunder
Wide is the gulf, love, between you and I."
"One fond embrace, love, and then I must leave you
One loving farewell, and then we must part."
Cold were the arms that encircled about her
Cold was the body she pressed to her heart.
Slowly he rose from the banks of the river
Up to the heavens he then seemed to go
Leaving this fair maiden, weeping and mourning
Alone on the banks of the river below.
|Lyrics from The Mudcat Cafe|