Polly Vaughn
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John Renfro Davis

This tune appears in Jamieson's The Scots Musical Museum (1787-1802) as Peggy Bawn. The words, without music appear in "Vocal Companion" dated around 1772.

Variants and alternate titles include At the Setting of the Sun, The Shooting of His Dear, Young Molly Ban (Ireland), Molly Banding (United States), Molly Bawn (Australia), and Molly Bond (Canada).

There is a completely different version of Peggy Bawn at this site.

Cecil Sharp identified the changing of the woman to swan with Celtic mythology. In some versions Polly is a hind rather than a swan.

The most famous instance of swan changing in Celtic mythology is that of the Children of Lir. Lir was the father of the sea god Manannan. His first wife had four children. Lir's second wife, Aoife was jealous of the children and ordered her servants to kill them.

The servants refused and so Aoife transformed the children into white swans and laid a curse on them. They would spend three hundred years on the waters of Lake Derryvargah, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle (between Scotland and Ireland) and three hundred on the Atlantic by Erris and Inishglory. Only then, and when a "woman of the South mated with a man of the North"would the curse end. Although swans the children still had the gift of speech and music.

On Erris Bay they were befriended by a hermit who taught them of Christianity. Deoca, the princes of Munster (in the North) became betrothed to Lairgnen, of Connacht (in the South). Deoca asked for the four singing swans as a wedding gift. Lairgnen seized the swans and when they arrived they were transformed back into human beings. As they died the hermit baptized them and they ascended to heaven.*

So come all you bold sportsmen
That carry a gun
For I will have you go home
By the light of the sun
For young Jimmy was a-fowling,
Was a-fowling alone
When he shot his own true-love
In the room of a swan.

So then first he went to her,
And found it was she
He was shaking and tremb-e-ling,
His eyes scarce could see
So now you are dead, love,
And your sorrows are o'er
Fare thee well, my dear Polly,
I shall see you no more.

Then home went young Jimmer
With his dog and his gun
Saying: Uncle, dear Uncle,
Have you heard what I've done?
Cur-sed be this old gunsmith
That made me this gun
For I've shot my own true-love
In the form of a swan.

Then out came bold Uncle
With his locks hanging gray
Saying, Jimmer, dear Jimmer,
Don't you run away
Don't you leave your own count-e-rie
Til the trail comes on
For you ne'er shall be hanged
For the crime you has done.

Now the trial came on and
Pretty Polly appeared
Saying, Uncle, dear Uncle,
Let Jimmy go clear
For my apron was wrapped round me
When he took me for a swan
And his poor heart lay bleeding
For Polly his own.
Related Links
From Folksongs of Britain and Ireland
See Bibliography for full information.
And Bruce Olsen's Roots of Folk Website
*An Illustrated Guide to Celtic Mythology
T. W. Rolleston
Crescent Books, New York, 1995.