“Jack Monroe”, also known as “Jack Munro,” “Jackie Monroe,” “Jack-A-Roe,”
“Jackaroe,” “Jackaro,” “Jackie Frazier,” “Jack the Sailor,” “Jack Went A-Sailing,” “The
Love of Polly and Jack Monroe,” among other titles, is a traditional ballad of uncertain
(though presumably British) origin.
The version “Jack The Sailor” collected in Cecil Sharp’s English Folk Songs From the
Southern Appalachians is frequently cited. Dianne Dugaw’s Warrior Women and Popular
Balladry, 1650-1850 gives a 1934 version of “Jack Monroe” collected in Missouri, and
also notes the existence of a version “on an 1830s Boston broadside in American
Antiquarian Society, un-catalogued Ballads.”
The song is a staple of the folk rock repertoire and has been performed by Joan Baez,
Bob Dylan, and more commonly, The Grateful Dead (as Jack-A-Roe). In 1931, Florence
Reece used this tune for her song “Which Side Are You On? “.
There was a silk merchant
In London town did dwell,
He had one only daughter,
And the truth to you I’ll tell.
Sing lili, lili, O, O lili, lili, O
This young lady she was courted
By men of high degree;
There was none but Jack the sailor
Would ever do for she.
As soon as her waiting-maid
Heard what she did say,
She went unto her father
With her heart content.
Dcar daughter, if this be true
What I have heard of you,
It’s Jackie shall be vanished
And you confined shall be.
This body you may have,
My heart you can’t confine;
There’s none but Jack the sailor
That can have this heart of mine.
Poor Jackie, he’s gone sailing
With trouble on his mind,