LILY OF THE WEST
“Lily of the West” is a traditional American folk song about a man who travels to
Louisville and falls in love with a young girl named Flora, the eponymous Lily of the
West. He catches Flora being unfaithful to him, and, in a fit of rage, stabs the man she is
with, and is subsequently imprisoned. In spite of this, he finds himself still in love with
Flora. The song is often interpreted as a metaphor for the Irish experience in America.
Some versions of the song, notably the cover by The Chieftains, end with the man being
released and traveling across the Atlantic to “ramble through old Ireland/And travel
Scotland o’er”. Despite leaving America, he finds that he is still in love and mentally
fixated on Flora.
When first I came to Louisville, some pleasure there to find
A damsel there from Lexington was pleasing to my mind
Her rosy cheeks, her ruby lips, like arrows pierced my breast
And the name she bore was Flora, the lily of the west.
I courted lovely Flora some pleasure for to find
But she turned unto another man whose sore distressed my mind
She robbed me of my liberty, deprived me of my rest
Then go, my lovely Flora, the lily of the west.
Away down in yonder shady grove, a man of high degree
Conversin’ with my Flora there, it seemed so strange to me
And the answer that she gave to him it sore did me oppress
I was betrayed by Flora, the lily of the west.
I stepped up my rival, dagger in my hand
I seized him by the collar, and boldly made him stand
Seeing mad by desperation I pierced him to the breast
All this for lovely Flora, the lily of the west.
I had to stand my trial, I had to make my plea
They placed me in the witness box and then commenced on me
Although she swore my life away, deprived me of my rest
Still I love my faithless Flora, the Lily of the west.