PRETTY SARO

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • PRETTY SARO
    “Pretty Saro” is an old Appalachian folk song originating from possibly North Carolina
    or Virginia. The singer loves Pretty Saro, but she shows no interest in him: “She wants a
    freeholder and I have no land.” Nor can he write her a letter “in a fine hand” as he would
    wish to. In despair he vows to “wander by the river” (or kill himself?). This song seems to
    break up into two families, “Pretty Saro” (which appears to be more popular) and “At the
    Foot of Yonder Mountain.” In the latter, the woman is “Mary,” not “Saro.” It has been
    argued between folk archivists that all this is based on an ancient hymn to the Virgin
    Mary.
    When I first come to this country in eighteen and forty nine
    I saw many fair lovers, but I never saw mine
    I viewéd all around me, I found I was quite alone
    And me a poor stranger and a long way from home
    My true love she won’t have me and this I understand
    She wants a freeholder and I’ve got no land
    But I could maintain her on silver and gold
    And as many of the fine things as my love’s house could hold
    Fare you well to old father. Fare you well to mother too.
    I’m going for to ramble this wide world all through
    And when I get weary, I’ll sit down and cry
    And I’ll think of Pretty Saro, my darling, my dear.
    Well I wish I was a poet, could write some fine hand
    I would write my love a letter that she might understand.
    I’d send it by the waters where the islands overflow
    And I’d think of my darling wherever she’d go.
    Way down in some lonesome valley. Way down in some lonesome grove
    Where the small birds does whistle, their notes to increase
    My love she is slender, both proper and neat
    And I wouldn’t have no better pastimes than to be with my sweet.
    Well I wish I was a turtle dove, had wings and could fly
    Just now to my love’s lodging tonight I’d draw nigh
    And in her lily-white arms I’d lie there all night
    And I’d watch the little windows for the dawning of day.
    Well I strolled through the mountains, I strolled through the vale
    I strolled to forget her, but it was all in vain.
    On the banks of Ocoee, on the mount of said brow
    Where I once loved her dearly and I don’t hate her now.