DESCRIPTION: "And then came black Phyllis, his charger astride, And took away Annie, his unwilling bride..." The singer sits in the storm and wishes his love Annie would be returned to him. Someone eventually kills Phyllis, but Annie is dead by then
EARLIEST DATE: 1916
KEYWORDS: love death separation abduction disease
FOUND IN: US(Ap)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
JHCox 43, "Black Phyllis" (1 text)
ST JHCox043 (Full)
cf. "Nottamun Town (Nottingham Fair)" (lyrics)
NOTES: Cox's text is only a fragment, unfortunately, of what looks to have once been an excellent ballad, probably of British origin. Indeed, it almost looks like a narrative poem; the lyrical devices are complex.
I wonders, though, if "Phyllis" is not in fact "Syphilis." This would fit in with the mysterious feeling of the song -- and would also explain the connections with "Nottamun Town," which also seems to be the result of plague and hallucination.
Another thought is that "Black Phyllis" might be an error for "Black Annis," a blue-faced, sharp-toothed Leicester hag who ate people, especially disobedient children; she seems to have been used as a cautionary monster. But I know of no Black Annis tales in America.
Seeking for relatives has been an unrewarding process. The closest I've found is in Kinloch's Ballad Book (item #XXII, no title, a fragment of two stanzas) has a piece in the same meter, with equally mysterious lines ("First there cam whipmen, and that not a few, And there cam bonnetmen following the pleugh"), but I don't have any reason except the metre and mystery to link them. - RBW
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