Wicked Polly [Laws H6]

DESCRIPTION: Polly lives a frolicsome life, saying, "I'll turn to God when I grow old." Suddenly taken ill, she realizes "'Alas, alas! my days are spent; It is too late for to repent.'" She dies in agony and is presumably sent to hell; young people are advised to heed
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1924 (Beckwith)
KEYWORDS: disease death Hell warning
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MW,SE,So) West Indies(Jamaica)
REFERENCES (24 citations):
Laws H6, "Wicked Polly"
Belden, pp. 460-464, "The Wicked Girl" (3 texts plus a fragment possibly of this ballad)
Randolph 596, "Wicked Polly" (5 texts, 2 tunes)
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 416-417, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 596A)
Eddy 140, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Flanders/Olney, pp. 21-23, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHCox 136, "Wicked Polly" (1 text)
BrownIII 62, "The Wicked Girl" (3 texts plus mention of 1 more)
BrownSchinhanV 62, "The Wicked Girl" (2 tunes plus text excerpts)
Moore-Southwest 112, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-1ed, pp. 110-111, "The Wicked Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-2ed, p. 167, "The Wicked Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Chappell-FSRA 115, "Sold In Hell" (1 text)
Morris, #91, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Shellans, p. 95, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brewster 66, "Wicked Polly" (1 text)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 569-570, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 35, "Wicked Polly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood, p. 86, "I'll Tell You What I Saw Last Night" (1 text, 1 tune)
LPound-ABS, 47, pp. 111-112, "Wicked Polly"; pp. 113-114, "Wicked Polly" (2 texts)
DT 646, WICKDPOL* WICKDPL2*
ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), p. 160 (1 fragment, no title)
Martha W Beckwith, "The English Ballad in Jamaica: a Note Upon the Origin of the Ballad Form" in _Publications of the Modern Language Association_ [PMLA], Vol. XXXIXI, No. 2 (Jun 1924 (available online by JSTOR)), #7 pp. 477-478, "The Wurlean Woman" (1 text)
Richard M. Dorson, _Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States_, University of Chicago Press, 1964, pp. 407-408, "Young People Who Delight in Sin" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #505
RECORDINGS:
New Lost City Ramblers, "I'll Tell You What I Saw Last Night" (on NLCR05)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Dying Boy" (plot)
cf. "A Poor Sinner" (plot)
cf. "Death is a Melancholy Call" [Laws H5] (theme)
cf. "The Lost Soul" (theme)
cf. "While I Was Still of Tender Years" (theme)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Unfortunate Girl
Awful, Oh, How Awful
Young People Hark
A Sad Parting
NOTES: The girl's name in this version [Cohen/Seeger/Wood] is not Polly but Mary. -PJS
In Songs the Whalemen Sang, pp. 306-308, Huntington prints a piece called "Terrible Polly." Neither he nor I can decide if it's an adaption of this song or not, so I decided to list it here in these notes.
Barry wrote a study of this piece and "Death is a Melancholy Call," treating them as variants (male and female, presumably) of the same piece. The moral is of course the same, and they use the same metrical form -- but I can't see any actual dependence in the lyrics. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: LH06

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