John Riley


The song "John Riley" was collected by Howard Brockway and Loraine Wyman in the Kentucky Mountains in 1915.

John Riley
Traditional Folk Song

On walking out one summer's morning,
To take the cool and pleasant air,
I spied a fair and most beautiful damsel.
Her cheeks were larks of lily fair.

Then, I went up to her, saying,
"Would you like to be a sailor's wife?"
"Oh, no! Oh no," she quickly answered
"My mind is to live a single life."

I said, "Fair maid, what makes you differ
From all the rest of womankind?
You are too fair, and you are too handsome.
To marry you, I would incline."

"Kind sir, kind sir, I could have married
Some two or three long years ago,
Or to a man whom they call John Riley,
Who was the cause of my overthrow."

"Oh, leave all thinking of John Riley!
Come go with me to some distant shore.
We'll sail over to old Pennsylvania,
Where John Riley lives forevermore."

"I'll not leave all thinking of John Riley,
Nor go with you to some distant shore.
My mind is with him, I cannot forsake him.
Oh, his face I'll never see anymore."

Then, I went up to her sweet kisses,
The kisses I gave her were one, two, and three.
"Oh, I'm the man who they call John Riley.
I just returned to marry thee."

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