The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #15769   Message #3694885
Posted By: Lighter
17-Mar-15 - 04:33 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Flora Lily of the West
Subject: RE: Origins: Flora Lily of the West
Here is a NYC broadsheet "copyright 1860." It appears to be the oldest text that can be dated with certainty. The indicated tune is "Caroline of Edinburg-Town" :

I just came down to Louisville some pleasure for to find,
A handsome girl from Michigan, so pleasing to my mind.
Her rosy cheeks and rolling eyes, like arrows, pierced my breast,—
They call her handsome Mary - the Lily of the West.

I courted her for many a day, her love I thought to gain,
Too soon, too soon she slighted me: which caused me grief and pain.
She robbed me of my liberty - deprived me of my rest;
They call her handsome Mary - the Lily of the West.

One evening, as I rambled down by yon shady grove,
I met a Lord of high degree conversing with my love.
He sang, he sang so merrily, whilst I was sore oppressed,
He sang for handsome Mary - the Lily of the West!

I rushed up to my rival, a dagger in my hand.
I tore him from my true love, and boldly bade him stand;
Being mad with desperation, my dagger pierced his breast,
I was betrayed by Mary - the Lily of the West!

Now my trial has come on, and sentenced soon I'll be
They put me in the criminal box, and there convicted me.
She so deceived the Jury, so modestly did dress,
She far outshine [sic] bright Venus - the Lily of the West.

Since then I've gained my liberty, I'll rove the country through.
I'll travel the city over to find my loved one true;
Although she stole my liberty, and deprived me of my rest,
Still I love my Mary, the Lily of the West.

An English broadside in Bodleian is dated to between 1855 and 1858. Instead of "Lexington," it takes place in "England" (far more likely for the presence of a "lord of high degree"). "Michigan" is naturally absent. These versions say explicitly that a "flaw in the indictment" set the narrator free. He becomes a vagabond, and Flora, who "swore [his] life away, still "disturbs [his] rest" - as well she might. He determines to "ramble for" her. Nowadays that would make him a dangerous stalker.

The text published by Taylor of Waterloo Road gives the author's name as "George Brown."