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Origins: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro

JACKIE FRAZIER (Jackie Monroe, Jack the Sailor)

Related threads:
(origins) Versions of 'Which Side Are You On?' (Reece) (42)
Lyr Req: Which Side Are You On -- topical lyrics (8)
Which Side Are You On? - Deacon Blue (3)
Jackaroe - English version? (10)
Lyr Req: Jackaro / Jackaroe / Jack Monroe / Munro (4)
(origins) Origin: Jack the Sailor / Jack Monroe / Jack-a-Roe (4)

GUEST, 30 Oct 01 - 09:52 AM
GUEST,Sorcha 30 Oct 01 - 10:16 AM
masato sakurai 02 Nov 01 - 11:53 PM
masato sakurai 26 Sep 02 - 08:55 PM
michaelr 27 Sep 02 - 02:04 AM
Jim Dixon 30 Nov 10 - 12:50 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 30 Nov 10 - 04:06 PM
GUEST,Hilary 30 Nov 10 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,Julia L 29 Mar 20 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,Julia L 29 Mar 20 - 09:30 PM
GUEST,Saro L-T 06 May 21 - 03:41 PM
GUEST,# 06 May 21 - 04:29 PM
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Subject: 'Lay the Lily Low'
From: GUEST,
Date: 30 Oct 01 - 09:52 AM

Florence Reece is said to have written "Which Side Are You On?" to the tune of "an old Baptist hymn" called "Lay the Lily Low." Can anyone furnish the words to that old hymn?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Lay the Lily Low'
From: GUEST,Sorcha
Date: 30 Oct 01 - 10:16 AM

No lyrics so far, but you can buy the CD here. I'll keep looking.

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Subject: Lyr Add: LILY MUNROE
From: masato sakurai
Date: 02 Nov 01 - 11:53 PM

Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer say "The tune [of "Which Side Are You On?"] is usually said to be an old Baptist hymn, 'Lay the Lily Low,' but the British folklorist, A.L. Lloyd, points out its similarity to that of the British ballad, 'Jack Munro,' which usus 'Lay the Lily Low' as refrain." (Songs of Work and Protest, Dover, 1973, p. 55). Or a version of "Jack Munroe" or "Lily Munroe" may have been used as a hymn tune still unknown to me, from which "Which Side" derives.

"Lily Munroe" is a "Cruel War"-type ballad (see verse 5 especially). The tune of this version has some similarities.


1. There was a waelthy merchant
In London's town did dwell;
He had an only daughter,
The truth to you I'll tell.

Lay the lily O, O lay the lily o!

2. Her sweetheart went a-sailin'
With trouble on his mind,
A-leavin' of his country
And his darlin' love behind. (CHO.)

3. His sweetheart dressed herself all up
In a man's array,
And to the war department
She then did march away. (CHO.)

4. 'Before you come on board, sir,
Your name we'd like to know!'
A smile played over her countenance,
'They call me Lily Munroe.' (CHO.)

5. 'Your waist is slim and slender,
Your fingers they are small,
Your cheeks too red and rosey
To face a cannon ball.' (CHO.)

6. 'My waist, I know, is slender,
My fingers they are small,
But it would not make me tremble
To see ten thousand fall.' (CHO.)

7. The drum began to beat,
The file began to play,
Straightwy to the field of battle
They all did march away. (CHO.)

8. And when the war was ended,
This girl, she searched the ground,
Among the dead and wounded,
Untill her love she found. (CHO.)

9. This couple they got married,
So well they did agree;
This couple they got married,
And why no you and me? (CHO.)

SOURCE: Allan Lomax, The Folk Songs of North America (Doubleday, 1960, pp. 164-165)

The entry in The Traditional Ballad Index is as follows:

Jack Monroe (Jackie Frazer; The Wars of Germany) [Laws N7]

DESCRIPTION: A rich girl loves a soldier/sailor; her father does not, and has the boy pressed to Germany. She disguises herself and enlists under the name (Jackie Monroe). When her lover is wounded, she nurses him. She reveals her identity; they are married
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1818 (Garret, _Merrie Book of Garlands_)
KEYWORDS: love cross-dressing disguise injury medicine marriage
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,SE,So) Britain(Scotland) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (28 citations):
Laws N7, "Jack Monroe (Jackie Frazer; The Wars of Germany)"
Greig #45, pp. 1-2, "Jack Munro" (1 text)
GreigDuncan1 171, "Jack Munro" (8 texts, 6 tunes); GreigDuncan1 172, "Jackie Went A-Sailing" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Belden, pp. 171-177, "Jack Munro" (5 texts)
Randolph 42, "Men's Clothes I Will Put On" (Of Randolph's six texts, only two -- "C", with melody, and "F" -- belong with this piece; "A" and probably "D" are variants of "The Banks of the Nile"; "B" and "E" may be "Banks of the Nile" or "William and Nancy I")
Eddy 35, "Jack Went A-Sailing" (2 texts plus fragments, 3 tunes)
Gardner/Chickering 59, "The Wealthy Merchant" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-Maritime, p. 139, "Jack Munro" (1 text, 1 tune); p. 143, "Johnny's Gone A-Sailing" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownII 99, "Jack Monro" (2 texts plus 1 fragment and 1 excerpt)
BrownSchinhanIV 88, "Jack Munro" (4 excerpts, 4 tunes)
Chappell-FSRA 59, "Jacke Went A-Sailing" (1 text)
Hudson 34, pp. 147-148, "The Wars of Germany" (1 text)
Moore-Southwest 82, "Jackie Frazier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. "203-210, The Silk Merchant's Daughter" (4 texts, which despite Scarborough's title are all this song; local titles are "Jackaroe," "Jacky Freasher," "Jackie Frazier," "Jackie Frazier"; 1 tune on p. 410)
Brewster 37, "Jackie Fraisure" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Peters, p. 152, "Sing Lay the Lily Low" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wyman-Brockway I, p. 38, "Jackaro" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 65, "Jack Went A-Sailing" (20 texts, 20 tunes)
Sharp/Karpeles-80E 32, "Jack Went a-Sailing" (1 text, 1 tune -- a composite version)
Korson-PennLegends, pp. 53-54, "Jackie Frazier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-Singing, pp. 170-172, "Lily Munro" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 82, "Lily Munroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
JHCox 98, "Jackie Fraisure" (3 texts)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood, pp. 30-31, "Across the Rocky Mountain" (1 text, 1 tune -- a rewritten and expanded version by Roscoe Holcomb)
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 82-83, "Jackie's Gone A-Sailing" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 121-123, "Jack Monroe" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: _Sing Out_ magazine, Volume 23, #2 (1974), p, 16, "Lilly Munroe" (1 text, 1 tune, the Uncle Eck Dunford version)

Roud #268
Pearl Jacobus Borusky, "Sing Lay, Sing Lay the Lily Low" (AFS 4172 B, 1940; in AMMEM)
George Davis, "Love of Polly and Jack Monroe" (on GeorgeDavis01)
Sarah Hawkes, "Ho Lilly Ho" (on Persis1)
Roscoe Holcomb, "Across the Rocky Mountain" (on MMOK, MMOKCD)
Doug Wallin, "Jackaro" (on Wallins1)

Bodleian, Harding B 28(152), "Jack Munro," W. Armstrong (Liverpool), 1820-1824; also Harding B 25(934), Harding B 11(392), Johnson Ballads 2086, Harding B 11(1835), "Jack Munro"
cf. "The Jolly Plowboy (Little Plowing Boy; The Simple Plowboy)" [Laws M24]
cf. "Disguised Sailor (The Sailor's Misfortune and Happy Marriage; The Old Miser)" [Laws N6]
cf. "William and Nancy (I) (Lisbon; Men's Clothing I'll Put On I)" [Laws N8]
cf. "The Banks of the Nile (Men's Clothing I'll Put On II)" [Laws N9]
cf. "High Germany ()"
cf. "The Girl Volunteer (The Cruel War Is Raging)" [Laws O33]
cf. "The London Heiress (The Brisk and Lively Lad)"
cf. "The Bonnie Lass o' Benachie" (plot)
cf. "The Chatham Merchant" (theme)
The Bold Munro
Pretty Polly
NOTES: The Cohen/Seeger/Wood version, from Kentuckian Roscoe Holcomb, shares some words with "The Girl I Left Behind." - PJS
The version in Fife and Fife, "Roving Cowboy," at first glance bears no relationship with this piece, since it lacks the ending about the girl rescuing the young man. However, the earlier verses are clearly "Across the Rocky Mountains," which is evidently a version of this song. "Roving Cowboy" has simply lost the ending. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.3
File: LN07

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The Ballad Index Copyright 2014 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Lay the Lily Low'
From: masato sakurai
Date: 26 Sep 02 - 08:55 PM

Sound clip of "Lay the Lily Low" (guitar version) by Charlie Byrd on Mr. Guitar (the album Sorcha linked to above) is HERE (CD Universe).

From Timothy P. Lynch, Strike Songs of the Depression (University Press of Mississippi, 2001, pp. 141-142):

Regarding the hymn used as the model for "Which Side Are You On?," there is some confusion. In her interview in Stanford, "'Which Side Are You On?," 15, Reece related, "I've heard different people's ideas on where I got the tune for 'Which Side Are You On?,' but I think I got it from a hymn called 'I'm Going To Land On That Shore.' The first verse starts out, 'I'm gong to land on that shore / And be saved forever more,' but I don't remember more, and I've looked everywhere." In Kahn, Hillbilly Women, 37, Reece said, "The music to the song is an old hymn. I can't remember what was the hymn, but I've got to look in the songbooks and find out what that was a tune to." In the liner notes to They'll Never Keep Us Down: Women's Coal Mining Songs (Rounder Records 4012, 1984), 4, she gave the tune as "Lay the Lily Low." In Greenway, American Folksongs of Protest, 169-70, the tune is also given as "Lay the Lily Low." However, folklorist Archie Green maintains the tune is most likely related to the broadside ballad "Jackie Frazier." Regardless as to the particular song used as the model, it was a song in the mountian tradition familiar to the people.

"Jackie Frazier (Jackie Monroe, Jack the Sailor)" is in the DT, and in the Max Hunter Collection (Click here). It is the model for Bob Dylan's "Jack-a-Roe". There're few similarities in melody.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Lay the Lily Low'
From: michaelr
Date: 27 Sep 02 - 02:04 AM

Can we assume that "Jackaro" or "Jack-a-Row" (as I know it from the playing of Jerry Garcia) is a corruption of "Jack Monroe"?


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Subject: Lyr Add: JACK MUNRO
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Nov 10 - 12:50 PM

From The Kentish Garland, Volume 2 edited by Julia H. L. De Vaynes (Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons, 1882), page 628+.


Jack Munro

The exploits of female warriors furnished a favourite topic for ballad-mongers, the predominance being given to the adventures of nautically-disposed damsels, who followed the fortunes of their lovers, like Billy Taylor's sweetheart, the Female Tar, or the heroine of New York Streets, and others of a like description. In the introduction to the ballad of The Female Warrior (Bagford Ballads, pp. 323-325, edited by J. Woodfall Ebsworth, M.A.), he mentions the following ballads on women-soldiers, beside the ever-popular Mary Ambree: The famous Woman Drummer (Roxb. Coll., III. 234), Couragious Betty of Chick Lane (Ibid., II. 92), and The Woman Warrior (Wit and Mirth; or Pills to Purge Melancholy, iii. 88, 1707; v. 8, 1719), which last he quotes entire. To this list of female notables will be added Pitts's 'slip song' heroines of The Female Drum-Major (="Come, listen to my story"), and Polly Oliver's Ramble (="As pretty Polly Oliver lay musing in her bed"): both of which he is to give from earlier broadsides in his Roxburghe Ballads. Most collections of lives of singular characters, give well-authenticated biographies of female soldiers, sailors, and marines. James Grant remarks that

To attest recruits at once, without the many formalities of medical inspections and so forth, was common in those days [he is treating of the period before Minden] and for long after. Had it been otherwise, the public would not have been favoured with the memoirs of Phoebe Hassel, who served seven years in H.M. 5th Foot, or of Mrs. Christian Davis, another woman who served in all the battles of Marlborough, as a trooper in the Scots Greys, who had her head fractured by the splinter of a shell at Ramilies, and who enjoyed a pension of one shilling per diem till she died, and was buried with military honours in the grounds belonging to Chelsea Hospital.—[Second to None, single vol. ed., p. 38.)

Mr. Grant gives as his authority in a foot-note the Records of the Scots Greys, pages 49-51, and states that Phoebe Hassel ["Hessel" she is styled in her epitaph,] served in the West Indies, and at Gibraltar. The inscription on her tomb in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Brighton, further informs us that she fought in 1745 under the Duke of Cumberland at Fontenoy, where she received a bayonet-wound in her arm. She was born at Stepney in 1713, and died at Brighton on December 12, 1821. We have so few reports of good actions from the same source that it is worthy of remark that George IV (who pronounced her "A jolly old fellow,") allowed her half-a-guinea a week, and had offered to double the amount, which she refused, saying half that sum was sufficient to maintain her. An interesting account of this remarkable woman, and a copy of her epitaph, appeared in the Leisure Hour, December 8th, 1877. Our Kentish heroine, the pseudo-Jack Munro, was as valorous as Mary Ambree herself, and the rapidity of her promotion from full private to the rank of major was only a just tribute to her merits.

[British Museum Garland of New Songs, 11621, a. 3, art. 45.]


In Chatham town there liv'd a worthy merchant man,
He had an only daughter, as you shall understand;
This lady she was courted by many a noble knight,
But there's none but Jack the sailor could gain her heart's delight.
Could gain, &c.

Her waiting-maid standing by, unto her father went,
And told him the whole secret, his daughter's whole intent.
He call'd on his daughter with pride and disdain,
Saying, "Good-morrow, Mrs. Frazer!" this was her true love's name.

"Is this the news, my daughter, that I have heard of thee?
Young Jack he shall be pressed, and you confined be!"
"It's here is my body, you may it then confine,
But there's none but Jack the sailor can gain this heart of mine!"

"It's here is twenty guineas, I give it to thee
If that you'll press young Jack to the wars of Germany."
Jack is on board, with a sore and troubled mind,
For the leaving of his country, and his darling close confin'd.

"As Jack has gone on board, him no more will I see.
I will wed at your disposal, if you will set me free."
It's now she's set at liberty, dress'd in man's array,
Looking for an officer to carry her away.

"Your name we must have, sir, before on board you go?"
"That you shall have quickly, it is Jack Munro."
This lady's gone on board with a sore and troubled mind,
To land on French Flanders, it is her whole design.

Now she's landed over, reviewed for to be;
Standing in the ranks her own true love she did see:
She stepped up unto him, and thus to him did say,
"By the features of your face an Englishman you be.

"If that you are willing, whatever shall betide,
I'll be your loving comrade, and lie down by your side."
The drums did beat, and the trumpets did sound,
Unto the field of battle they were called along.

She fought on with valour, she fought courageously,
Till a bullet from the French caused her darling down to lie;
She fought on with valour, she fought courageously,
Till two privates and officer that day by her side did die.

The officers took notice, and unto her did say,
"For the valour you have shewn preferred you shall be,
A major's commission on you we'll bestow,
And you may push your fortune, brave Jack Munro."

Looking through the wounded men, her own true love did see;
She says, "My loving comrade, they have preferred me,
A major's commission on me they will bestow,
The doctor that can cure you shall be paid by bold Munro.

She called for a minister, and bade them step aside,
And she would call them up again when that she woo'd her bride,
"It's I'll not be groom, but groom's man I'll be,
For I never will be married till my Molly I do see."

She stripped down her snow-white breasts some private mark to show,
Saying, "Jack, won't you marry me, it's dear Jack don't you know?"
The drums did beat and the trumpets did sound,
And home to Old England they were all call'd along.

It's now they're landed over, the people went to see,
Saying, "Yonder comes the heroes from the wars of Germany."
As they were walking up street her father she did know,
Saying, "Good old merchant, will you list with Munro?"

"I have no time to tarry, I have no time to talk,
But I do not like that vagabond that by your side doth walk."
It's out bespoke her mother, "I had a daughter fair,
There's not a feature in your face but does resemble her."

It's now they are got married, and she lies by his side,
The officers and privates begrudge Jack of his bride;
When the queen she heard of this, she laughed heartily,
Saying, "Here is five hundred guineas I'll give it to this lady!"

Newcastle upon Tyne: Printed by J. Marshall, in the Old Flesh-Market.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 30 Nov 10 - 04:06 PM

A copy in the Bodleian Collection is dated between 1774 and 1825 (Harding B25(934), Angus, Printer.
Anoyther printing is dated 1816-....)

The last line in all copies- "Saying, "Here is fifty guineas....."

Charlie Byrd plays an instrumental, "Lay the Lily Low," which seems to have no relation to the tune wanted here.

Florence Reece sings a line or two of "Lay the Lily Low", Digital Library of Appalachia, but not identifiable as to any tune.

It is questionable as to whether the 'old hymn' (not seen) tune has anything in common with the tune used by Florence Reece for "Which Side Are You On."

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro
From: GUEST,Hilary
Date: 30 Nov 10 - 04:10 PM


"Jackaroe" is indeed another version of this song. It has the same story line. I know that Joan Baez also sings it.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 29 Mar 20 - 09:23 PM

Just adding a Maine version for the record

Carrie Grover Gorham, ME 10/30/1941
Eloise Linscott Collection, Library of Congress
Transcription © 2013 Julia Lane

Oh Jack has gone a roving with troubles on his mind
For the leaving of his country and his darling girl behind

Oh lay, my lily, oh lay my lily-oh

She went into a tailor shop and dressed in man’s array
And she went on board of a man-o-war to wear her life away

Then up steps the old man and unto her did say
Oh you look just lIke my daughter who has lately run away

Oh I am not your daughter and neither do I know
For my home is in the highlands and they call me Jack Monroe

And when the battle was over, she took a circle round
And among the dead and wounded her darling boy she found

She took him in her arms and she carried him to the town
And she sent for London doctors to heal his bleeding wounds

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Subject: RE: Origins: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro
From: GUEST,Julia L
Date: 29 Mar 20 - 09:30 PM

And another from Virginia

Ho Lilly Ho / Jack Went A-Sailing / Jack Munro / Jackie's Gone A-sailing / The Wars of Germany / Jackie Frazer / Jack Monroe (Roud No. 268) -
Sung by Mrs. Victoria Morris of Mount Fair, Albermarle County, Virginia. Recorded by Maud Karpeles on September, 1950.

Jack he went a-sailing
With a weak and troubled mind
To leave his native country
And his darling girl behind

Chorus: Row my lily o
My darling you don't know
(Oh) row my lily o
My darling you don't know

She dressed herself in a man's array
And apparel she put on
And to the field of battle
She marched the men along '

Your cheeks are red and rosy
Your fingers neat and small
Your waist too slim and slender
To face the cannon ball'

'My cheeks are red and rosy
My fingers neat and small
But I would not change my countenance
To see ten thousand fall'

The battle being ended
She rode the circle round
And through the dead and dying
Her darling boy she found

She picked him up all in her arms
She carried him down to town
She sent for a London doctor
To heal his bleeding wound

This couple they got married
So well they did agree
This couple they got married
And why not you and me?

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Subject: RE: Origins: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro
From: GUEST,Saro L-T
Date: 06 May 21 - 03:41 PM

I'm beginning to think that there may be no such Baptist hymn called "Lay the Lily Low" and some folklorist back in the day got their wires crossed and somehow conflated the Jack Munroe ballad with a supposed hymn. In this 1978 recording, Florence Reece talks about getting the tune for the song from "I'm Going to Land on That Shore"- many versions of which are still sung today.
Listen here:

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Subject: RE: Origins: Lay the Lily Low / Jack Munro
From: GUEST,#
Date: 06 May 21 - 04:29 PM

An opinion column from Oscar Brand in the NYT:

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