Lily of the West
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Barry Taylor

Lily, the unfaithful lover has appeared in English street ballads (broadside ballads) for more than 100 years. The tune is similar to Lakes of Pontchartrain.

Although this version of the ballad is identified with the American West, Rev. S. Baring-Gould collected versions of Lily of the West in Devonshire, Yorkshire and elsewhere. Baring-Gould felt the ballad was of definite Irish origin (though it may not have been sung to a similar air) and traced it back to at least 1839. The lyrics in Sam Henry's Songs of the People are an Irish version which begins; "When first I came to Ireland..."

Another theory of it's origin traces it back to the West of Ireland during the time of Cromwell.

When first I came to Louisville,
Some pleasure there to find
A damsel there from Lexington
Was pleasing to my mind
Her rosy cheeks, her ruby lips
Like arrows pierced my breast.
The name she bore was Flora
The Lily of the West.

I courted lovely Flora
And to her I was so kind,
But she went to another man
It nearly wrecked my mind.
She robbed me of my freedom,
Deprived me of my rest
Betrayed was I by Flora,
The Lily of the West.

He met her in a shady grove,
This man of high degree
I saw him kiss my Flora
And it sure did things to me.
She told me he was just a friend,
But still I was depressed,
Betrayed was I by Flora,
The Lily of the West.

I stepped up to my rival,
With my dagger in my hand
I seized him by the collar,
it's not hard to understand,
That, blinded by my jealousy,
I pierced him in the breast.
Betrayed was I by Flora,
The Lily of the West.

The trial was held, I made my plea
But 'twas of no avail,
Now I await the hangman
In a stinkin' rotten jail.
But though I give my all away
And though my life is messed,
I love my faithless Flora,
The Lily of the West.
Words from Golden Encyclopedia of Folk Music
See Bibliography for full information.