The Lakes of Pontchartrain
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Barry Taylor

There is another version (a variant) of the tune Lily of the West

The Golden Encyclopedia of Folk Music states it was an "English street ballad about 100 years ago."

According to Ready for the Storm, the album by Deanta, this is a "traditional Creole love song, which is commonly mistaken as being of Irish origin."

It is also recorded on the Planxty album, Cold Blow and the Rainy Night. The information on that album states that the tune was probably brought back from British and French soldiers fighting in Louisiana and Canada in the War of 1812.

However, the origin of the tune, both geographically and chronologically is debated. The reference to railroad cars makes the 1812 date unlikely. Alternate titles include The Creole Girl, On the Lake of the Poncho Plains and Ponchartrain.

Ponchartrain Lakes are five miles north of New Orleans. According to Sam Henry the lakes "are a constant menace to New Orleans, their waters having to be kept away by great earthen dykes. The land there is so waterlogged that no celler can be built and all tombs are above ground."*

'Twas on one bright March morning
I bid New Orleans adieu.
And I took the road to Jackson town,
my fortune to renew,
I cursed all foreign money,
no credit could I gain,
Which filled my heart with longing for
the lakes of Pontchartrain.

I stepped on board a railroad car,
beneath the morning sun,
I road the roads till evening,
and I laid me down again,
All strangers there no friends to me,
till a dark girl towards me came,
And I fell in love with a Creole girl,
by the lakes of Pontchartrain.

I said, "My pretty Creole girl,
my money here's no good,
But if it weren't for the alligators,
I'd sleep out in the wood".
"You're welcome here kind stranger,
our house is very plain.
But we never turn a stranger out,
From the lakes of Pontchartrain."

She took me into her mammy's house,
and treated me quite well,
The hair upon her shoulder
in jet black ringlets fell.
To try and paint her beauty,
I'm sure 'twould be in vain,
So handsome was my Creole girl,
By the lakes of Pontchartrain.

I asked her if she'd marry me,
she said it could never be,
For she had got another,
and he was far at sea.
She said that she would wait for him
and true she would remain.
Till he returned for his Creole girl,
By the lakes of Pontchartrain.

So fare thee well my Creole girl,
I never will see you no more,
But I'll ne'er forget your kindness
in the cottage by the shore.
And at each social gathering
a flowing glass I'll raise,
And I'll drink a health to my Creole girl,
And the lakes of Pontchartrain.

From Ready for the Storm by Deanta
Green Linnet Records, 1994
Information from *Songs of the People
See Bibliography for full information.