Silver Dagger
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John Renfro Davis

This song was collected throughout the United States in the early 1900s. It was discussed in The Journal of American Folklore in 1907 and it appeared in numerous collections thereafter, including collections from Arkansas, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and Indiana. There are several variant tunes. The song is sometimes confused with The Drowsy Sleeper. This version is based on the one sung by Joan Baez and appears to be a fragment of the full ballad.

The five versions in Ozark Folksongs are all the story of lovers who want to wed, but are not allowed by his parents because the woman is too poor. She kills herself with a silver dagger and when he finds her, he picks up the dagger and he, too, kills himself.

Don't sing love songs, you'll wake my mother
She's sleeping here right by my side
And in her right hand a silver dagger,
She says that I can't be your bride.

All men are false, says my mother,
They'll tell you wicked, lovin' lies.
The very next evening, they'll court another,
Leave you alone to pine and sigh.

My daddy is a handsome devil
He's got a chain five miles long,
And on every link a heart does dangle
Of another maid he's loved and wronged.

Go court another tender maiden,
And hope that she will be your wife,
For I've been warned, and I've decided
To sleep alone all of my life.

  • Related ballads at this site:
  • From Ozark Folksongs Volume II
    See Bibliography for full information.
    Also from Steve Roud's Folk Song Index