Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Johnny Sands"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

"Johnny Sands" is an old American folk song that was popular in the 1840’s.  It is believed to have originated in Scotland - perhaps several centuries before it became familiar along the American frontier.  The Scottish version was often called “The Wily Auld Carle” or “The Wife of Kelso.”  It is the story of a scold of a wife who eventually gets her just deserts.

I came across this ballad of the hills in an old issue of the magazine, “Ozarks Mountaineer” (June 1993).   Vance Randolph, the famed Ozarks’ folklorist, recorded a version of the song in 1928 as he traipsed the hills gathering old stories, jokes, and songs.  This ancient ditty, "Johnny Sands," is a true piece of our American heritage.

As you read the words, imagine an aged, gnarled hand playing a handmade dulcimer softly in the background.

Johnny Sands
by Anonymous

A man whose name was Johnny Sands
Had married Betty Hague,
And though she brought him gold and lands,
She proved a terrible plague;
For oh!  She was a scolding wife,
Full of caprice and whim,
He said that he was tired of life,
And she was tired of him,
And she was tired of him,
And she was tired of him.

Says he, “Then I will drown myself –
The river runs below,”
Says she, “Pray do, you silly elf,
I wished it long ago.”
Says he, “Upon the brink I’ll stand,
Do you run down the hill,
And push you in with all your might.”
Says she, “My love I will,”
Says she, “My love I will,”
Says she, “My love I will.”

“For fear that I should courage lack
And try to save my life,
Pray tie my hands behind my back;”
“I will,” replied his wife.
She tied them fast as you may think,
And when securely done,
“Now stand,” she says, “ upon the brink
And I’ll prepare to run,
And I’ll prepare to run,
And I’ll prepare to run.”

And down the hill his loving bride
Now ran with all her force
To push him in – he stepped aside
And she fell in, of course.
Now splashing, dashing like a fish,
“Oh save me Johnny Sands.”
“I can’t my dear, tho’ much I wish,
For you have tied my hands,
For you have tied my hands, 
For you have tied my hands.

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