Pretty Polly Oliver
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PRETTY POLLY OLIVER. AKA and see "Polly Oliver's Ramble," "Sweet Polly Oliver." English, Air (3/4 time). E Flat Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part. This 17th century air, from Playford’s Dancing Master, is the vehicle for broadside ballads [Roud #367] with several variant sets of lyrics. Walker (1924) mentions it by name as one of the better Playford pieces, “a model of graceful melodic curve.” "Polly Oliver" is one of the better-known songs that tell of women disguising themselves as male sailors or soldiers to follow their men to war. One set of lyrics, as "Sweet Polly Oliver," begins:
As sweet Polly Oliver lay musing in bed,
A sudden strange fancy came into her head.
"Nor father nor mother shall make me false prove,
I'll 'list as a soldier, and follow my love."
So early next morning she softly arose,
And dressed herself up in her dead brother's clothes.
She cut her hair close, and she stained her face brown,
And went for a soldier to fair London Town.
Thomas Root wrote a symphonic band arrangement and Benjamin Britten wrote an arrangement for voice and piano. See also note for P.W. Joyce's "Pretty Polly Like a Trooper did Ride."