Handsome Molly

Handsome Molly
Like many traditional songs, the origins of Handsome Molly are undocumented and difficult to trace. Musicologists have traced similarities with traditional Irish ballads from "Farewell Ballymoney" family of songs including "Irish Girl", "Lovely Molly", "Loving Hannah", "Dark-Eyed Molly", and "Going to Mass Last Sunday." Other's argue that its orgins are from the Scottish Traditions. Clearly is it in the celtic traditions.

My first introduction to this song was a live performance by Pendragon, a folk band in the celtic traditions located in Cumberland RI. Ken Lyon sings a wonderful rendition of this song which leaves an indelible impression in its simple beauty. The song is a popular ballad with many known artists having recorded it including: Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Tim O'Brien, Doc Watson, Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs and quite interestingly, Mick Jagger.

Handsome Molly is a courting ballad. It is a story of love, deceit and abandonment. Molly promises her love and with a fickle heart turns her attention to a new love interest. Our balladier observes her betrayal and wishes to run and hide by sailing the world around. He imagines on his voyage, he can dream of his beloved Molly as though she awaits his return from the sea. In this way, he can avoid the heartbreak of her loss.

Well I wish was in London
Or some other seaport town
I'd set my foot in a steamboat
And sail the ocean round


I'd sail around the ocean
I'd sail around the sea
I'd think of Handsome Molly
Wherever she may be

Her hair was black as a Raven's
Her eyes bright as coal
Her teeth shown like lilies
Out in the morning cold

Now don't you remember Molly
When you gave me your right hand
You said if you ever married
That I would be your man

I rode to church last Sunday
As she passed me on by
I knew her mind was changin'
By the rovin' of her eye

Now you've broke your promise
Go home with whom you please
While my poor heart is aching
You're lyin' at your ease

Repeat Refrain

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