“A Prisoner for Life (I - Farewell to Green Fields and Meadows)”


"Farewell (to) green fields and (green) meadows, adieu; Your rocks and your mountains I now part from you." The singer, condemned to (life in) prison, laments all the various things -- nature, friends, whatever springs to mind -- he will be separated from


Ozark folklore credits this to one William Alexander, who on January 21, 1890 was convicted of murder by Isaac Parker (known as the "Hanging Judge"). Originally sentenced to death, this was reduced to life imprisonment, and the story is that Alexander was eventually freed when the dead man turned up alive!

Several scholars have pronounced this story true, or at least possible, but Laws, and others, suspect this piece to be of Irish origin. - RBW


  • Jules Allen, "A Prisoner for Life" (Victor V-40068, 1929)
  • Betty Laferty, "Farewell to Sweet Beaver" (on Crisp01)


  1. Randolph 164, "A Prisoner for Life" (4 texts, 3 tunes, of which the "B," and "D" texts and the "C" excerpt go with this piece; the "A" text is "The Irish Mail Robber" [Laws L15])
  3. Roud #4312
  4. BI, R164


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1919 (J. Lomax - Cowboy Songs)
Found in: US(Ap,So)