“Pretty Polly (I) (Moll Boy's Courtship)”


A married man comes courting Polly. While she is attracted, she cannot wed a married man. He offers to kill his wife; she begs him not to, promising to wait seven years for him. His wife conveniently dies just before the deadline; the two are married

Supplemental text

Pretty Polly (I) (Moll Boy's Courtship) [Laws O14]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

Moll Boy's Courtship

As printed by W. H. Logan, The Pedlar's Pack of Ballads and Songs,
pp. 348-349. Immediate source is not noted.

Noble Sir Arthur a hunting did ride
With his hounds at his feet, and his sword at his side.
As he was a riding by chance he did spy
A charming brown girl, her name was Moll Boy.

O charming Moll Boy, my butler shall be
To draw the red wine betwixt you and me,
I'll make you a lady of highest degree,
If you will but love me my charming Molly.

I'll deck you with ribbons, and many fine things,
I'll cover your fingers with jewels and rings,
Of stain and silk shall your petticoats be,
The pride of my heart, my darling Molly.

I'll have none of your ribbons, nor none of your rings,
Nor none of your jewels, nor of your fine things,
For I have gotten petticoats suits my degree,
I'll ne'er love married man till his wife die.

O lovely Moll Boy, lend me your penknife,
And I will go home and kill my old wife,
I'll kill my old wife and come unto thee,
If you will but love me my charming Molly.

O noble Sir Arthur, you must not do so,
Go home, love your own wife; let no body know,
For seven long years I'll wait upon thee,
But I'll ne'er love a married man till his wife die.

Seven long years were long gone and past,
And the old woman went to her long home at last,
That day she was buried a blythe man was he,
And soon came a courting his charming Molly.

O fairest Moll Boy give me but your hand,
And all I possess shall be yours at command,
For my wife she is buried, I come unto thee,
Say thou wilt love but me my charming Molly.

Oh charming Moll Boy has given consent,
Straightway to the church to be married she went,
Now charming Moll Boy in her coach she doth ride,
With maids to attend her, her man by her side.

It's all ye young women take warning by me,
Never love a married man until his wife die.


According to Stokoe (slightly amplifying Bell), "the Sir Arthur named is no less a personage than Sir Arthur Haslerigg, the Governor of Tynemouth Castle during the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell." Bell seems to be the only source for this assertion.

"Kittredge discusses the use of the cuckoo stanza (number 8 [in the Eddy text]) in Journal 30, PP7 350-j52, i 'Ballads and Songs'" (note from the Digital Tradition). - RBW


  1. Laws O14, "Pretty Polly (Moll Boy's Courtship)"
  2. Stokoe/Reay, pp. 10-11, "Sir Arthur and Charming Mollee" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Eddy 56, "Pretty Polly" (1 text, with one floating verse from "The Cuckoo" and two from "On Top of Old Smokey")
  4. Gardner/Chickering 68, "The Charming Moll Boy" (1 text)
  5. Logan, pp. 348-349, "Moll Boy's Courtship" (1 text)
  6. DT 594, PRETPOL
  7. ST LO14 (Full)
  8. Roud #195
  9. BI, LO14


Alternate titles: “Noble Lord Hawkins”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1861 (Bell)
Found in: US(Ap,MW,SE) Britain(England(North))