“Pretty Saro”


The singer loves Pretty Saro, but she shows no interest in him: "She wants a freeholder and I have no land." Nor can he write her a letter "in a fine hand" as he would wish to. In despair he vows to "wander by the river" (or kill himself?)


This piece seems to break up into two families, "Pretty Saro" (which appears to be more popular) and "At the Foot of Yonder Mountain." In the latter, the woman is "Mary," not "Saro." Broadwood and Gilchrist argued that all this is based on an ancient hymn to the Virgin Mary. If so, that would argue that the "Yonder Mountain" form is older. But we all know how active some folklorists' imaginations are. - RBW

Cross references


  • Horton Barker, "At the Foot of Yonder's Mountain" (on Barker01)
  • Glen Neaves, "1809" (on Persis1)
  • Ritchie Family, "Pretty Saro" (on Ritchie03)
  • Jean Ritchie, "Pretty Saro" (on RitchieWatsonCD1)
  • Pete Seeger, "Pretty Saro" (on PeteSeeger40)
  • Cas Wallin, "Pretty Saro" (on OldLove)


  1. Randolph 744, "Pretty Saro" (1 text plus a fragment, 1 tune); cf. 745, "In Eighteen-Forty-Nine" (2 texts, 2 tune) and the Hudson text cited below
  2. BrownIII 252, "Pretty Saro" (2 texts)
  3. Hudson 48, pp. 164-165, "Pretty Saro" (1 text, beginning with stanzas from "In Eighteen-Forty-Nine" and ending with "Pretty Saro," plus mention of 1 more text)
  4. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 327-328, "Pretty Saro" (2 texts, with local titles "Pretty Saro," "Pretty Sarah"; 2 tunes on p. 443)
  5. Brewster 99, "Pretty Sairey" (1 text)
  6. SharpAp 76, "Pretty Saro" (4 texts, 4 tunes)
  7. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 39, "Pretty Saro" (1 text, 1 tune, with one stanza omitted)
  8. Ritchie-Southern, p. 68, "Pretty Saro" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Fuson, p. 115, "Lone Valley" (1 text)
  10. Chase, pp. 152-153, "At the Foot of Yonder Mountain" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Silber-FSWB, p. 148, "Pretty Saro" (1 text)
  13. Roud #417
  14. BI, R744


Alternate titles: “Pretty Sarah”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1911 (Lomax, North Carolina Booklet)
Keywords: love poverty river
Found in: US(Ap,SE,So)