‘Mrs. Stikeleather also sang it (Pretty Saro) into my dictaphone and contributed it to this collection. She told me that while the date ‘eighteen forty-nine’ is used in some of the versions of the song, ‘seventeen forty-nine’ is more probably correct, as that year witnessed considerable immigration to North Carolina from Ireland, and Scotland, and this old English song was no doubt adapted to its new setting at that time.’ Scarborough later says that the use of the phrase ‘free-holder’ indicates the song is of British origin.
I saw many fair [E] lovers, but never saw [E] mine.
I looked all [A] around me, and found I was [E] alone.
Me a poor [D] stranger, and a long way from [E] home.
Down in some lonesome valley, down in some lonesome place,
Where the wild birds do whistle their notes to increase,
I think of pretty Saro whose waist is so neat
And I know of no better pastime than to be with my sweet.
My love she won’t have me, so I understand
She wants a free-holder, who owns house and land.
I cannot maintain her with silver and gold,
Nor buy all the fine things that a big house can hold.
I wish I was a poet and could write a fine hand.
I would send my love a letter that she could understand.
And I’d send it by a messenger where the waters do flow.
And think of pretty Saro wherever I go.
When I first come to this country in seventeen-forty-nine,
I saw many fair lovers, but never saw mine.
I looked all around me, and found I was alone.
Me a poor stranger, and a long way from home.