Come all you young fellows that follow the gun
I’ll have you not go out by the light of the sun
For young Jimma was a fowler and a-fowling all alone
When he shot his own true love in the room of a swan
Then it’s home went young Jimma with his dog and his gun
Saying uncle dear uncle do you see what I’ve done
Oh cursed be that old gunsmith who made me my gun
For I’ve been and shot me true love in the room of a swan
Then out came his uncle with his locks hanging grey
Saying Jimma dear Jimma don’t you run away
And don’t you leave your own country till your trial it come on
For you never will be hanged for the shooting of a swan
All the girls in this country they’re all glad we know
For to see pretty Polly and lying so low
Oh you could pile them into a mountain you could line them all in a row
And her beauty would shine among them like a fountain of snow
Now the trial it came on and pretty Polly did appear
Saying uncle dear uncle let Jimma go clear
For with me apron thrown over me he took me for a swan
And his own love lay bleeding for it was Polly his own
This version is largely from Martin Carthy (and why not). However, MC calls our male protagonist ‘Jimmy’, whilst Norfolk farm worker and singer, Harry Cox, who recorded the song in 1959, aged 74, called the young man Jimma; I decided to follow the venerable Mr Cox.
There are immensely detailed notes on this song, in all its several versions and with all its several titles, here.
One of those other versions is called Molly Bawn. ‘Bawn’ is obviously an anglisisation of the Irish word ‘bán’ (pronounced ‘bawn’), meaning ‘white’ or ‘pale’. I mention this because, although I haven’t seen a version of the song called ‘Molly Bán’, there is a really nice reel of that name.