The Banks of the Little Eau Pleine

Laws C2

Written by William N. Allen, to the tune “Erin’s Green Shore.” Also sung by M. C. Dean, and collected and printed by Franz Rickaby.

One evening last June as I rambled,
The green woods and valleys among,
The mosquito’s notes were melodious,
And so was the whip-poor-will’s song.
The frogs in the marshes were croaking,
The tree-toads were whistling for rain,
The partridges ’round me were drumming,
On the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.

The sun in the west was declining,
And tinging the treetops with red.
My wandering feet bore me onward.
Not caring whither they led.
I happened to see a young school-ma’am
She mourned in a sorrowful strain
She mourned for a jolly young raftsman
On the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.

Saying, “Alas, my dear Johnny has left me
I’m afraid I shall see him no more
He’s down on the lower Wisconsin;
He’s pulling a fifty-foot oar,
He went off on a fleet with Ross Gamble
And has left me in sorrow and pain;
And ’tis over two months since he started
From the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.”

I stepped up beside this young school-ma’am,
And thus unto her I did say,
“Why is it you’re mourning so sadly
While nature is smiling and gay?”
She said, “It is for a young raftsman
For whom I so sadly complain.
He has left me alone here to wander
On the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.”

“Will you please tell me what kind of clothing
Your jolly young raftsman did wear?
For I also belong to the river,
And perhaps I have seen him somewhere.
If to me you will plainly describe him,
And tell me your young raftsman’s name,
Perhaps I can tell you the reason
He’s not back to the Little Eau Pleine.”

“His pants were made out of two meal-sacks,
With a patch a foot square on each knee.
His shirt and his jacket were dyed with
The bark of a butternut tree.
He wore a large open-faced ticker
With almost a yard of steel chain,
When he went away with Ross Gamble
From the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.

“He wore a red sash round his middle,
With an end hanging down at each side.
His shoes number ten were, of cowhide,
With heels about four inches wide.
His name was Honest John Murphy,
And on it there ne’er was a stain,
And he was as jolly a raftsman
As was e’er on the Little Eau Pleine.

“He was stout and broad-shouldered and manly,
His height was about six feet one.
His hair was inclined to be sandy,
And his whiskers as red as the sun.
His age was somewhere about thirty,
He neither was foolish nor vain.
He loved the bold Wisconsin River
Was the reason he left the Eau Pleine.”

“If John Murphy’s the name of your raftsman
I used to know him very well.
But sad is the tale I must tell you:
Your Johnny was drowned in the Dells.
They buried him ‘neath a scrub Norway,
You will never behold him again,
No stone marks the spot where your raftsman
Sleeps far from the Little Eau Pleine.”

When the school-ma’am heard this information,
She fainted and fell as if dead.
I scooped up a hat-full of water
And poured it on top of her head.
She opened her eyes and looked wildly,
As if she was nearly insane,
And I was afraid she would perish
On the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.

“My curses attend you, Wisconsin!
May your rapids and falls cease to roar.
May every tow-head and sand-bar
Be as dry as a log schoolhouse floor,
May the willows upon all of your islands
Lie down like a field of ripe grain,
For taking my jolly young raftsman
From the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.

“My curses light on you, Ross Gamble,
For taking my Johnny away.
I hope that the ague will seize you,
And shake you down into the clay.
May your lumber go down to the bottom,
And never rise to the surface again.
You had no business taking John Murphy
Away from the Little Eau Pleine.

“Now I will desert my vocation,
I won’t teach district school any more.
I will go to some place where I’ll never
Hear the squeak of a fifty-foot oar.
I will go to some far foreign country,
To England, to France, or to Spain;
But I’ll never forget Johnny Murphy
Nor the banks of the Little Eau Pleine.”

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