“Mary of the Wild Moor”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1839 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads fol. 27)
Keywords: death father children family hardheartedness grief
Found in: US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So) Britain(England) Canada(Mar,Newf,Ont)


Abandoned Mary comes with her child to her father's door on a bitter winter night. Her father fails to hear or ignores her cries, leaving her all night on the doorstep. In the morning he finds her body. He dies of grief and the child of neglect

Supplemental text

Mary of the Wild Moor [Laws P21]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From "The Dime Song Book #2" (1860), p. 28.

It was on one cold winter's night,
  As the wind blew across the wild moor,
When Mary came wandering home with her babe,
  'Till she came to her own father's door;
"Oh father! dear father!" she cried,
  "Come down and open the door,
Or the child in my arms will perish and die
  By the wind that blows across the wild moor.

"Oh, why dud I leave this dear spot,
  Where once I was happy and free?
But now doomed to roam, without friends or home
  And no one to take pity on me!"
The old man was deaf to her cries,
  Not a sound of her voice reached his ear,
But the watchdog did howl, and the village bell toll'd,
And the wind blew across the wild moor.

But how must the old man have felt,
  When he came to the door in the morn! --
Poor Mary was dead, but the child was alive,
  Closely pressed in its dead mother's arms.
Half frantic he tore his gray hair,
  And the tears down his cheeks they did pour,
Saying, "This cold winter's night, she perished and died
  B the winds that blew across the wild moor."

The old man in grief pined away,
  And the child to its mother went soon,
And no on, they say, has lived there to this day, --
  And the cottage to ruin has gone.
The villagers point out the spot,
  Where the willow droops over the door,
Saying, "There Mary died, once a gay village bride,
  By the wind that blows across the wild moor."


Quoted by Laura Ingalls Wilder in chapter 14 of _By the Shores of Silver Lake_. She does not repeat the sad ending, of course. - RBW

Broadside LOCSinging sb30333b: H. De Marsans dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Same tune

Cross references




  1. Laws P21, "Mary of the Wild Moor"
  2. Belden, pp. 207-208, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text plus references to 5 more)
  3. Randolph 72, "The Wild Moor" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 107-108, "The Wild Moor" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 72A)
  5. Eddy 88, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. BrownII 78, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text)
  7. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 335-336, "The Wind That Blew O'er the Wild Moor" (1 text, with local title "Poor Mary"; tune on p. 448)
  8. Brewster 45, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text)
  9. Leach, pp. 733-734, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text)
  10. Leach-Labrador 62, "Mary Across the Wild Moor" (1 text)
  11. Mackenzie 61, "The Village Pride" (1 text)
  12. McNeil-SFB1, pp. 132-134, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Sandburg, p. 466, "When Mary Came Wandering Home" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  14. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 548-549, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. LPound-ABS, 35, pp. 81-82, "Mary o' the Wild Moor" (1 text)
  16. JHCox 148, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text plus mention of 3 more)
  17. JHCoxIIA, #27, p. 103, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  18. DSB2, p. 28, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (1 text)
  19. cf. Gardner/Chickering, p. 481, "Mary of the Wild Moor" (source notes only)
  21. ST LP21 (Full)
  22. Roud #155
  23. BI, LP21