"On top of old Smokey, All covered with snow, I lost my true lover, From courting too slow." The singer laments (her) lover's infidelity, saying that a "false-hearted lover is worse than a thief." (She) claims one cannot trust one in a thousand
The relationship between this song and "The Wagoner's Lad" is problematic. The two are occasionally listed as one song (e.g. by Leach, Scarborough, and implicitly by Shellans; also, at least in part, by Roud); indeed, this was done in early versions of this Index. This was done under the influence of the Lomaxes, who classify the songs together.
Further study, however, seems to show that almost all versions which have common material are derived from the Lomaxes, and the minor exceptions are usually fragments of floating verses. The plots of the two songs are different, their tunes are distinct, and there does not seem to have been any overlap in ordinary versions. It would appear that the identification of the two is purely the result of the sort of editorial work the Lomaxes so often committed.
Due to this inconsistency, it is suggested that the reader check all versions of both songs, as well as both sets of cross-references, to find all related materials.
It also appears that certain key lines, beginning "A meeting's a pleasure, a parting's a grief, And an (unconstant young man) is worse than a thief," predate this song, as they appear in several British texts which otherwise bear little resemblance to "Old Smokey." For the moment, these British Isles variations are filed under "The Blackbird and Thrush," at least until I find a more authoritative source.
Another interesting question: Does this song refer to the Great Smoky Mountains, which run along the North Carolina/Tennessee border? This seems reasonable based on the geographical distribution. The flip side is, the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome, 6643 feet/2025 meters, the highest point in Tennessee. My information is that it is not snow-covered in summer; it is low enough and far enough south that the snow melts every year. Hardly anyone lives near Clingman's Dome, but if it's the highest point in the Smokys, what are the odds of year-round snow on some other peak in the range? Of course, the song could have taken place in winter, when there is snow in the Smokys, but it seems an odd way of identifying the place. - RBW