Introduced by Martin Graebe

I heard this first as ‘Polly Von,’ sung by Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s, but that is an interpretation of a traditional song with many titles. Though widely found in England and Ireland, Roud lists more variants in the USA than from anywhere else.

This lovely version was collected by Sabine Baring-Gould from mine-worker Samuel Fone, of Mary Tavy, in 1893. Fone was his most prolific singer and a man who specialised in beautiful tunes, some learned from navvies he had worked with. I have ‘repaired’ verse 2. You can see the manuscript entry here.

Listen to Martin and Shan Graebe sing “The Setting of the Sun,” from their album Dusty Diamonds, Wildgoose Records, WGS359CD, 2008:

"Setting of the Sun" sheet music
Click here to download a PDF of the sheet music.

Sung by Samuel Fone, Mary Tavy, 12 July 1893


Come all you young fellows that carry a gun
Beware of late shooting when daylight is done
For it’s little you reckon what hazards you run
I shot my own love at the setting of the sun.
In a shower of rain as my darling did run
All under the bushes a shower to shun
Her apron ‘bout her neck I took her for a swan
I shot the only maid I loved at the setting of the sun.

I’ll fly from my country I nowhere find rest
I shot my own true love as a bird on her nest
Oh curse that old gunsmith that made that old gun
I shot my own true love at the setting of the sun.
In a shower, etc.

O it’s son, dearest son, don’t you run away
Don’t leave your own country until the trial day
Don’t leave your own country till the trial is done
For shooting your own love at the setting of the sun.
In a shower, etc.

On a night to her uncle the fair maid appeared
Saying, ‘Uncle, dear uncle, of me be not afeard
With my apron ‘bout my neck in the rain I did run
He shot me as a swan at the setting of the sun.
In a shower, etc.

Martin Graebe is a researcher and writer and is best known for his study of the life and work of Sabine Baring-Gould. His book As I Walked Out: Sabine Baring-Gould and the Search for the Folk Songs of Devon and Cornwall (Signal Books, 2017) has received both the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award and the R. G Hoskins Prize. He and his wife, Shan, perform traditional songs together with a particular focus on the songs of Southern England.