The Red River Valley

Original Text: 
Carl Sandburg, The American Songbag (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1927): 130-31. M 162 A657 1927 Music Library
2We will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile,
3For they say you are taking the sunshine
4That brightens our pathway awhile.
5       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
6       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
7       But remember the Red River Valley
8       And the girl that has loved you so true.
9For a long time I have been waiting
10For those dear words you never would say,
11But at last all my fond hopes have vanished,
12For they say you are going away.
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
13Won't you think of the valley you're leaving?
14Oh how lonely, how sad it will be.
15Oh think of the fond heart you're breaking,
16And the grief you are causing me to see?
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
17From this valley they say you are going;
18When you go, may your darling go too?
19Would you leave her behind unprotected
20When she loves no other but you?
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
21I have promised you, darling, that never
22Will a word from my lips cause you pain;
23And my life, -- it will be yours forever
24If you only will love me again.
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
25Must the past with its joys be blighted
26By the future of sorrow and pain,
27And the vows that was spoken be slighted?
28Don't you think you can love me again?
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
29As you go to your home by the ocean,
30May you never forget those sweet hours,
31That we spent in Red River Valley,
32And the love we exchanged 'mid the flowers.
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
33There never could be such a longing
34In the heart of a pure maiden's breast,
35That dwells in the heart you are breaking
36As I wait in my home in the West.
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.
37And the dark maiden's prayer for her lover
38To the Spirit that rules over the world;
39May his pathway be ever in sunshine,
40Is the prayer of the Red River girl.
       Come and sit by my side if you love me,
       Do not hasten to bid me adieu,
       But remember the Red River Valley
       And the girl that has loved you so true.

Notes

1] According to Carl Sandburg, this song originated as "In the Bright Mohawk Valley" (1896) and became "The Red River Valley" in the western United States and Canada. H. F. P., the arranger of the song in The American Songbag, describes this version as being "from Gilbert R. Combs as he heard it on Pine Mountain. Three final stanzas are added from the R. W. Gordon collection" (130). However, the maiden of the final three stanzas is "dark" (and thus has a native heritage). Canadian folk-lorist Edith Fowke shows "that it was known in at least five Canadian provinces before 1896, and was probably composed during the Red River Rebellion of 1870." The "dark maiden" may, then, be Metis. See The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs, ed. Edith Fowke (Markham, Ont: Penguin Books Canada, 1986): 206 (M 1678 P45 Music Library).

The Red River of the North flows north from North Datoka through Fargo and Grand Forks into Manitoba, Canada, where it continues northwards through Winnipeg and then empties into Lake Winnipeg. This great river passes through farm land and regularly floods in the spring. This editor remembers singing this version -- without the final two stanzas -- with his father at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Winnipeg in the early 1950s, when it was a great favourite.

For an audio file with a performance of this song, see the Max Hunter Folk Song Collection, ed. Dr. Michael F. Murray (Southwest Missouri State University Department of Music and Springfield-Greene County Library). The singer is Doris Viene in Springfield, Missouri on June 30, 1958. Back to Line

RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001.