Black is the Color

Traditional | Roud 3103, Ballad Index LxU016

Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair
Their face is something wondrous fair
The purest eyes and the daintiest hands
I love the ground on which she stands

I love my love and well they know
I’ll follow them where e’re they goe
I’ll write them a letter containing these lines
I’ll suffer death a thousand times

I’ll go to troublesome to mourn to weep
But satisfied I ne’er can keep
If they on Earth no more would stay
My life would quickly fade away

The winter’s past and the leaves are green
The time has past that we have seen
But still I hope a time will come
When you and I will be as one

Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair
Their face is something wondrous fair
The purest eyes and the daintiest hands
I love the ground on which they stands
I love the ground on which they stands

Lyrics published in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1917)

But black is the color of my true love’s hair
His face is like some rosy fair;
The pretteist face and the neatest hands
I love the ground whereon he stands

I love my love and well he knows
I love the ground whereon he goes.
If you no more on earth I see,
I can’t serve you as you have me

The winter’s passed and the leaves are green,
The time is passed that we have seen,
But still I hope the time will come
When you and I shall be as one.

I go to the Clyde for to mourn and weep,
But satisfied I never could sleep.
I’ll write to you in a few short lines,
I’ll suffer death ten thousand times.

So fare you well, my own true love,
The time has passed, but I wish you well;
But still I hope the time will come
When you and I will be as one.

I love my love and well he knows,
I love the ground whereon he goes;
The prettiest face, the neatest hands,
I love the ground whereon he stands.

Featured On:
In the Moment

• Recordings I Learned From Or Like •



About the Song:

“Black is the Color” was first collected by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles on September 15th, 1916 from Lizzie Roberts in Hot Springs, Madison County, North Carolina and published the following year in their book English Folksongs From the Southern Appalachians. Shortly after this, the song was learned by the Kentucky-born composer and folksong collector John Jacob Niles (best known for his song “I Wonder As I Wander”), who gave it a new melody.

“‘Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair’…was composed between 1916 and 1921. I had come home from eastern Kentucky, singing this song to an entirely different tune–a tune not unlike the public-domain material employed even today. My father liked the lyrics, but thought the tune was downright terrible. So I wrote myself a new tune, ending it in a nice modal manner. My composition has since been ‘discovered’ by many an aspiring folk-singer.”

Niles’s melody seems to surpased the original in popularity. My recording also uses the newer melody. From Niles on his new melody:

Believed by Alan Lomax to be of Scottish origin as a line from Sharp’s first collection talks about the Scottish River Clyde.