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Omie Wise

[ Roud 447 ; Laws F4 ; Ballad Index LF04 ; OmieWise at Old Songs ; DT OMIEWISE ; trad.]

According to the song’s Digital Tradition lyrics page, in 1808 in Randolph County NC, Johnathan Lewis murdered Naomi Wise, who he had gotten with child and promised to marry. He escaped before conviction.

Shirley Collins sang Omie Wise in 1959 on her first LP, Sweet England. The album’s notes comment:

An American mountain murder ballad of the type derived from English folk song sources.

Dolly Watson sang Omie Wise in a recording made by Ralph Rinzler and Daniel Seeger in September 1964. It was released in 1977 on the Watson Family’s Rounder and Topic albums The Watson Family Tradition.

Pentangle sang Omie Wise in 1971 on their Transatlantic album Reflection.

The Rufus Crisp Experience sang Omie Wise in 1997 on their Fellside album Chickens Are A-Crowing.

Snake Farm sang Omie Wise (You Forget to Answer) in 2011 on their Fledg’ling CD My Halo at Half-Light.

Hasee Ciaccio with Kalia Yeagle sang Omie Wise on the 2017 Appalachian ballad tradition anthology Big Bend Killing.


Shirley Collins sings Omie Wise

I’ll tell you all a story about little Omie Wise,
How she was deluded by John Lewis’s lies.
He promised to marry her at Adams’s springs;
Said he’d bring her some jewels and many other fine things.

So Omie she met him down at Adams’s springs;
And get up behind me Omie, to Squires we’ll go.
She’s got up behind him, so carefree we’ll go,
They rode till they come where the river did flow.

“John Lewis, John Lewis, come tell me your mind,
Now do you mean to marry me or leave me behind?”
“Little Omie, poor Omie, I’ll tell you my mind,
I minded here to drown you and leave you behind.”

He stabbed her till heart, her heart’s blood did flow
Down into the river her body he threw.
Two little boys were fishing just at the break of dawn,
They spied poor little Omie come a-floating along.

They arrested John Lewis, they arrested him today,
They buried little Omie down in the cold clay.
“My name it is John Lewis, my name I’ll never deny,
I murdered little Omie, I’ll never reach the sky.”

“Go hang me, go kill me, for I am that man,
I drownded my true love down by the old mill dam.”
John Lewis was took a prisoner some six months or more,
And then he broke jail into the army he did go.