Poison (Folk Song)


 Charlie was a fiddle player, the best there was around
He and his fiancee were at the picnic ground
Charlie and his band would play the dance that summer night
But deep inside his heart he felt that something wasn’t right

His sister said, “You better keep an eye upon your girl
Rumor has it she’s been giving someone else a whirl.”
So Charlie had decided to spy on his bride-to-be
But never was he prepared to see what he would see

Her love was poison
Her love was poison
She ran around with other boys and
Her love was poison 

He spotted her behind the bar in another’s hands 
The man he saw was Earl who played guitar in Charlie’s band 
Blood red sunset fell upon the couple’s dark embrace
And cast a long and desperate shadow over Charlie’s face

When that night he took the stage
Sadness mixed with jealous rage
Charlie gazed upon the crowd
Raised his voice, clear and loud 
What I fear has come to pass
In his hand a poison glass 
He swallowed it underneath the moon
And said, “I’m playing my farewell tune.” 


As the last note died away, the fiddler did the same
They put him in an old pine box
With nails they sealed his fame
The summer sun in poison soon made his body swell
The casket nearly burst apart
And put forth quite a smell 

A green fly swarmed around and followed Charlie all the way
To the little meadow where forever he would lay 
And dream of fiddles, fiancees, and that fateful night
When Charlie played his farewell tune
Beneath the pale moonlight 

My informant is from the Republic, Missouri, where he comes from an enormous family of “Ozark Hillbillies” (as they refer to themselves) for generations. His entire extended family lives in the area, and together make up three separate family folk bands (and one huge family folk band, when they get together.) The family’s musical inclinations have gone back for generations. The bands are currently made up of my informant and his cousins, all generally between 20 and 50, and each of their parents had been in the bands before that. As they have children, they join the bands too (My informant has a six-year-old daughter who performs with the family from time to time.)

This song is from my informant’s family, and it has been passed down for at least three generations.  It is supposedly based on a true story of a family member from years past. In the YouTube clip included, it is being played by my informant’s cousin’s band, but everyone in the entire extended family knows it, and they sing it whenever they’re together in any group.