A traditional folk song, once known throughout England, Ireland and Scotland, with a history spanning hundreds of years. The song deals with a young man (usually named Willy) and his lover (Polly) lamenting over the his conscription to fight in Germany, High Germany referring to the southern, mountainous part of the country. He attempts to convince her to dress like a man and join him in the war. Polly professes her love, but declares she is not fit for war. Willy attempts to persuade her to change her mind, stating that he will buy her a horse to ride, and that they will eventually wed. Polly still refuses and laments that her man has been drafted away from her. The historical setting of the ballad is most likely either the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), or the Seven Years War (1756-1763)
“Oh Polly love, oh Polly, the rout has now begun,
And we must go a-marching to the beating of the drum.
Go dress yourself all in your best and come along with me;
I'll take you to the war, my love, in High Germany.”
“Oh Willy love, oh Willy, come list what I do say,
My feet they are so tender, I cannot march away.
And besides, my dearest Willy, I am with child by thee,
Not fitted for the war, my love, in High Germany.”
“I'll buy for you a horse, my love, and on it you shall ride
And all my delight shall be a-riding by your side.
We'll stop at every alehouse and drink when we are dry,
We'll be true to one another, get married by and by.”
Oh, cursed be them cruel wars that ever they should rise
And out of Merry England press many a man likewise.
They pressed my true love from me, likewise my brothers three,
And sent them to the war, my love, in High Germany.
My friends I do not value nor my foes I do not fear,
Now my love has left me I wander far and near.
And when my baby it is born and a-smiling on my knee
I'll think on lovely Willy in High Germany.