On Top of Old Smokey: About the Song

The roots of “On Top of Old Smokey,” aka “On Top of Old Smoky,” stretch across the Atlantic Ocean to England, perhaps as long ago as the 16th century. Its branches include many other folk songs with similar lyrical stanzas and tunes. A lonesome love song, it has frequently been sung high in the Appalachian Mountains for courting.


On top of Old Smokey
All covered with snow
I lost my true lover
By a-courtin’ too slow

Well a-courting’s a pleasure
And parting is grief
But a false-hearted lover
Is worse than a thief

A thief he will rob you
And take all you have
But a false-hearted lover
Will send you to your grave

And the grave will decay you
And turn you to dust
Not one girl in a hundred
A poor boy can trust

They’ll hug you and kiss you
And tell you more lies
Than the crossties on the railroad
Or the stars in the skies

They’ll tell you they love you
Just to give your heart ease
But the minute your back’s turned
They’ll court whom they please

I’ll go up on Smokey
On the mountain so high
Where the wild birds and the turtle doves
Can hear my sad cry

As sure as the dewdrops
Fall on the green corn
Last night she was with me
Tonight she is gone