Bright Sunny South

A young man in
the Georgia infantry 1862

There are several versions of this haunting ballad around and I sing a variation of the one recorded by Dock Boggs for Folkways in 1963.

"Bright Sunny South" is usually associated with the civil war and the Confederacy. However, many variants have been collected and recorded from all parts of the eastern United States as far north as the Catskills. At least one collected version refers to a war in "foreign" lands. The words could apply to any war, after all, one folklorist, Norman Cazden in The Abelard Folk Song Book (1958), argues for an Irish rather than southern American origin.

I wonder if "Bright Sunny South" acquired its title and southern associations from tune "Sweet Sunny South", which is melodically similar but has none of the poignant departing soldier theme. Most of the great old time banjo players like Uncle Dave Macon always sang bright and cheerful songs. Dock Boggs, on the other hand understood the blues, both in the literal sense that he played blues music on the banjo and that he also tended to the darker, sadder ballads like this one with the ironic name.


In the bright sunny south in peace and content,
The days of my boyhood I scarcely have spent,
From the deep flowing springs to the broad flowing stream
Ever dear to my memory, and sweet in my dreams.

I have left the enjoyments and comforts of life,
For the dangers of bloodshed division and strife,
I counted up my losses, I've pledged my own word,
I've shouldered my rifle and buckled my sword.

My father looked sad as he begged me to part,
And my mother embraced me with anguish of heart;
And my beautiful sister looked pale in her woe
As she grabbed me and blessed me and told me to go.

Dear father, dear father, for me do not weep,
For on some high mountain I mean for to sleep,
And the danger of war I intend for to share
And for sickness and death I intend to prepare.

Dear mother, dear mother, for me do not weep,
For a mother's kind voice I ever will keep,
You have taught me to be brave from a boy to a man,
And I'm going in defense of our own native land.

Dear sister, dear sister, I cannot tell the woe,
Your tears and your sorrow they trouble me so;
I must be agoing for here I can not stand,
I'm going in defense to our own native land.