Music

Over the Hills and Far Away

cover of 1719 songbook titled 'Wit and Mirth or Pills to Purge Melancholy'

Title page from Pills to Purge Melancholy

woodcut of Captain Macheath and Polly Peachum

Captain Macheath and Polly Peachum are the lovers who sing “Over the Hills and Far Away” to each other in the Beggar’s Opera. From Catchpenny Prints, Bowles and Carver, London, first published in the late 1780s

This song first appeared in England in 1706 in a collection of songs entitled, Pills to Purge Melancholy, by Thomas D’Urfey. It became very popular in colonial America. The verses in the version sung here were composed by John Gay, who wrote The Beggar’s Opera, in which this song appears. Throughout the opera old tunes with new lyrics appear, composed for the production. The opera was performed in the American colonies as early as 1768 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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a capella voices

Lyrics

Were I laid on Greenland’s coast,
And in my arms embraced my lass,
Warm amidst eternal frost,
Too soon the half year’s night would pass.

Chorus:
And I would love you all the day,
Every night would kiss and play,
If with me you’d fondly stray,
Over the hills and far away.

Were I sold on Indian soil,
Soon as the burning day was closed,
I could mock the sultry toil,
When on my charmer’s breast reposed.