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“Lilly Dale” / “Lily Dale”

The the fiddle changed the tune and Pa began to sing about sweet Lily Dale…. — On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 41, “Christmas Eve”

Words and music to “Lilly Dale” (often “Lily Dale”) were written by H.S. Thomson in 1852. It was first published by Oliver Ditson in Boston, Massachusetts. The song tells of the mourning of the bereaved lover; it was popular with both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War, as it expressed the feelings of loneliness and anxiety of the soldiers as well as civilians.

In both the published version and existing manuscript for On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder prefaces Pa’s beginning to sing three lines of the song with the title: “Pa began to sing about sweet Lily Dale.”


1. ‘Twas a calm still night, and the moon’s pale light,
Shone soft o’er hill and vale,
When friends with grief, stood around the death bed,
Of my poor lost Lilly Dale.

[chorus} Oh! Lilly, sweet Lilly,
Dear Lilly Dale,
Now the wild rose blossoms o’er her little green grave,
‘Neath the trees in the flow’ry vale.

2. Her cheeks that once glowed, with the rose-tint of health,
By the hand of disease had turned pale,
And the death damp was on the pure white brow,
Of my poor lost Lilly Dale.

3. “I go,” she said, “to the land of rest,”
And ere my strength shall fail,
I must tell you where, near my own loved home,
You must lay poor Lilly Dale.

4. Neath the chestnut tree; where the wild flow’rs grow,
And the stream ripples forth thru’ the vale,
Where the birds shall warble their songs in spring,
There lay poor Lilly Dale.

LILY DALE (from On the Banks of Plum Creek)

‘Twas a calm, still night,
And the moon’s pale light
Shone soft o’er hill and dale…

CLICK HERE to listen.



Click on the above images to view a copy of 1853 sheet music of “Lilly Dale.”    


“Lilly Dale / Lily Dale” (BPC 41)
     “’Twas a calm, still night”