Sarie Marijs (Ellie Rhee)

Sarie Marijs is a South African traditional, with its roots in America. The melody for Sarie Marijs was adopted from the American song Ellie Rhee.

Ellie Rhee was first published in 1862/1863, during the American civil war, by Stuart and James W. Porter. The song was about homesickness and the longing for the beloved Ellie. In 1865 a new version of Ellie Rhee was produced by the famous composer Septimus Winner, altering the lyrics to fit the post-war circumstances. The lyrics were again about homesickness, but this time they refered to a freed slave, who was wishing to be back on the place where he lived before he gained his freedom.

South Africa: during the Boer War of 1899-1902 Mrs. De Wit, wife of a well-known Boer general, wanted to see her husband, who was fighting in the Province of Natal. Lord Kitchner, commander of all British forces in Sout Africa allowed her passage through British lines to join her husband. While being on the battle front she often did play the piano and one of the songs she played was Ellie Rhee. Soon the song was translated into South African language, which was easier to sing, and the tune was slightly altered. The new song was about "Sarie Marijs", as the burghers wanted to honour their field padre Dominee Paul Nel, who often told stories around the campfires about his childhood and his beautiful mother Sarie Maré.
Another source tells the South African lyrics were written by J. P. Toerien, a famous South African poet and journalist, in honour of his wife Susara Maré. She was born Suikerbosrand, Transvaal, in 1869, she gave birth to 16 children and died 22 December of 1939 in Bloemfontein. 

For the South African people, whatever the origin is of "Sarie Marijs", it is their song and it has nothing to do with America or any other country.

In 1953 the melody was adopted as the official march of the United Kingdom's Marines Commandos and is played after the Regimental March on ceremonial occasions. Later on the melody has been translated into many languages, such as French, Italian and Russian.


Click the link to hear Sarie Marijs on accordeon

                Ellie Rhee

Sweet Ellie Rhee, so dear to me, 
Is lost forever more; 
Our home was down in Tennessee.
Before thiis cruel war. 
Then carry me back to Tennessee, 
Back where I long to be, 
Among the fields of yellow corn, 
To my darling Ellie Rhee.
Then carry me back to Tennessee,
Back where I long to be, 
Among de friends of yellow corn, 
To my darling Ellie Rhee. 

Oh why did I from day to day, 
Keep wishing to be free; 
And away from my massa run away 
And leave my Ellie Rhee. 
Then carry me back to Tennessee, 
Back where I long to be, 
Among the fields of yellow corn, 
To my darling Ellie Rhee. 

They said that I would soon be free 
And happy all de day. 
But if they take me back again, 
I'll never run away. 
Then carry me back to Tennessee, 
Back where I long to be, 
Among the fields of yellow corn, 
To my darling Ellie Rhee. 

The war is over now at last.
The color'd race am free, 
That good time comin' on so fast: 
I'm waiting for to see.
       Sarie Marais Lyrics

My SarieMarais is so ver van my hart,
Maar ’k hoop om haar weer te sien.
Sy het in die wyk van die Mooirivier gewoon,
Nog voor die oorlog het begin. 

​O bring my t’rug na die ou Transvaal,
Daar waar my Sarie woon.
Daar onder in die mielies
By die groen doringboom,
Daar woon my Sarie Marais.
Ek was so bang dat die Kakies my sou vang
En ver oor die see wegstuur;
Toe vlug ek na die kant van die Upington se sand
Daar onder langs die Grootrivier.

Die Kakies is mos nes ’n krokodillepes,
Hulle sleep jou altyd water toe;
Hul gooi jou op ’n skip vir ’n lange, lange trip,
Die josie weet waarnatoe.

Verlossing het gekom en die huis toe gaan was daar,
Terug na die ou Transvaal;
My lieflingspersoon sal seker ook daar wees
Om my met ’n soen te beloon.

Thanks to Ollie Olwagen from South Africa
 Mail to
        Sarie Marijs English lyrics

My Sarie Marais is so far from my heart,
But I hope to see her again.
She lived in the area (or county or district) of the Mooirivier (literal translation: Pretty River)
Before the outbreak of the War (the Second Boer War fought between the British and the Boers, that is, 1899-1902).


Oh, carry me back to the old Transvaal,
There where my Sarie lives,
Down there in the maize field next to the green-thorn tree (maize = American corn; green-thorn tree = Balanites maughamii
There my Sarie Marais lives.

 I was so afraid
That the “Kakies” (British soldiers)  would catch me
And would send me far over the sea (as a prisoner of war),
So I fled in the direction
Of the sands of (the town of) Upington
Down there on the banks of the Great River (Orange River).


 Believe me, the Kakies are exactly like a cursed crocodile,
They always drag you to the water (the sea).
They throw you onto a ship for a long, long trip;
Only Old Nick (the devil) knows where they’re taking you.


 Relief came
And it was time to return home,
Back to the Old Transvaal;
The person I love most
Will surely be there too (could also be translated as “probably be there too”, but I am fairly sure the orginal meaning was “surely”)
To reward me with a kiss.

Thanks to Ollie Olwagen from South Africa
 Mail to
Back to previous page