> Folk Music > Songs > A-Roving

A-Roving / Plymouth Town

[ Roud 649 ; G/D 7:1479 ; Ballad Index EM064 ; trad.]

Stanley Slade with a male chorus sang the capstan shanty A-Roving in the BBC recording 6018 made in Bristol on July 2, 1943. This track was included in 1955 on the Columbia anthology The World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: England.

The Devil's Interval sang this song as Plymouth Town in ca. 2005 on their EP Demon Lovers.

Jim Mageean sang A-Roving in 2011 on the anthology of sea songs collected from John Short by Cecil Sharp, Short Sharp Shanties Volume 2. The accompanying notes commented:

A widespread and popular shanty that appears in every collection we’ve found—except that the published words often lack the Rabelaisian theme of most traditional versions: an amorous encounter with anatomical progression. Short’s words do not direct us to a specific version, so we have augmented his text with some of the standard verses. Colcord comments that A-Roving is “The oldest of the capstan shanties” and Hugill, suggesting that Short’s version is the oldest of the versions he has come across, notes that the tune of the Sharp/Terry published version (i.e. Short’s) “has the jerkiness of all shanties which were sung at the earlier brake-pumps and lever windlasses”.

Terry says “This version was sung to me by Mr Short at Watchet, Somerset. There is another version in print (which differs in several points) taken down from his singing. This only goes to prove (what every collector of shanties knows) that shantymen are given to varying their version according to the mood of the moment.” Whilst varying is undoubtedly true, the only way in which the published tunes vary is that Sharp prints a sharpened 7th—although he collected the tune with a natural 7th—while Terry does publish the natural. There are no indications that Short varied the seventh in performance at all!

A-Roving is often quoted as deriving from a song in Thomas Heywood’s play The Rape of Lucretia, which was first performed in London about 1630. It too has an amorous encounter with anatomical progression but there, to put it simply, all similarity ends. The presence of a common entertaining theme line does not prove a connection except possibly in the idea itself.

Lyrics

Stanley Slade sings A-Roving

In Amsterdam there lived a maid,
Mark well what I do say,
In Amsterdam there lived a maid,
Who was always pinching sailors' pay.
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
A-roving, a-roving, since roving's been my ru-i-in,
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I took this maiden for a walk,
Mark well what I do say,
I took this maiden for a walk,
She wanted some gin and then to talk.
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I gave this miss a parting kiss,
Mark well what I do say,
I gave this miss a parting kiss,
When I got aboard, my money I missed.
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

The Devil's Interval sing Plymouth Town

In Plymouth town there lived a maid,
Mark well what I do say,
In Plymouth town there lived a maid,
And she was a mistress of the trade.
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
A-roving, a-roving, since roving's been my ru-i-in,
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I took this maid out for a walk,
Mark well what I do say,
I took this maid out for a walk,
And we did have some loving talk.
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I touched this maid upon her arm,
Mark well what I do say,
I touched this maid upon her arm,
She said, “Kind sir, don't me no harm!”
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I touched this maid upon her knee,
Mark well what I do say,
I touched this maid upon her knee,
She said, “Kind sir, you're awful free!”
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I touched this maid upon her thigh,
Mark well what I do say,
I touched this maid upon her thigh,
She said, “You're awful high!”
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I touched this maid upon her arse,
Mark well what I do say,
I touched this maid upon her arse,
She said, “Dear sir, you're awful fast!”
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

I touched upon her maidenhead,
Mark well what I do say,
I touched upon her maidenhead,
“That'll cost you three and six,” she said.
I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: Maid from Amsterdam / Amsterdam Maid.