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As I Roved Out / The Deluded Lover

[ Roud 3479 ; G/D 6:1165 ; Ballad Index K150 ; trad.]

Planxty sang As I Roved Out in 1973 on their LP The Well Below the Valley and on the anthology Planète Celtique. Andy Irvine commented:

We learned this sad and beautiful song from the singing of Paddy Tunney who lives in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. He has described it as dating back to the days of the famine, when any bit of property at all was enough to tempt a man to jilt his true love in favour of the lassie with the land.

I don't know of any recording of this song by Paddy Tunney, though.

June Tabor sang As I Roved Out in a BBC session recorded on July 23, 1978; this track was released in 1998 on her Strange Fruit / BBC CD On Air. She also recorded it in 1992 during the sessions for her Cooking Vinyl album Angel Tiger. This out-take was included a year later on the Actionaid charity album Giving People Choices. She recorded it again for Quercus' eponymous 2013 album, Quercus.

Kate Rusby sang As I Roved Out in 1997 on her CD Hourglass.

Jack Crawford sang The Deluded Lover in 2008 on his WildGoose CD Pride of the Season. He commented in his liner notes:

Collected by Paddy Tunney from his mother Brigid Tunney in Belleek, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and published in The Stone Fiddle: My Way to Traditional Song (1979) under the title As I Roved Out or The False Bride.

Many interpretations have been proposed for this ambiguous song. In my view, the threads hold together if you think of “the lassie who has the land” as the Queen of England. “Marriage” to her is then an analogy for joining the army in an attempt to escape from poverty. His gift of the three-diamond ring, representing past, present and future, suggests that he married, or at least became engaged to, his poor deluded (and perhaps pregnant) lover before signing up.

Ewan McLennan sang As I Roved Out in 2008 on his Fellside CD Rags & Robes.

Jon Boden learnt As I Rowed Out from Planxty and sang it as the May 10, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in the project's blog:

From Planxty. It has a beautiful melody, and there’s something about the story that rings true.

Teresa Horgan sang As I Roved Out in 2015 on her and Matt Griffin's CD Brightest Sky Blue.

Andy Turner learned As I Roved Out from the singing of Andy Irvine on Planxty's album. He sang it as the May 10, 2015 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week in two versions, one unaccompanied and one accompanied by Nick Passmore on bouzouki.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang As I Roved Out with the same theme of the betrayed lover but quite different verses in 2005 on the anthology Song Links 2: A Celebration of English Traditional Songs and Their American Variants and in 2010 on his CD Back to You. Shirley Collins commented in the latter CD's notes:

This exquisite love song was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904 from a Mr. Broomfield, in the village of East Hornden, in Essex. Vaughan Williams wrote: “… the tune is a good example of the extraordinary breadth and melodic sweep to be found in English folk song” and he considered these lovely melodies to be part of a “precious heritage”.

I suggested to Martyn that he should sing it on Song Links 2, and so lovely was his interpretation of it, and so subtle and heart-breakingly beautiful was Iris Bishop's arrangement and playing of it, that I felt they had made the song completely their own. So it has every right to be here on this album.


June Tabor sings As I Roved Out

As I roved out on a fine May morning
To view the meadows and flowers gay,
Who should I spy but my own true lover
As she sat under yon willow tree.

I took off my hat and I did salute her,
I did salute her most courageously.
When she turned around, well the tears fell from her,
Sayin', “False young man, you have deluded me!

“A diamond ring I owned I gave you,
A diamond ring to wear on your right hand.
But the vows you made, love, you went and broke them
And married the lassie that had the land.”

“If I'd married the lassie that had the land, my love,
It's that I'll rue till the day I die.
When misfortune falls sure no man may shun it,
I was blindfolded I'll ne'er deny.”

Now at nights when I go to my bed of slumber
The thoughts of my true love run in my mind.
When I turned around to embrace my darling,
Instead of gold sure it's brass I find.

And I wish the Queen would call home her army
From the West Indies, Amerikay and Spain,
And every man to his wedded woman
In hopes that you and I will meet again.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings As I Roved Out

As I roved out one May morning
So early in the spring
I leaned my back on an old garden gate
To hear my true love sing.

To hear my true love sing, my boys,
And to hear what she had to say;
For it's been three quarters of a long year
Since together we did lay.

I said, “My love, come sit by me
Where the grass is growing green,
For it's been three quarters of a long year
Since together we have been.”

“Oh I'll not come and sit by you
Nor be a love of thine,
Since you are engaged to another true love
Then your heart's no longer mine.

“Oh, slowly passed the winter's night
And slowly dawns the day;
It's many the time I wished you were here
Now I wish you were away.”

I wished I was in London town
A-drinking of sweet wine;
I would drink a health to that bonny, bonny lass
That once had this heart of mine.