As I Roved Out
Traditional Anglo-Irish


This example of "As I Roved Out" is performed by Mary Smith
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information


In the introduction to Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, Peter Kennedy describes collecting “As I roved Out” from Sarah Makem in 1952, following her around her kitchen with a portable tape recorder because she could remember the old songs best when she was working. The meeting turned into a ceili with family and neighbors joining in to contribute their songs, too. The chorus of Sarah’s recording of  "As I Roved Out" became the opening theme for the radio show by the same name that broadcast during the 1950’s from Belfast, becoming a touchstone for a generation of listeners.  The songs and singing impacted young listeners especially, who were hearing the old styles with fresh ears.

Kennedy cites many recorded and printed versions of the song, collected in the North of Ireland, England and Scotland, including a version called "A Wakerife Minne" collected by Robert Burns. Versions were also collected in America by Cecil Sharp and others.

An excerpt from Kennedy's notes:

This love song has a question and answer pattern which is found in the older type of Anglo-Scots ‘riddling’ ballads. In fact there is a Scots ballad, The Trooper and the Maid (Child no. 299), of similar theme from which the Anglo-Irish form may well derive. A similar courtship duet also appears in the Seduction Song Rolling in the Dew (No. 189, Kennedy) and in Where are you going to, my Pretty Maid?

The age of our incomparable maiden is given as ‘sixteen Monday morning’, but other versions, and that used as a convenience title by scholars, have ‘seventeen come Sunday’. It is a classic encounter, with the stage just right for rural romance: a bright May morning, the girl with shining hair hanging down over her shoulders, and the boy invited to return later when the moon shines bright and clearly.  In the lingua franca of British folksong, ‘she leads his horse to the stable’.
Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, ed. Peter Kennedy, pub. 1975
  (See the recommended songbook list for more info)

The song ends with a line that is resonant of riddle ballads, answering the maid's question with an idiomatic "Never."


As I roved out on a May morning
On a May morning right early
I met my love upon the way
Oh, Lord but she was early

And she sang lilt-a-doodle, lilt-a-doodle, lilt-a-doodle-dee,-
And she hi-di-lan-di-dee, and she hi-di-lan-di-dee and she lan- day

Her boots were black and her stockings white
And her buckles shone like silver
She had a dark and a roving eye
And her ear-rings tipped her shoulder


"What age are you my bonny wee lass
What age are you my honey?"
Right modestly she answered me
"I'll be seventeen on Sunday"


"Where do you live my bonny wee lass
Where do you live my honey?"
"In a wee house up on the top of the hill
And I live there with my mammy"


"If I went to the house on the top of the hill
When the moon was shining clearly
Would you arise and let me in
And your mammy not to hear you?"


I went to the house on the top of the hill
When the moon was shining clearly
She arose to let me in
But her mammy chanced to hear her


She caught her by the hair of the head
And down to the room she brought her
And with the butt of a hazel twig
She was the well-beat daughter


"Will you marry me now my soldier lad
Will you marry me now or never?
Will you marry me now my soldier lad
For you see I'm done forever"


"I can't marry you my bonny wee lass
I can't marry you my honey
For I have got a wife at home
And how could I disown her?"


A pint at night is my delight
And a gallon in the morning
The old women are my heart break
But the young ones is my darling