Amsterdam Maid (A-Rovin')

Traditional sea shanty

Audio

This example of "Amsterdam Maid" is performed by Andrew Scarhart
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

sheet music (toggle as desired for printing)

Background notes

"A-Rovin" is a capstan sea shanty, and according to Hugill (in Shanties of the Seven Seas) is often sung too fast by modern singers. When sung as a capstan shanty, the words "A-rovin, a-rovin" were timed to fit the downward movement of a four-foot-diameter pumpwheel.  This song appears to be fairly old, possibly Elizabethan. Versions have been found in Dutch, Flemish and French as well as English.

The chorus was very often sung as either "I'll" or "We'll" -- we'll seems to be more like the original, as capstan work was usually done by more than one man. Other alternative words are "roamin'" for "rovin", "false maid" for "fair maid", and "overt'row" or "downfall" for "ruin."

A great version (albeit quite uptempo) of this song was recorded by The Corries on "Kishmul's Galley." (1966) (Don't know who The Corries are? Go get their music. Don't wait. "Seminal folk group" does do them justice.)

In Amsterdam there lived a maid,
Mark well what I do say,
In Amsterdam there lived a maid
And she was mistress of her trade.

Chorus:
I'll go no more a roving with you fair maid
A-roving, a-roving
Since roving's been my rue-I-ay
I'll go no more a-roving with you fair maid.

I kissed her once, I kissed her twice,
Mark well what I do say,
I kissed her once, I kissed her twice,
She said, "Young sir that's oh so nice."

Chorus...

I put my hand upon her knee,
Mark well what I do say,
I put my hand upon her knee;
She said, "Young sir you're fancy free."

Chorus...

I put my arms around her waist,
Mark well what I do say,
I put my arms around her waist;
She said, "Young sir you're in great haste!"

Chorus...

I put hand upon her thigh,
Mark well what I do say,
I put hand upon her thigh;
She said, "Young sir you're awful high!"

Chorus...

In Amsterdam there lived a maid,
Mark well what I do say,
In Amsterdam there lived a maid;
And she was mistress of her trade.

Hugill's Version: (from Shanties of the Seven Seas)

In Amsterdam there lived a maid,
Mark well what I do say,
In Amsterdam there lived a maid
And she was mistress of her trade.

One night I crept from my abode
To meet this fair maid down the road.

I met this fair maid after dark
An' took her to her favorite park

I put me arm around her waist
Sez she, "Young man yer in great haste!"

I put me hand upon her knee,
Sez she, "Young man, yer rather free!"

I put my hand upon her thigh,
Sez she, "Young man, yer awful high!"

I towed her to the Maiden's Breast,
From south the wind veered wes'sou'west [sou'sou'west].

An' the eyes in her head turned east an' west,
And her thoughts wuz as deep as an ol' sea-chest.

We had a drink -- of grub a snatch
We sent two bottles down the hatch

Her dainty arms were white as milk,
Her lovely hair was soft as silk.

Her heart was poundin' like a drum
Her lips wuz red as any plum.

We laid down on a grassy patch,
An' I felt like such a ruddy ass.

She pushed me over on my back,
She laughed so hard her lips did crack.

She swore that she'd be true to me,
But spent me pay-day fast and free.

In three weeks time I wuz badly bent
Then off to sea I sadly went.

In a bloodboat Yank bound round Cape Horn,
Me boots an' clothes wuz all in pawn.

Bound round Cape Stiff through ice and snow
An' up the coast of Callyo.

An' then back to the Liverpool Docks,
Saltpetre stowed in our boots an' socks.

Now when I got back home from sea,
A soldier had her on his knee.