In this cautionary tale, a sailor meets an Amsterdam maid, fondles portions of her body progressively, has sex with her, and catches the pox. She leaves him after he has spent all his money.


This is a partial formula song in that the sailor begins at the knee, moves up to the thigh, and then to the "snatch." See "Yo Ho, Yo Ho" ("I Put My Hand") for extended treatment of this formula. - EC

Some similar lines are found in Thomas Heywood's "The Rape of Lucrece" (c. 1607), and Shay traces this piece back to that time, but Doerflinger states that they are not the same song.

The version collected by Meredith from Wally Marshall has an unusual ending; when the singer places his hand upon the girl's breast, she breaks wind, seemingly causing him to abandon the venture. - RBW

Cross references


  • Richard Maitland, "A-Roving" (AFS, 1939; on LC26)
  • Stanley Slade & chorus: "A'Roving" (on Lomax41, LomaxCD1741)


  1. Colcord, pp. 87-88, "A-Roving" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Harlow, pp. 49-52, "A-Roving" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  3. Hugill, pp. 48-52, 101, "A-Roving" (6 texts plus 3 fragments, 4 tunes; the 5th text is "Go Rowing," a 1916 Norwegian adaptation by Henrik Wergelands taken from Brochmann's "Opsang Fra Seilskibstiden." p.101 is a version of "A Long Time Ago") [AbrEd pp. 46-48]
  4. Sharp-EFC, XXV, pp. 28-29, "A-Roving" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Cray, pp. 64-67, "A-Rovin'" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 124-125, "The Maid of Amsterdam" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Doerflinger, pp. 56-58, "A-Roving" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  8. Bone, pp. 99-103, "Amsterdam" (1 censored text, 1 tune)
  9. Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 80-81, "Maid of Amsterdam (A-Roving)" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Linscott, pp. 125-130, "Amsterdam" [1 fragment, 1 tune, censored by the informant)
  11. Meredith/Covell/Brown, p. 96, "A-roving" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. JHJohnson, p. 51, "The Amsterdam Maid" (1 text)
  13. Silber-FSWB, p. 89, "A-Roving" (1 text)
  15. ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "A'Rovin" is in Part 1, 7/14/1917.
  16. Roud #649
  17. BI, EM064


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1917
Found in: Britain(England) US(MA,NE,So,SW) Australia