“Rolling in the Dew (The Milkmaid)”


Boy: Where are you going? Girl: Milking. Boy: May I come? Girl: Why not? Boy: What if I lay you down? Girl: Then you'll help me up. Boy: What if you get pregnant? Girl: You'll be the father....


A number of the versions of this piece, such as Pound's two, end seemingly BEFORE the seduction; the man asks the girl about her wealth, and she replies, "My face it is my fortune," whereupon he abandons her. I suspect, however, that these versions are bowdlerized, with the seduction eliminated from the middle.

In some cases this may be editors' bowdlerization, but it may have happened naturally in a few instances (note that Laura Ingalls Wilder actually quotes such a version in chapter 13 of _By the Shores of Silver Lake_!). - RBW

One of the reasons milkmaids were held in such romantic esteem was for their smooth, fair, and un-pockmarked skin, which came from their contact with cowpox and resultant immunity to smallpox -- thus the milkmaid's remark, "My face is my fortune."

Kennedy's Cornish words are a revivalist translation from the English. - PJS

There seem to be several pieces of this sort floating about. _Gammer Gurton's Garland_ and others have one running,

Little maid, pretty maid, whither goes thou?

Down in the (forest/meadow) to milk my cow.

Shall I go with thee? -- No, not now;

When I send for thee, then come thou.

(See Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #101, p. 90.) I suspect it is actually this, not "Rolling in the Dew," that Kennedy is citing for his date. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Firth b.26(348), "Where Are You Going My Pretty Maid?," H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also Firth b.34(275) View 2 of 2, "Where Are You Going My Pretty Maid"
  • LOCSheet, sm1882 21563, "O Where Are You Going, My Pretty Maid?," J. M. Russell (Boston), 1882 (tune)


  • George Maynard, "Rolling in the Dew" (on FSB2CD, Maynard1, Voice10)


  1. Randolph 79, "The Milking Maid" (1 short text, 1 tune)
  2. Eddy 52, "The Milkmaid" (1 text)
  3. Hudson 132, pp. 277-278, "The Milkmaid" (1 text plus mention of "numerous" others)
  4. Ford-Vagabond, pp. 137-138, "Where Are You Going, My Pretty Fair Maid?" (1 text)
  5. Doerflinger, pp. 68-70, "Sacramento" (3 texts, 2 tunes, with the third text deriving its tune from this piece; the other two texts are independent)
  6. Hugill, pp. 92, 210-211, "Rio Grande" (1 fragment, version "c" of "Rio Grande," with the text of this song and the chorus of "Rio Grande") [AbEd, p. 85]; "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, version "e" of "Blow the Man Down" sung to the that tune as well as those of "Rio Grande" and "Goodbye, Fare-ye-well") [AbEd, pp. 165-166]
  7. Sharp-100E 44, "Dabbling in the Dew" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Copper-SoBreeze, pp. 238-239, "Rolling in the Dew" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Kennedy 189, "Rolling in the Dew" (1 text, 1 tune); also 94, "Pelea era why moaz, moes fettow teag? [Where Are You Going To, My Pretty Maid?" (1 text + Cornish translation, 1 tune)
  10. Leather, p. 205, "The Milkmaid's song" (1 censored excerpt, 1 tune)
  11. LPound-ABS, 112, pp. 228-229, "The Milkmaid"; p. 230, "The Pretty Milkmaid" (2 texts, neither of which recounts the seduction)
  12. JHCox 125, "The Milkmaid" (2 texts)
  13. Creighton-SNewBrunswick 46, "My Pretty Maid" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Opie-Oxford2 317, "Where are you going to, my pretty maid?" (3 texts)
  15. BBI, ZN242, "As I walked forth one summers day" ("Dreadful expansion of 'Where are you going my pretty maid, I'm going milking sir, she said'")
  17. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #219, "Dabbling in the Dew" (1 text, probably cleaned up)
  18. Roud #298
  19. BI, R079


Alternate titles: “Where Are You Going, My Pretty Fair Maid?”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1842 (Halliwell), according to Kennedy
Keywords: dialog seduction
Found in: US(Ap,MW,So) Britain(England(Lond,South)) Canada(Mar)