Sangstories - Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional and newer songs sung by Sangschule of Linlithgow

I'm A Rover

 I'm a rover, seldom sober, I'm a rover of high degree
It's when I'm drinking I'm always thinking, how to gain my love's company

There's mony a nicht I'm goin tae ramble, there's mony a nicht I'm goin tae rove
There's mony a nicht I'm goin' tae ramble tae the airms o my ain true love

And though the nicht be as dark as dungeons, no a star can be seen above
It's I'll be guided wi'oot a stumble tae the airms o my ain true love

He's stepped up tae her bedroom windae, kneeled gently upon a stane,
An through the windae he's whispered softly  "My dearest lass, dae ye lie alane?"

She's raised her head fae her down white pillow, threw her airms aa around her breast,
Say's "Who is that at my bedroom windae, disturbin me at my night's rest?"

Say's I "My lass, it's thy true lover, open the door and let me in,
For I am come on a lang nicht's journey mair than near drenched untae the skin."

She's opened the door wi the greatest pleasure, opened the door and she's let him in,
They baith shook hands and embraced each other till in the mornin they lay as yin

The cocks were crawin and the birds were whistlin, the streams they ran frae aboon the brae,
Says I "My lass, I'm a plooman laddie and the fairmer I must obey."

Says I "My lass, I must go and leave you, to climb the hills they are high above
But I will climb wi the greatest pleasure, since I've been in the airms o my love."


Words:
Aboon: above
Brae: small hill
Yin: one

Gordeanna MacCulloch brought this song  to Sangschule.
A very similar version is included in Ewan MacColl’s Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland, P.47. His note says: “This night-visit song is almost certainly related to The Grey Cock (The Lover’s Ghost), a ballad in which a girl is visited by the ghost of her dead lover. Here, however, the supernatural part of the plot has entirely disappeared.”

Duncan Williamson has a related ballad in Traveller’s Joy, p. 54 – 55 called “The Cruel Grave” in which a drowned sailor’s spirit visits his true love because her prayers give him no rest.  The story is different but there are some familiar lines:
Now who is that there, who is at my window?/ Who is keeping me out of my night’s rest
and
He said, ‘Open your door, love, and let me in, love/…For I am cold, love, and I am weary / And I am wet to the very skin.
and
So she opened the door with the greatest of pleasure /She opened the door and she let him in

The editorial note for Duncan’s song says: “A number of British songs and ballads deal with the subject of a couple who spend the night together. As dawn approaches, they are awakened by a crowing cockerel. In ‘The Grey Cock’ or ‘Saw You My Father? ’ (Child 248) the lover is a ghost and he is being summoned back to the grave by the sound of the bird. In other similar ballads – ‘Here’s A Health To All True Lovers’, I’m A Rover And Seldom Sober’, ‘Biscay O’,  ‘The Sweet Bann Water’, ‘Willie O’, ‘Pretty Crowing Chicken’ etc – there is often uncertainty as to whether the young man is a ghost or simply a mortal lover.”

There are references in our version to the “revenant” or returning ghost ballads, e.g. the “lang nicht’s journey” and “the cocks were crawin”, but our plooman laddie, seldom sober, and obeying his fairmer rather than the claims of his grave, seems solidly based and likely to be back on “mony a nicht."