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. 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
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