The Maid of Amsterdam

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The Maid of Amsterdam
Traditional sea shanty
GenreSea shanty
Composedc. 1600 (1600)

"The Maid of Amsterdam", also known as "A-Roving," is a traditional sea shanty. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 649.[1]


The song may date to the Elizabethan or Jacobean era, and versions have been found in Great Britain, Denmark, and France.[2]

Its origin is sometimes given as Thomas Heywood's play The Rape of Lucrece,[3][2] published 1608 and first performed around 1630. This opinion was held by, and may originate with, John Masefield who wrote, "The words of the solo are scarcely fitted for quotation, but those who wish to know what they are like may consult Thomas Heywood's play of 'Valentinian,' where a song almost identical, is given at length."—noting in a later article that Valentinian was a mistake and Lucrece was meant.[4] The song referenced by Masefield is probably the one beginning "Did he take fair Lucrece by the toe man? —Toe man. —I man. —Ha, ha, ha, ha man."[5] However, the relationship between Heywood's song and "The Maid of Amsterdam" is contested by some experts, including Stan Hugill.[3] The author of the notes for Sharp Sea Shanties writes, "It too has an amorous encounter with anatomical progression but there, to put it simply, all similarity ends. The presence of a common entertaining theme line does not prove a connection except possibly in the idea itself."[1]


The lyrics have many variations.[6] They are often cautionary tales of a sailor's amorous encounter with the Amsterdam maid, who, variably, is married,[3] taking advantage of the sailor for his money,[1] or has the pox.[7] The notes for the Doug Bailey-produced album Short Sharp Shanties claim the most traditional lyrics describe the sailor progressively touching different parts of the maid's body.[1] Regardless of varying lyrics, almost all versions contain the chorus of:

I'll go no more a-rovin', with you fair maid
A-roving, A-roving, since roving's been my ru-i-in
I'll go no more a-roving, with you fair maid


The song has been recorded by various artists, such as operatic baritone Leonard Warren, the Robert Shaw Chorale[8] and Paul Clayton. It was featured on the ending credits of episode two of the 1950s television show The Buccaneers and also as background music on various episodes. It is the 2nd track of the soundtrack of the video game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and the song can be heard when the main character is riding the ship.

Philip Seymour Hoffman gives an informal performance of the song in the film The Master.


  1. ^ a b c d Zierke, Reinhard (November 7, 2015). "A-Roving / Plymouth Town". Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Maid of Amsterdam". Brethren of the Coast. June 4, 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Maid of Amsterdam". 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  4. ^ Masefield, John (1908). "Sea-Songs". Temple Bar. Archived from the original on 27 January 1999. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Origins:A-Rovin/Maid from Amsterdam/Amsterdam Maid". Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  6. ^ "The Maid of Amsterdam: I'll Go No More A-Roving". January 31, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  7. ^ Engle, David G.; Waltz, Robert B. (2016). "A-Rovin'". Fresno State. California State University. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  8. ^ "A - Roving / Robert Shaw Chorale (Men)". YouTube. Retrieved 12 December 2018.

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