I'm a Rover and Seldom Sober
DESCRIPTION: The singer is seldom sober but on a starless night he can find his way to his lover. He goes to her window. He is "drenched to the skin." She lets him in and they lie together until cock crow. Then he gets up because he must be early at the plow.
EARLIEST DATE: 1955 (recording, Tom Newman)
KEYWORDS: lover drink nightvisit bird farming
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(ABer,Bord))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Porter/Gower-Jeannie-Robertson-EmergentSingerTransformativeVoice #13, pp. 129-130, "I'm a Rover and Seldom Sober" (1 text, 1 tune)
Davie Stewart, "I'm Often Drunk and I'm Seldom Sober" (on Voice13)
cf. "Rise Up Quickly and Let Me In" (two verses) and references there
NOTES [377 words]: Davie Stewart's version on Voice13 includes two verses that are standard for "Rise Up Quickly and Let Me In": the singer goes to his true love's bedroom window and she complains that he is "depriving me of [or disturbing me from] my long night's rest"; he says he is her lover, "pray discover ... I'm soaking love, to the skin." Another argument for including this song with "Rise Up Quickly and Let Me In" is Stewart's chorus -- "I'm often drunk and I'm seldom sober I'm a constant rover from town to town And when I'm dead and my days are over Oh, lay me down, my Molly Baun" -- which compares to the chorus in Kennedy 159, "A Health to All True-Lovers" and DT,IMAROVER* - "So I'm a rover and 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" -- and Kennedy's song is, with the exception of that chorus, "Rise Up Quickly," without a doubt. Kennedy's chorus belongs to "I'm Often Drunk and Seldom Sober," an entirely different song.
So why haven't I put Stewart's song with "Rise Up Quickly"? His two verses -- he has only four altogether -- of meeting Molly Bann, and that last half of his chorus, are not "Rise Up Quickly..." though I could not argue too strongly with someone who insisted that those verses were incidental add-ons and that this must be "Rise Up Quickly." I haven't found the Molly Bann verses anyplace else, so I can't -- yet -- call this song a hybrid.
Then there are the other versions of "I'm a Rover, Seldom Sober," at Digital Tradition, including MacColl's DT,IMAROVER*; they, have no Molly Bann reference and are, without a doubt, "A Health to All True Lovers." DT, IMAROVER*, once included here, is now at "Rise Up Quickly." - BS
The Dubliners' various recordings of this song had a very large influence on the Irish folk scene of the 60's [and] 70's, perhaps particularly in non-Irish countries. Porter and Gower, in discussing Jeannie Robertson's Scottish version, report that some scholars have argued this song is a descendant of the revenant lover in "The Gray Cock" (Child 248), but surely modern singers (and certainly those from outside Irish or Scottish tradition) will be closer to what Porter and Gower call "the more earthbound idea of night visiting." - DGE
Last updated in version 5.3
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.