Author Topic: Add: Female Highwayman (Sovay, Sylvia)


Posted - 29 Nov 02 - 08:14 pm

Sovay [Female Highwayman]

Sovay, Sovay all on a day
She dressed herself in man's array
With a sword and a pistol all by her side
To meet her true love to meet her true love away did ride

And as she was a-riding over the plain
She met her true love and bid him stand
Your gold and silver kind sir she said
Or else this moment or else this moment your life I'll have

And when she'd robbed him of his store
She says kind sir there is one thing more
A golden ring which I know you have
Deliver it deliver it your sweet life to save

Oh that golden ring a token is
My life I'll lose the ring I'll save
Being tender-hearted just like a dove
She rode away she rode away from her true love

Oh next morning in the garden green
Just like true lovers they were seen
Oh he spied his watch hanging by her clothes
And it made him blush made him blush like any rose

Oh what makes you blush at so silly a thing
I thought to have had your golden ring
It was I that robbed you all on the plain
So here's your watch here's your watch and your gold again

I did intend and it was to know
If that you were me true love or no
For if you'd have give me that ring she said
I'd have pulled the trigger I'd have pulled the trigger and shot you dead

Source: Kennedy, D. (1987) Martin Carthy: A Guitar in Folk Music. Petersham: New Punchbowl Music.


From the notes to Martin Carthy's first album:
Sovay Sovay was a great favourite among country singers and was printed by Such, among others, under its alternative title of The Female Highwayman. Her name varies from place to place - Sovay, Silvy, Shilo, Sally, etc. - but the story remains the same being a rather involved and slightly chancy way of establishing her lover's good faith. The tune sung here was collected by Hammond in Dorset and slightly altered rhythmically by Bert Lloyd giving it a somewhat Balkan lift. The text is collated from various versions.

Note on the ABC/Score: The lack of bar lines isn't a mistake. To quote the song book: "Martin insisted on this melody being written in as free a way as possible, rather than forcing it into a time signature that did not neccessarily reflect the actual rhythmic feel of the song"

Database entry is here

Edited By Ed - 11/29/2002 8:21:16 PM

Phil Taylor

Posted - 29 Nov 02 - 11:49 pm

A small point - when entering tunes in abc in free time, you should not omit the M: field. Instead you should put it in as "M: none". A good abc program should flag the lack of an M: field as an error (after all, you might just have left it out accidentally).
M:none says that you really meant it to be that way.


Posted - 30 Nov 02 - 12:05 am

Thanks for that, Phil

I've updated the entry, accordingly.


Posted - 30 Nov 02 - 10:09 pm

A variant of Sovay

Sylvia [Female Highwayman]

Sylvia, Sylvia, Sylvia one day
She dressed herself in men's array
With a loaded pistol down by her side
To rob her true-love
To rob her true-love
Sylvia did ride

As she rode up to him and she bid him stand
Stand and deliver all the gold that you have
Stand and deliver all your gold and store
Or else this moment
Or else this moment
Your life's no more

He delivered up all his gold and store
But yet, she said, there is one thing more
There?s a diamond ring that I know you do wear
Deliver it
Deliver it
And your life I?ll spare

Now this diamond ring being a token, give o?er
This ring I?ll keep or lose my life
She was tender-hearted just like a dove
She rode away
She rode away
From her own true-love

Now as they were walking the garden green
He spied his watch hanging from her chain
He spied his watch hanging through her cloak
Which made her blush
Which made her blush
Like any rose

What made you blush at so silly a thing?
I fain would have had your diamond ring
For 'twas I that robbed you on a plain
So to take your watch
So to take your watch
And gold again

Now why did you enter such a silly plot
Suppose that pistol you did have shot
If you had shot me upon that plain
For ever after
For ever after
You'd be put to shame

I only did it for to know
Whether you were a true-lover or no
But now I've a contented mind
My heart and all
My heart and all
My dear, are thine

The match was made without delay
And soon they fixed the wedding day
And now they live in joy and content
In happiness
In happiness
Their days are spent

Source: Kennedy, P. (1975) Folksongs of Britain and Ireland. London: Oak Publications.


Collected from Tim Walsh, Devonport by C. Tawney, 1960.

Kennedy notes:
This song is usually classified as The Female Highwayman since the young lady's name varies from Sylvia to Sovie, Sovay, Shillo, Sally, Silvery, and so on; on broadside copies the title is sometimes given as Sylvia's Request and William's Denial.

Database entry is here

Edited By Ed - 11/30/2002 10:12:16 PM

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