Music: Trad. arr. Peter Hill. Words: Trad. Anon
performance time approx 2m 20s
Range S: b – d'' / A: b – b' / T: f# – d' / B: B – b
Price code: C
Complexity: ***

See a perusal copy of the music.
Hear a performance
This is a fast-moving tale of a girl who disguises herself as a highwayman in order to test her lover. The tune is jaunty and upbeat and there's plenty of scope for dramatisation. For instance, female and male voices can stand apart, turning to face each other for the dialogues between Sovay and her lover and back out to the audience again for the narrative sections.

The tune, which probably originated in South West England, is taken mainly by female voices, apart from the men's indignant reply in verse 4. The song is accompanied and kept moving throughout by a quasi-instrumental line (sung to ‘doo’).

The notes are not hard but the song goes fast and needs to be rehearsed really well to get across the words and the shape of the story. Ideally it should be sung from memory.

The recording is by Rudsambee Company of Singers from the album citrus and honey.


Sovay, Sovay, all on a day,
She dress'd herself in man's array.
With a brace of pistols all at her side
To meet her true love away did ride.

As she was riding over the plain
She met her true love, she bade him stand.
'Stand and deliver, kind sir', she said,
'And if you do not, your life I'll have'.

He deliver'd up his gold in store
But still she craved for one thing more.
'That diamond ring that I see you wear,
Hand it over, and your life I'll spare'.

'All with this ring I never will part
For it's a token from my sweet-heart.
Shoot and be damned, you rogue', said he,
'And you'll be hanged for murd'ring me'.

Next morning in the garden green
Young Sovay and her true love were seen,
When he spied his watch hanging from her clothes,
Which made him blush, lads, like any rose.

'Why do you blush, you silly young thing,
I meant to have that diamond ring.
It was I who robbed you all on that plain,
So here's your gold now and your watch again.

'I only did it for to know
If you would be a man or no.
Had you given me that ring', she said,
'I'd have pulled that trigger and shot you dead'.

Traditional English

Note: ‘hanged’ must be pronounced ‘hang-èd’ in order to scan.

Purchase – 2010: Sovay

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