Dabbling in the Dew
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
Cecil Sharp collected this from a book of nursery rhymes by J. O. Halliwell (1842) where it was titled Rolling in the Dew. He noted, but had not verified, that there was a version with "strawberry leaves" rather than "dabbling in the dew" that makes milkmaids fair in a 1719 edition of Mother Goose Melodies for Children. The tune was popular throughout England. This version was published in 1909 and was evidently sanitized.

For the bawdy version (which also varies slighty in melody) see Rolling in the Dew.

Variants and alternate titles include Where are you going to, my pretty maid?, Kind Hearted Nancy, Roving in the Dew and The Milkmaid's Song.

The theme of the song dates back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

O where are you going to, my pretty little dear,
With your red rosie cheeks, and your coal black hair?
I'm going a milking, kind sir, she answered me,
And it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.

Suppose I were to clothe you, my pretty little dear,
In a green silken gown and the amethyst rare?
O no, sir, O no, kind sir, she answered me,
For it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.


Suppose I were to carry you, my pretty little dear,
In a chariot with horses, a grey gallant pair?
O no, sir, O no, kind sir, she answered me,
For it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.


Suppose I were to feast you, my pretty little dear,
With dainties on silver, the whole of the year?
O no, sir, O no, kind sir, she answered me,
For it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.


O, but London's a city, my pretty little dear,
And all men are gallant and brave that are there-
O no, sir, O no, kind sir, she answered me,
For it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.


O fine clothes and dainties and carriages so rare
Bring grey to the cheeks and silver to the hair.
What's a ring on the finger, if rings are round the eye?
But it's dabbling in the dew makes the milkmaids fair.
From Folk-Songs, Chanteys and Singing Games
Information from Folksongs of Britain and Ireland
See Bibliography for full information.