These words were composed by Spencer the Rover,
Who travelled most parts of Great Britain and Wales;
He being much reduced which caused great confusion,
And that was the reason that a-rambling he went.
In Yorkshire near Rotherham he had been on his rambles,
Being weary of travelling he sat down to rest;
At the foot of yonder mountain where runs a clear fountain,
With bread and cold water he himself did refresh.
It tasted more sweeter than the gold he had wasted,
Sweeter than honey and gave more content,
But the thoughts of his babies lamenting their father,
Brought tears to his eyes and caused him to lament.
The night being approaching to the woods he resorted,
With woodbine and ivy his bed for to make,
He dreamt about sighing, lamenting and crying,
Go home to your children and rambling forsake.
On the fifth of November I've reason to remember,
When first he arrive`d with his family and wife;
She stood so surprise`d to see his arrival,
To see such a stranger once more in her sight.
His children flocked around him with their prattle-prattling stories,
With their prattle-prattling stories to drive care away;
Now he is united like birds of one feather,
Like bees in one hive contented they'll be
This is a traditional song about Yorkshire, collected in Yorkshire.
Some local historians have attempted to link this simple homely broadside ballad with the criminal Spence Broughton of Sheffield also celebrated on broadsides, but there are no grounds for this and it is extremely unlikely. It is quite possible that it was written outside Yorkshire as broadside printings are widespread in England and these all contain the line 'In Yorkshire near Rotherham he went on his rambles' presenting the possibility that Spencer was from elsewhere. Some neat internal rhymes show that the rural rhymester, although of rude origins, had some poetic skill. The theme is typical sentimental Victorian contentment in the face of adversity and poverty. The ballad was widely printed with little variation, so it's hardly surprising that it turns up in oral tradition in several places in England, though versions are not numerous. However the song has been popular in the current revival, mainly due to the singing of the Copper Family of Sussex. It has not been found in any other countries in oral tradition or on broadsides, and unlike many other Yorkshire songs the placenames have not been changed to locate it elsewhere.
The broadside version invariably has seven stanzas, the extra stanza given here being the seventh:
Now I'm placed in my cottage once more I'm residing,
With woodbine and ivy drooping over my door;
I'm as happy as those that's got thousands of riches,
Contented I'll be and go rambling no more.
Another version can be found in Paul Davenport's excellent anthology The South Riding Songbook, 1998, p46.