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 a-rambling he went.
In Yorkshire, near Rotherham, he being on his ramble,
Being weary of travelling, he sat down to rest,
At the foot of yon mountain there runs a clear fountain,
With bread and cold water he himself did refresh.
It tasted more sweet than the gold he had wasted,
Sweeter than honey, and gave more content;
Till 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 dreamed about sighing, lamenting and crying,
"Come home to your children and rambling forsake."
On the fifth of November, I've reason to remember,
When first I arrived home to my family and wife;
She stood so surprised to see my arrival,
To see such a stranger once more in her sight.
My children flocked around me with their prit-pratling story,
With their prit-pratling story to drive away care;
So we'll be united, like ants like together,
Like bees in one hive contented we'll be.
Now, I am placed in my cottage contented,
With primroses and woodbine hanging round my door;
As happy as they that have plenty of riches,
Contented I'll stay and go rambling no more.
abc | midi | pdf
Source: Kidson F, 1891, Traditional Tunes, Oxford, Taphouse and Son
Kidson wrote (rather disparagingly!):
Old songs abound with allusions to "rovers" and "wanderers," and "Spencer the Rover" has been, despite its terrible doggrel, (sic) popular in many parts of Yorkshire. I have obtained copies of the air from many sources, all having some slight variation, but the following is apparently as genuine a set as could be obtained.
The words are found on Yorkshire ballad sheets, and no doubt they are the production of the aforesaid Spencer, some wandering ballad singer, who has not been endowed with much poetical genius.
Found in tradition throughout England, but apparently nowhere else. It was extensively published on broadsides, and traditional versions vary from them very little.
Broadside editions at Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:
Spencer the Rover
The tune seems to belong to the All Around My Hat/So Selfish Runs the Hare/Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron family. There are no mountains near Rotherham, unfortunately.
Roud: 1115 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Related Songs: All Around my Hat (melodic)