Spencer The Rover - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

Spencer the Rover is a traditional English folk song.  It was sung by the Copper family of Rottingdean, East Sussex.  The best known recorded version is probably by John Martyn (who jazzifies it a bit), and it has also been recorded by Cara Dillon (who gives it a contemporary feel). 

Here is the John Martyn version:

And here is the Cara Dillon version:

But for me, it is best heard sung acapella in an English pub - which, I suspect, was its traditional setting.  It's a heart-warming tale of a rover who, missing his family, returns to them and settles down.  There's a sort of redemption there I guess.

Chords

           G
When Spencer the rover,

            C                      D
Who'd wandered all over

        G
And gone through both parts of

           C          D     G
Great Britain and Wales,

         G                    D

Near Rotheram in Yorkshire
     
         C                    D

He'd been on the ramble,

        G
And weary of travelling

        C               D  G
Had sat down to rest.

Lyrics

These words were composed by Spencer the Rover,
Who had travelled Great Britain and most parts of Wales;
He had been so reduced which caused great confusion
And that was the reason he went on the roam.

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 there runs a clear fountain,
With bread and cold water he himself did refresh.

It tasted more sweeter than the gold he had wasted,
More 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 fast approaching to the woods he resorted
With woodbine and ivy his bed for to make;
There he dreamt about sighing lamenting and crying.
To home to your family and rambling forsake.

On the fifth of November I've a reason to remember
When first he arrived home to his family and wife,
They stood so surprised when first he arrived
To see such a stranger once more in their sight.

His children came around him with their prittle-prattling stories,
With their prittle-prattling stories to drive care away;
Now they are united like birds of one feather ,
Like bees in one hive contented they'll stay.

So now he is a-living in his cottage contented
With woodbine and roses growing all around the door;
He's as happy as those that's got thousands of riches,
Contented he'll stay and go rambling no more.

Other English Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs