Iohn Spenser a Chesshire Gallant,


Iohn Spenser a Chesshire Gallant,


his life and repentance, who for killing of one Randall Gam: was lately executed at Burford a mile from Nantwich. To the tune of in Slumbring Sleepe.


John Spenser in a drunken rage, hits Randall Gam who dies from his injuries seven weeks later. Gam has many supporters who succeed in having Spenser convicted of murder and hanged in chains.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

Magdalene College - Pepys Library, Shelfmark: Pepys Ballads 1.114; EBBA 20047

Set to tune of...

Slumbring Sleepe, which is also known as Rogero


Kind hearted men, a while give eare
and [plainely] Ile unfold
The sadd[est tale that] ever yet,
by mortal man was told.
One Spenser brave, of Cheshire chiefe,
for men of brave rega[rd]e:
Yet hee unto his Countries griefe,
did good with ill reward.

At Acton, neere Nantwich was borne
this man, so famde of all;
Whose skill at each brave exercise,
was not accounted small:
For beating of the war-like Drumme,
no man could him surpasse:
For dauncing, leaping, and such like,
in Cheshire never was.

For shooting none durst him oppose,
hee would ayme so faire and right;
Yet long he shot in crooked Bowes,
and could not hit the white:
For striving still more things to learne,
the more he grew beloved;
No Shomaker but Spenser brave,
by women was so prooved.

Those qualities did draw his minde,
from reason quite and cleane,
And vildly hee'd forsake his wife,
for the love of every Queane:
By Women he maintayned was
in parill fine and brave,
John Spenser could no good thing want,
for he could but aske, and have.

In Silkes and Sattins would he goe,
none might with him compare;
No fashion might devised be,
but his should be as faire;
When as (God knowes) his wife at home
should pine with hungry griefe,
And none[wo]uld pitty her hard case,
or lend her some reliefe.

Whilst hee abroad did flaunt it out
amongst his lustfull Queanes,
Poore soule of force she sits at home,
without either helpe or meanes.
Thus long he lived basely vild,
[containd] of all thats good,
Till at the last of hard mischance,
he did shead Giltlesse Blood.

One Randall Gam being drunke,
with Spenser out did fall:
And he being apt to Quarilling,
would not be rul'd at all.
Bout about the Pledging of a Glasse,
to which he would not yeeld,
He vowed he either would be pledg'd
or answered fayre in field.

This answer Randall Gam did deny,
which Spencer plainly found,
And being rag'd he strucke on blow,
feld Randal gam to the ground.
Seven weekes upon this he lay,
ere life from him did part:
And at the last to earth and clay,
his Body did convert.

Then Spenser was in prison cast
his friends full farre did ly,
For frindship in them proved cold,
and none would come him nie.
That man being kild, beloved was well
of all men farre and neare,
And some did follow Law so farre,
did cost poore Spenser deare.

For though he kild him by mischance,
yet Law him so disdaines.
That for his unrespected blow,
he there was hangd in Chaines.
He that was kild, had many friends,
the other few or none,
Therefore the Law, on that side went,
and the other was orethrone.

He being dead, two Milke white Doves,
did hover over his head,
And would not leave that hartlesse place,
after he three howers was dead.
Two mile white Butterflies did light,
upon his Breches there:
And stood Confronting peoples sight,
to their amase and feare.

Though he was vildly bent in life,
and hangd the Law to quit;
Yet he was stolne away by his wife,
and Buryed in the night.
His true repentance is exprest,
within the second part:
With all his Gilt he hath confest,
when troubled was his heart.

FINIS. by Thomas Dickerson

Kind Youngmen all to mee give eare,
observe these lessons well;
For undeserved my death I tooke,
and said is the tale I tell.
I prisoned pent, I lie full fast,
sure Heaven hath decreed:
That though I thrived, yet at last,
bad fortunes should proceed.

I that for practise passed all,
in exercises strong,
Have heere for one offence but small.
been pent in Prison long.
Kind Countrymen, faire warning take,
beeing bad, amend your lives,
For sure Heaven will them forsake,
that doe forsake their wives.

I have a wife, a loving wife,
a constant, and a kind;
Yet proud of gifts, I turnd my life,
and falce she did me find:
Heaven shewed his part in making me,
proper in limbes and face,
Yet of it I no true use made,
but reapt thereby disgrace,

For being proud in dancings art,
most womens loves I gayne:
By them a long time was my life
in gallant sort maintaynd:
No Mayden young, about the towne,
but joyfull was to see
The face of Spenser and would spend,
all for to daunce with mee.

I spent my time in Ryoting,
and proudly led my life,
I had my choyce of damsels fayre,
what card I for my wife,
If once she came to intreat me home,
i'd kick her out of doors,
Indeed I would be ruld by none,
but by intising whore.

At length being pledging of a Glasse,
my hopes I did confound:
And in my rag I feld my friend,
with one blow to the ground.
For this offence, he being dead,
and I in Prison cast;
Most voyd of hopes this rashing hand
hath Spensers name disgrast.

None but my wife will visit me,
for those I lov'd before,
Being in this sad extremytie,
will visit me no more,
No helpe I find from these false friends,
no food to inrich my life:
Now doe I find the difference true,
twixt them and a constant wife

But she poore soule, by my bad meanes,
is quit bereft of all:
She playes the part of a Constant wife,
although her helpes be small.
Young men, youngmen, take heed by me
shun Dangers, Brawles, and Strife:
For though he fell against my will,
I for it loose my life.

O live like men and not like me,
of no good giftes be proud:
For if with you God angry be,
from his vengeance nought can shroud.
Make use of what you have practis'd well.
and not in vitious meanes,
If in rare gifts you do excell,
yet trust not Vitious Queanes.

For lust doth fully fill their Vaynes,
and apt they be to intise:
O therefore shunne their company,
like good men still be wise.
Example truely take of me,
all Vitious courses shunne:
For onely by bad company,
poore Spenser is undone.

FINIS. by John Spenser.

Composer of Ballad

Thomas Dickerson

Method of Punishment

hanging in chains




Execution Location

Burford, near Nantwich

Printing Location

Imprinted at London for I. [John] Trundle


John Spenser his Repentance in Prison.mp3


“Iohn Spenser a Chesshire Gallant,,” Execution Ballads, accessed April 25, 2024,

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