Sir Patrick Spens

Sir Patrick Spens

By Scottish Anonymous

The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine;
“O where shall I get a skeely skipper
To sail this ship or mine?”

Then up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King’s right knee:
“Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailed the sea.”

The King has written a broad letter,
And sealed it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.

“To Noroway, to Noroway,
To Noroway o’er the foam;
The King’s daughter of Noroway,
‘Tis thou must fetch her home.”

The first line that Sir Patrick read,
A loud laugh laughed he;
The next line that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his ee.

“O who is this has done this deed,
Has told the King of me,
To send us out at this time of the year,
To sail upon the sea?

“Be it wind, be it wet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship must sail the foam;
The king’s daughter of Noroway,
‘Tis we must fetch her home.”

They hoisted their sails on Monenday morn,
With all the speed they may;
And they have landed in Noroway
Upon a Wodensday

They had not been a week, a week,
In Noroway but twae,
When that the lords of Noroway
Began aloud to say, –

“Ye Scottishmen spend all our King’s gowd,
And all our Queenis fee.”
“Ye lie, ye lie, ye liars loud!
So loud I hear ye lie.

“For I brought as much of the white monie
As gane my men and me,
And a half-fou of the good red gowd
Out o’er the sea with me.

“Make ready, make ready, my merry men all,
Our good ship sails the morn.”
“Now, ever alack, my master dear
I fear a deadly storm.

“I saw the new moon late yestreen
With the old moon in her arm;
And if we go to sea, master,
I fear we’ll come to harm.”

They had not sailed a league, a league,
A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

The ankers brake and the top-masts lap,
It was such a deadly storm;
And the waves came o’er the broken ship
Till all her sides were torn.

“O where will I get a good sailor
Will take my helm in hand,
Till I get up to the tall top-mast
To see if I can spy land?”

“O here am I, a sailor good,
Will take the helm in hand,
Till you go up to the tall top-mast,
But I fear you’ll ne’er spy land.”

He had not gone a step, a step,
A step but barely ane,
When a bolt flew out of the good ship’s side,
And the salt sea came in.

“Go fetch a web of the silken cloth,
Another of the twine,
And wap them into our good ship’s side,
And let not the sea come in.”

They fetched a web of the silken cloth,
Another of the twine,
And they wapp’d them into the good ship’s side,
But still the sea came in.

O loth, both, were our good Scots lords
To wet their cork-heel’d shoon,
But long ere all the play was play’d
They wet their hats aboon.

And many was the feather-bed
That fluttered on the foam;
And many was the good lord’s son
That never more came home.

The ladies wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their heair,
All for the sake of their true loves,
For them they’ll see nae mair.

O lang, lang may the maidens sit
With their gold combs in their hair,
All waiting for their own dear loves,
For them they’ll see nae mair.

O forty miles of Aberdeen,
‘Tis fifty fathoms deep;
And there lies good Sir Patrick Spens,
With the Scots lords at his feet.

Summary of Sir Patrick Spens

  • Popularity of “Sir Patrick Spens”: The ballad “Sir Patrick Spens” by Scottish anonymous, is a highly popular ballad among the Child Ballads. Its origin is Scotland yet it is popular around the globe. It is stated that it first appeared in 1765 through receipt of two copies from Scotland. Yet its authorship stayed anonymous. It was first published in Reliques of Ancient English Poetry edited by Bishop Thomas Percy.
  • “Sir Patrick Spens” As a Representative of Chivalry and Tragedy: The balled beings with the Scottish King, Dunfermline, asking his advisors to take up the captaincy of the ship as per their navigation skills. When Sir Patrick Spens is recommended, the King asks him to fetch the Norwegian princess, though, he laughs it off, thinking the time unsuitable for such a venture. Yet, he ventures out on Monday and reaches Norwegian land soon after two days. On reaching Norway, he rather faces consternation of the accusation of lavishing all money of the Scottish king. Despite his protests, nobody pays attention to him. In this situation, he sets sail to Scotland despite the prediction of the risky storm. Soon the ship faces the storm that is about to wreck the ship. The crew tries to repair the ship with twine and silk but it stays unrepaired at several places. The crew fears that they would get wet and lords become terrified from the prospects of drowning at the sea. Back in Scotland, the ladies also experience disappointment. Soon, they learn that their lords are lying at the bottom of the sea, for the ship was drowned near Aberdeen.
  • Major Themes in “Sir Patrick Spens”: Chivalry, obedience, and love are three important themes of this ballad. The theme of chivalry is clear from the very first two stanzas where the king calls for Sir Patrick Spens to whom the entire Scotland considers a brave and courageous sailor. When he comes and takes up the responsibility of bringing the Norwegian princess, he does not think that he would face any resistance except the protest of spending the royal gold. Out of love for his king and his honesty, he decides to return despite drowning the entire crew and people on board near the city of Aberdeen. This shows his obedience and love for the king as well as the homeland.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Sir Patrick Spens”

literary devices refer to the specific tools that the writers use in their writings to convey their message appealingly. Anonymous has also inserted some literary devices in this poem to enhance his writing. The analysis of the devices used in this poem is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “Drinking the blood-red wine;/ “O where shall I get a skeely skipper / To sail this ship or mine?” and the sound of /o/ in “To Noroway, to Noroway, / To Noroway ov’r the foam” and “O who is this has done this deed / He told the king of me.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “loud laugh laughed”, the sound of /m/ in “my men” and the sound of /g/ in “gurly grew.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ and /l/ in “When a bolt flew out of the good ship’s side” or “O loth, both, were our good scots lords” and the sound of /m/ in “That never more came home.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

O lang, lang may the maidens sit
With their gold combs in their hair,
All waiting for their own dear loves,
For them they’ll see nae mair.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Anonymous has used imagery in this poem such as “O lang, lang may the maidens sit”, “O forty miles of Aberdeen” and “And many was the feather-bed.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. The poet has used the metaphors wind, hail, sleet, and the moon for different purposes.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified the moon, the sea and the wind as if they were life and emotions of their own.
  4. Rhetorical Question: The poem shows the use of rhetorical questions in the second and the third stanzas.

The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine;
“O where shall I get a skeely skipper
To sail this ship or mine?”

  1. Simile: The poem shows the use of a simile such “For I brought as much of the white monie / As gane my men and me.”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Here the poem has used the symbols of waves, sea, ship, and moon to show different characteristics of the Scots and the Scottish land.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Sir Patrick Spens”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The poem shows somewhat archaic diction with a tragic tone.
  2. Quatrain: It is a stanza having four lines borrowed from Persian poetry. Every stanza in the poem is a quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABCB rhyme scheme in all of its stanzas.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are twenty-five stanzas with each having four verses.

Quotes to be Used

These verses from “Sir Patrick Spens” are useful to warn people about the likely impacts of climate change.

“I saw the new moon late yestreen
With the old moon in her arm;
And if we go to sea, master,
I fear we’ll come to harm.”