Sir Patrick Spens

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Left: First published in Bishop Percy's Reliques
Right: more modern version (condensed)

The king sits in Dunfermline toun,
Drinking the blude-red wine o:
"O whare will I get a skeely skipper
To sail this new ship of mine o?"

2. O up and spake an eldern-knight,
Sat at the king's right knee:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever saild the sea."

3. Our king has written a braid letter,
And seald it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.

4. "To Noroway, to Noroway,
To Noroway oer the faem;
The king's daughter of Noroway,
'Tis thou maun bring her hame."

5. The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Sae loud, loud laughed he;
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his ee.

6. "O wha is this has done this deed,
And tauld the king o me,
To send us out, at this time of the year,
To sail upon the sea?"

7. "Be it wind, be it weet, be it hall, be it sleet,
Our ship must sail the faem;
The king's daughter of Noroway,
'Tis we must fetch her hame."

8. They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn,
Wi' a' the speed they may;
They hae landed in Noroway,
Upon a Wodensday.

9. They hadna been a week, a week
In Noroway but twae,
When that the lords o Noroway
Began aloud to say:

10. "Ye Scottishmen spend a' our king's goud,
And a' our queenis fee."
"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liars loud!
Fu' loud I hear ye lie!

11. "For I brought as much white monie
As gane my men and me,
And I brought a half-fou' o' gude red goud,
Out o'er the sea wi' me.

12. "Make ready, make ready, my merry-men a'!
Our gude ship sails the morn."
"Now ever alake, my master dear,
I fear a deadly storm!

13. I saw the new moon, late yestreen,
Wi' the auld moon in her arm;
And if we gang to sea, master,
I fear we'll come to harm."

14. They hadna sail'd a league, a league,
A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

15. The ankers brak, and the top-masts lap,
It was sic a deadly storm;
And the waves cam o'er the broken ship,
Till a' her sides were torn.

16. "O where will I get a gude sailor,
To take my helm in hand,
Till I get up to the tall top-mast;
To see if I can spy land?"

17. "O here am I, a sailor gude,
To take the helm in hand,
Till you go up to the tall top-mast
But I fear you'll ne'er spy land."

18. He hadna gane a step, a step,
A step but barely ane,
When a bout flew out of our goodly ship,
And the salt sea it came in.

19. "Gae, fetch a web o' the silken claith,
Another o' the twine,
And wap them into our ship's side,
And let na the sea come in."

20. They fetchd a web o the silken claith,
Another o the twine,
And they wapped them roun that gude ship's side
But still the sea came in.

21. O laith, laith, were our gude Scots lords
To weet their cork-heel'd shoon!
But lang or a the play was play'd
They wat their hats aboon,

22. And mony was the feather-bed
That fluttered on the faem,
And mony was the gude lord's son
That never mair cam hame.

23. The ladyes wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their hair,
A' for the sake of their true loves,
For them they'll see na mair.

24. O lang, lang may the ladyes sit,
Wi' their fans into their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the strand!

25. And lang, lang may the maidens sit,
Wi' their goud kaims in their hair,
A' waiting for their ain dear loves!
For them they'll see na mair.

26. O forty miles off Aberdeen, *
'Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet.

O the king he sits in Dunfermline town
He's a-drinkin the blood-red wine
He said, Whaur will I find a skilly skipper
To sail this new ship of mine?

Then up and speaks an old eldry knight
Who sits by the king's right knee
Sayin Sir Patrick Spens is the finest sailor
That ever did sail the sea.

So the king he's taken his quill in hand
And in a letter he did say
You maun tak this to Sir Patrick Spens
You maun tak it right away.

O the first words that Sir Patrick read
O a loud laugh laughed he
And the next words Sir Patrick read
O a tear it blinded his ee.

He said, Wha's gone and done this thing
And tellt the king on me
That I maun sail through storm and gale
That I maun gang tae Norway?

But I'll go, my lord, I will sail, my king
I'll go right through the faem
I'll make my way to Norway
And I'll bring young Margaret hame.

So he sailed away from Norway
He sailed right through the faem
For he was bound for Norway
Just to bring young Margaret hame.

Well he hadna been in Norway
O a week nor scarcely three
When the highest lords in the king's court
Did turn around and did say.

O you Scottish men, you drink our wine
And you spend our gold
And you have come to Norway
And you've brought none of your own.

O you leer so loud, cried Sir Patrick Spens
You leer so loud, cried he
There is twenty thousand of gold and silver
In a dowry I've brought with me.

But I'll sail this night, this very night
I'll sail right through the faem
I'll make my way to Scotland
And I'll bring young Margaret hame.

So they sailed away from Norway
They sailed right through the faem
For they were bound to Dunfermline town
Just to bring young Margaret hame.

But in the Firth o Forth they ran into a storm
And the waves round them they did sweep
Now Sir Patrick Spens and his gallant crew
Lie sleepin in the deep.


* In every version I've ever heard, `Half ow're, half ow're f'ae Aberdour'. Aberdeen is far too far north, but Aberdour is just a short distance from Dunfermline, then capital of Scotland (the first stanza: `The King sits in Dunfermline toun..') - Robert Allan.

If there be historical foundation for the ballad, it is probably a blending of the voyage of Margaret, daughter of Alexander III., to wed Eric, King of Norway, in 1281 (some of her escort were drowned on their way home), with the rather mysterious death, or disappearance, of Margaret's daughter, "The Maid of Norway," on her voyage to marry the son of Edward I., in 1290. A woman, who alleged that she was the Maid of Norway, was later burned at the stake. The great number and variety of versions sufficiently indicate the antiquity of this ballad.

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