Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
Sir Patrick Spens
Anonymous
 
THE KING 1 sits in Dunfermline town,
  Drinking the blude-red wine,
‘O whare will I get a skeely skipper
  To sail this new ship o’ mine?’
 
O up and spak an eldern knight,        5
  Sat at the king’s right knee:
‘Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
  That ever sail’d the sea.’
 
Our king has written a braid letter, 2
  And seal’d it with his hand,        10
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
  Was walking on the strand.
 
‘To Noroway, to Noroway,
  To Noroway o’er the faem:
The king’s daughter o’ Noroway,        15
  ’Tis thou maun bring her hame.’
 
The first word that Sir Patrick read,
  Sae loud, loud laughed he;
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
  The tear blinded his e’e.        20
 
‘O wha is this has done this deed,
  And tauld the king o’ me,
To send us out, at this time o’ the year,
  To sail upon the sea?’
 
‘Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,        25
  Our ship must sail the faem;
The king’s daughter of Noroway,
  ’Tis we must fetch her hame.’
 
They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn,
  Wi’ a’ the speed they may;        30
And they hae landed in Noroway,
  Upon a Wodensday.
 
They hadna been a week, a week
  In Noroway but twae,
When that the lords o’ Noroway        35
  Began aloud to say:
 
‘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!        40
 
‘For I hae brought as much white monie
  As gane my men and me,
And I hae brought a half-fou’ o’ gude red goud,
  Out o’er the sea wi’ me.
 
‘Make ready, make ready, my merry-men a’!        45
  Our gude ship sails the morn.’
‘Now ever alake, my master dear,
  I fear a deadly storm!
 
‘I saw the new moon, late yestreen, 3
  Wi’ the auld moon in her arm;        50
And if we gang to sea, master,
  I fear we’ll come to harm.’
 
They hadna sail’d a league, a league,
  A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,        55
  And gurly grew the sea.
 
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.        60
 
‘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?’
 
‘O here am I, a sailor gude,        65
  To take the helm in hand,
Till you get up to the tall top-mast;
  But I fear you’ll ne’er spy land.’
 
He hadna gane a step, a step,
  A step but barely ane,        70
When a bout flew out of our goodly ship,
  And the salt sea it came in.
 
‘Gae, fetch a web o’ the silken claith,
  Another o’ the twine,
And they wapped them roun that gude ship’s side        75
  But still the sea came in.
 
O laith, laith, were our gude Scots lords
  To weet their cock-heel’d shoon!
But lang or a’ the play was play’d
  Their wat their hats aboon.        80
 
And mony was the feather-bed
  That floated on the faem,
And mony was the gude lord’s son
  That never mair cam hame.
 
The ladyes wrang their fingers white,        85
  The maidens tore their hair,
A’ for the sake of their true loves,
  For them they’ll see na mair.
 
O lang, lang may the ladyes sit,
  Wi’ their fans into their hand,        90
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
  Come sailing to the strand!
 
And lang, lang may the maidens sit,
  Wi’ their goud kaims in their hair,
A’ waiting for their ain dear loves!        95
  For them they’ll see na mair.
 
O forty miles off Aberdour,
  ’Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
  Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet.        100
 
Note 1. This ballad, presumably of antiquity, was first published in a shorter version in Percy’s Reliques. Whether there is an actual foundation in history from which it sprang has not been conclusively determined. Motherwell (Minstrelsy Ancient and Modern, ed. 1827), bases it upon the “melancholy and disasterous fate of the gallant band which followed in the suite of Margaret, daughter of Alexander III, when she was espoused to Eric of Norway (1281). According to Fordun, in this expedition many distinguished Nobles accompanied her to Norway to grace her nuptials; several of whom perished in a storm while on their return to Scotland.” [back]
Note 2. A braid letter: i.e., open or patent, in opposition to close rolls (Percy). [back]
Note 3. Moon late yestreen: the sight of the moon made the bad omen (Child). [back]
 
 
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