Sir Patrick Spens

In the reign of Alexander III of Scotland, his daughter Margaret was escorted by a large party of nobles to Norway for her marriage to King Eric; on the return journey many of them were drowned.

The Traditional Scottish Ballad is on the left and Our Best Guess Translation on the right


THE king sits in Dumferling toune,
Drinking the blude-reid wine:
"0 whar will I get guid sailor,
To sail this schip of mine?"

Up and spak an eldern knicht,
Sat at the kings richt kne:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That sails upon the se."

The king has written a braid [open] letter
And signed it wi' his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the sand.

The first line that Sir Patrick red,
A loud lauch lauched he:
The next line that Sir Patrick red,
The teir blinded his ee.

"0 wha is this has don this deid,
This ill deid don to me;
To send me out this time o' the yeir
To sail upon the se?

"Mak haste, mak haste, my mirry men all,
Our guid schip sails the morne."
"0 say na sae, my master deir,
For I feir a deadlie storme.

"Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone
Wi' the auld moone in hir arme;
And I feir, I feir, my deir master,
That we will com to harme."

O our Scots nobles wer richt laith [loth]
To weet [wet] their cork-heild schoone;
Bot lang owre a' the play wer playd,
Their hats they swam aboone.

O lang, may their ladies sit
Wi' thair fans into their hand,
Or eir they se Sir Patrick Spens
Cum sailing to the land.

O lang, lang may the ladies stand
Wi' thair gold kems in their hair,
Waiting for thair ain deir lords,
For they'll se thame na mair.

Have owre, have owre to Aberdour,
It's fiftie fadom deip:
And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feit.

THE king sits in Dunferling town,
Drinking the blood-red wine:
"Oh where will I get good sailor,
To sail this ship of mine?"

Up and spoke an elderly knight,
Sat at the kings right knee:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That sails upon the sea."

The king has written an open letter
And signed it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the sand.

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

"Oh who is this, has done this deed,
This ill deed done to me;
To send me out this time of year
To sail upon the sea?

"Make haste, make haste, my merry men all,
Our good ship sails in the morn."
"Oh say no say, my master dear,
For I fear a deadly storm.

"Late, last night I saw the new moon
With the old moon in her arm;
And I fear, I fear, my dear master,
That we will come to harm."

Oh our Scots nobles were right loath
To wet their cork heeled shoes;
But long before the play was played,
Their hats they swam about.

Oh long, may their ladies sit
With their fans into their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the land.

Oh long, long may the ladies stand
With their gold combs in their hair,
Waiting for their own dear lords,
For they'll see them no more.

Have over, have over to Aberdour,
It's fifty fathoms deep:
And there lies good Sir Patrick Spens,
With the Scots lords at his feet.



"Where the broad ocean leans against the land....."
Oliver Goldsmith

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Nancy Fry, nancy@wayward.com.