Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Anonymous. 17th Cent.
  
368. Sir Patrick Spens
 


I. The Sailing


THE king 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, 
  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 must bring her hame.' 
 
The first word that Sir Patrick read 
  So loud, loud laugh'd 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' 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 o' Noroway, 
  'Tis we must fetch her hame.' 
 
They hoysed their sails on Monenday morn 
  Wi' a' the speed they may;  30
They hae landed in Noroway 
  Upon a Wodensday. 
 
II. The Return


'Mak ready, mak ready, my merry men a'!
 
  Our gude ship sails the morn.' 
'Now ever alack, my master dear,  35
  I fear a deadly storm. 
 
'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.'  40
 
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. 
 
The ankers brak, and the topmast lap,  45
  It was sic a deadly storm: 
And the waves cam owre the broken ship 
  Till a' her sides were torn. 
 
'Go fetch a web o' the silken claith, 
  Another o' the twine,  50
And wap them into our ship's side, 
  And let nae the sea come in.' 
 
They fetch'd a web o' the silken claith, 
  Another o' the twine, 
And they wapp'd them round that gude ship's side,  55
  But still the sea came in. 
 
O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords 
  To wet their cork-heel'd shoon; 
But lang or a' the play was play'd 
  They wat their hats aboon.  60
 
And mony was the feather bed 
  That flatter'd on the faem; 
And mony was the gude lord's son 
  That never mair cam hame. 
 
O lang, lang may the ladies sit,  65
  Wi' their fans into their hand, 
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens 
  Come sailing to the strand! 
 
And lang, lang may the maidens sit 
  Wi' their gowd kames in their hair,  70
A-waiting for their ain dear loves! 
  For them they'll see nae mair. 
 
Half-owre, half-owre to Aberdour, 
  'Tis fifty fathoms deep; 
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,  75
  Wi' the Scots lords at his feet! 
 
GLOSS:  skeely] skilful.  lift] sky.  lap] sprang.  flatter'd] tossed afloat.  kames] combs.
 
 
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