Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
 
75. Sir Patrick Spens
 
 
I. The Sailing.

I

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?’
 
II

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.’
 
III

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.
 
IV

‘To Noroway, to Noroway,
  To Noroway o’er the faem;
The king’s daughter o’ Noroway,        15
  ’Tis thou must bring her hame.’
 
V

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
 
VI

‘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?
 
VII

‘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.’
 
VIII

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.

IX

‘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.
 
X

‘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
 
XI

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.
 
XII

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.
 
XIII

‘O where will I get a gude sailor
  To tak’ my helm in hand,        50
Till I get up to the tall topmast
  To see if I can spy land?’—
 
XIV

‘O here am I, a sailor gude,
  To tak’ the helm in hand,
Till you go up to the tall topmast,        55
  But I fear you’ll ne’er spy land.’
 
XV

He hadna gane a step, a step,
  A step but barely ane,
When a bolt flew out of our goodly ship,
  And the saut sea it came in.        60
 
XVI

‘Go fetch a web o’ the silken claith,
  Another o’ the twine,
And wap them into our ship’s side,
  And let nae the sea come in.’
 
XVII

They fetch’d a web o’ the silken claith,
        65
  Another o’ the twine,
And they wapp’d them round that gude ship’s side,
  But still the sea came in.
 
XVIII

O laith, laith were our gude Scots lords
  To wet their cork-heel’d shoon;        70
But lang or a’ the play was play’d
  They wat their hats aboon.
 
XIX

And mony was the feather bed
  That flatter’d on the faem;
And mony was the gude lord’s son        75
  That never mair cam hame.
 
XX

O lang, lang may the ladies sit,
  Wi’ their fans into their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
  Come sailing to the strand!        80
 
XXI

And lang, lang may the maidens sit
  Wi’ their gowd kames in their hair,
A-waiting for their ain dear loves!
  For them they’ll see nae mair.
 
XXII

Half-owre, half-owre to Aberdour,
        85
  ’Tis fifty fathoms deep;
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
  Wi’ the Scots lords at his feet!
 
GLOSS:  skeely] skilful.  lift] sky.  lap] sprang.  wap] wrap.  flatter’d] tossed afloat.  kames] combs.
 

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