Sir Patrick Spens
Language: English 
Available translation(s): IRI
The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine.
"O! where shall I get a captain bold
To sail this new ship of mine?"

Then up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King's right knee:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sail'd the sea!"

The King has written a broad letter,
And seal'd it with his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Who was walking on the strand.

"To Noraway, to Noraway, 
To Noraway, o'er the foam,
The Princess fair of Noraway,
'Tis thou must bring her home."

"O! who is it has done this deed,
And told the King of me?
To send us out at this time of the year,
To sail upon the sea!"

They had not sail'd a league, a league,
A league but barely three,
When the sky grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

The anchors brake, the topmasts lap,
'Twas such a deadly storm.
And the waves came o'er the broken ship,
Till all her sides were torn.

The ladies wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their hair,
All for the sake of their true loves,
For them they'll see no more.

O! forty miles from Aberdeen
'Tis fifty fathom deep.
And there lies brave Sir Patrick Spens,
With his comrades at his feet.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • IRI Irish (Gaelic) [singable] (Gabriel Rosenstock) , title 1: "Sir Patrick Spens", copyright © 2014, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Virginia Knight

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 36
Word count: 225