Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sir Patrick Spens

The king sits in Dumferling toune
Drinking the blude-reid wine:
"O what will I get guid sailor,
To sail this ship of mine?"

Up and spake an eldern knicht,
Sat at the king's richt knee:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That sails upon the sea."

The king has written a braid 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 rad,
A loud lauch lauched he;
The next line that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his ee.

"O wha is this has done this deed,
This il deed done to me,
To send me out this time o' the year,
To sail upon the sea?

"Make haste, make haste, my merry men all,
Our guid ship sails the morn."
"O say na sae, my master dear,
For I fear a deadly storm/

"Late, late yestre'en I saw the new moon
Wi' the auld moon in her arm,
And I fear, I fear, my dear master,
That we will come to harm."

O our Scots nobles were richt laith
To weet their cork-heeled shoon,
But lang owre a the play were played
Their hats they swam aboon.

O lang, lang, may their ladies sit,
Wi' their fans into their hand,
Or ere they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the land.

O lang, lang, may the ladies stand
Wi' their gold kems in their hair,
Waiting for their ain dear lords,
For they'll see them na mair.

Half o'er, half o'er to Aberdour
It's fifty fadom deep,
And there lies guid Sir Patrick Spens
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet.

Narrative poetry presents an interesting challenge: clearly communicate a story without letting the poetry interfere in its telling, ideally, letting the poetry enhance the experience.  In this old (13th century) narrative poem, we're presented with a retrospective on a series of events.  The narrator of the tale, by telling it in retrospect, is granted a degree of control over how we read the events.  Doom is foreshadowed early on in the poem with the phrase, blood red wine.  When the action of the ship sinking comes, it's skipped over, perhaps to show how the sea swallowed the men up without a trace.

To me, narrative poetry represents an attractive way of chronicling events, real or fictitious.  It serves as memorial and enactment, and is very satisfying and engaging to read.  Maybe for next week, I'll try to write a narrative poem.


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