Sir Patrick Spens
Martin Carthy Lyrics

Oh the king sits in Dunfermline town
A-drinking the blood-red wine,
Says, "Where will I get me a brave young skipper
Sail this ship of mine?"

And up and spoke an old, old man,
Who sat at the king's right knee.
He says, "Patrick Spens is the very best sailor
Who ever did sail on the sea."
So the king he has written him a long, long letter
Sealed it with his hand,
And he sent it along to Patrick Spens
Who was walking down on the sand.

And the very first line that Patrick read
So loud, so loud laughed he,
And the very next line that Patrick read
Down he fell to his knee.

"Oh, who is this, who has done this deed
Telling the king on me,
For to send us out this time of the year
To sail on the salt, salt sea?"

"To Norway, to far Norway,
To Norway over the foam.
It is the king's daughter of far Norway
And we must bring her home."

Now they set sail with all good speed
On a Monday in the morn,
And they have arrived far over the sea
On a Wednesday in the eve.

And they'd not been in far Norway
A week but barely three,
When all those lords of far Norway
Began out aloud for to say:

"Oh, you Scots foreigners spend our king's gold,
Swallow up our money."
"Oh, weary weary the tongue that lies,
See how it lies on thee."

"Make ready, ready my good men all,
The little ship sails in the morn.
Be it wind, be it wet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Be it fair or deadly storm."

But up and spoke our own weatherman,
"I fear we'll all be drowned.
For I saw the new moon late last night,
The old moon in her arm."

And they'd not sailed a league and a league,
A league but barely three
When through and through the little ship's side
[They?] spied the green-walled sea.

"Oh, where will I get me a brave young boy,
Take my helm in hand,
While I climb up to the tall topmast,
See can I spy land."

And he'd not gone a step and a step,
A step but barely one,
When the whirling winds and the ugly jaws
Came a-driving to their shin.

"Oh, fetch me a web of the silken cloth,
Another web of the twine,
And lay them around our little ship's side
Let not the sea come in."

And they got a web of the silken cloth,
Another web of the twine,
And they laid them around the little ship's side,
Still the sea come in.

Oh, the anchor snapped, the topmast cracked,
It was a deadly storm.
And the whirling winds and the ugly jaws
Came a-driving to their chin.

And there came a gale from the north-north-east,
So loud, so loud it weep,
It cried, "Patrick Spens and all of his men
Are drowning in the deep."

And loath, loath were the good Scots lords
To wet their shining shoen,
But long and ere this day was done
Their hats were soaking through.

And many were the fine feather bed
Flattering over the foam,
And many were the good lords' sons
Never, never more come home.

And long, long will the ladies sit,
Their gold combs in their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come a-sailing to dry land.

Oh, it's east by north from Aberdour,
It's fifty fathom deep.
And it's there it lies Patrick Spens,
The Scots lords at his feet.

Contributed by Maya T. Suggest a correction in the comments below.
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Comments from YouTube:


Ladies and gentlemen, this is what a giant looks like.

sandra morey

This ballad is ancient. Many variants exist. John Longstaff sang a beautiful one. Martin Carthy is amazing and I for one thank him profusely for keeping these really really old stories alive.


Lending his brilliance to another classic.

Graham Exton

A great performance from a great man.


Il Maestro! thank you so much.

fred cheney

It's clear that Warren Zevon listened to this before writing Roland the headless Thompson Gunner.

Edward Temple

It would have been nice if the audience had not been so rude.

sandra morey

@Edward Temple Baez did a splendid performance of Geordie. There are many people covering all these wonderful ballads and they bring us a glimpse into long time ago with stories that were the newspapers of their day. I am never "wedded" to one performer's take over the others. It's the poetry that tells us what happened. Your process sounds a lot like mine in trying to find an artist. Luckily I have been a fan of the Waterson family and he joined them and he and his daughter, Eliza and a whole bunch of relatives along with the Copper family are still performing regularly and singing the old ballads. Check out Ewan MaCall. He is a wonderful singer and researcher and composer who passed a decade or so ago. Was married to Pete's sister, Peggy Seeger. They have a kid who sings in various groups, Colin MaCall. Also you might like Archie Fisher or his sister, Ray Fisher (RIP)

Edward Temple

I first heard him on tv at the Philadelphia folk festival but I did not get his name. That was long before the Internet. My friend and I searched for him for years and just by chance on YouTube a few years ago I heard a performance of Geordie and knew it was him! Was very happy. That Geordie version sounded so authentic compared to the Joan Baez version I knew so well.

sandra morey

@Edward Temple I take my hat off to anyone who can suffer through a rude audience and still put across Sir Patrick Spens.

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