A ballad is a poem or song that tells a popular story in short stanzas. The poem records a disaster from the thirteenth century..
The poem on your course tells the story of a knight, Sir Patrick Spens, who goes to sea on a mission for the king. Sir Patrick has to fetch the daughter of the king of Norway and sail with her to Scotland. As Sir Patrick Spens has to complete his mission in winter, he has a sense of doom about it. The poem tells the story, without any comment from the author about the events. The reader has to judge whether it was a wise voyage. Summary
This ballad is divided into two parts, the outward voyage to Norway and the return journey to Scotland. In the palace of Dunfermline, as the King enjoyed a drink of red wine he suddenly demanded a skilled sea captain to sail his new ship. The king’s right hand knight immediately nominated Sir Patrick Spens for the task. Sir Patrick Spens was enjoying a stroll on the beach when the king’s letter reached him. The letter demanded that he sail to Norway and bring home the King of Norway’s daughter. At first Sir Patrick roared laughing. Then he cried.
He wondered with horror about who had told the king of his skill as a sailor at such a time of the year. Sir Patrick knew it was his duty to transport the princess, even in stormy weather. As they celebrated their safe arrival, Sir Patrick planned to return the next day, even though he feared a storm. He was superstitious because of the new moon.
Early on the return voyage it grew stormy and dark.
The storm broke the anchor and the main mast as well as wrecking the sides of the ship. Sir Patrick Spens ordered the sailors to repair the holes with silk and twine, probably believing the silk was magic. But it was in vain. Nothing could stop the sea from pouring in the sides of the ship. The Scottish Lords hid under the deck, unwilling to assist the sailors, for fear of wetting even their shoes. But they drowned. Soon, feather mattresses and bodies floated on the sea.
Archaic diction [old-fashioned language]: Many of the words and phrases are no longer part of normal English e.g. ‘gurly’, ‘braid’, ‘ship o’ mine’, ‘half-owre’. Dialogue: Many lines, such as three and four, seven and eight etc. are directly spoken by the characters. Repetition: The words ‘Norway’, ‘loud’, ‘be it’, ‘mak’ ready’, ‘lang’ etc. are repeated. This creates a musical effect. It creates a repeating rhythm, along with the rhyme and alliteration. Rhyme: The second and fourth lines only of each stanza rhyme. Alliteration: A good example is the ‘f’ sound in the following quote: ‘feather bed that flatter’d on the foam’. Find others, such as ‘w’. A pararhyme is a poetic convention used to create dissonance in a poem. The basic pararhyme has beginning and end sounds that sounds the same, with the vowel sound in the word being altered. The effect of pararhyme is to create a sense of rhyme, with a slightlty discordant feel. Comparison between Old English and Medieval English
The Old English period came to an end with the Norman Invasion of 1066. Normans spoke a dialect of French later called Anglo-Norman. Alongside Anglo-Norman, Old English developed into Middle English. Middle English is a distinct variety of English, influenced in large part by Anglo-Norman French. For example, Old English speakers did not distinguish between /f/ and /v/. After the Conquest, English people had to distinguish between, for example, veal and feel. So, new sounds, new words, new syntax—all contribute to a significant change in the English language. And to a new literature. Nature: The poem describes the sea in winter. Foamy water, a storm, darkness, pouring waves, hail and sleet are all mentioned. Sailing: The poem informs us about the nature of winter sailing in the thirteenth century. The details include anchors, sails, topmasts, feather beds for the nobles, measurement in leagues and fathoms. Fashion in the thirteenth century: The poet mentions men’s...
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