A Critical Analysis of Sir Patrick Spens, The Ballad

‘Sir Patrick Spens’ is, for essentially the most half, an archetypal early ballad being composed in quatrains, with the standard alternating four-stress and three-stress lines and the second and fourth line of each stanza rhyming. The poem is set in medias res, telling actually of a tragedy, presumably primarily based on two voyages in the thirteenth-century on which Scottish noblemen transported princesses to royal marriages, with many members of Alexander III’s daughter Margaret’s escort drowning on the journey house. The theme of tragedy and having a plot based mostly on native history are both components often seen in the ballad type.

However, the poem does additionally defy traits of the normal ballad; it contains a third person narrative voice that is not necessarily impartial, which contradicts the typically impersonal, distanced narration generally found in this style of poetry. There is an example of a satirical view of the higher courses, mocking the king’s determination to not withhold the voyage and also mocking the truth that the nobles boarded the ship, for if that they had not, then the tragedy would have been avoided.

The dark humour discovered in the personification of their hats that ‘swam aboon’(line 32) exemplifies a view not notably sympathetic with the drowning victims, which coupled with the concept ‘the play had been played’(line 31) suggests the inevitability that this may be the scenario, clearly signifying a mockery of the selections made by the higher courses. Early ballads often comprise strong regional dialect as they have been initially orally transmitted.

This particular dialect gives the reader a strong thought of the origins of the ballad and lends a sense of authenticity to the textual content, reaffirming the typicality of this particular ballad, being a additional reference to it’s foundations in native historical past.

The dialect also can be used as a software to highlight sections of the ballad, for instance, when it is used to describe the King ingesting blood-red wine or ‘blude-reid wine’ (line 2). This sturdy image is prefigurative of the tragic ending of the poem and echoes the previously displayed idea that the narrator feels the king is liable for this misfortune. The narrator’s view displays the idea of ‘power without responsibility’ which makes this ballad somewhat ahead of its time. It was uncommon that royalty have been questioned when the ballad form flourished in Scotland from the fifteenth century onward. This notion that the poem is quite a ahead of it’s time implies that at least this ballad negates the view of Ben Johnson’s dictum ‘a poet should detest a ballad maker’[1] as clearly right here the early ballad demonstrates a sensible use in it’s capacity to convey a person’s private political view in a somewhat energetic means, passing on their message by word of mouth and challenging the accepted.

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