Volume V, song 482, page 496 - 'Sir Patrick Spence' -...
Volume V, song 482, page 496 - 'Sir Patrick Spence' - Scanned from the 1853 edition of the 'Scots Musical Museum', James Johnson and Robert Burns (Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood & Sons, 1853)
Verse 1: 'The King sits in Dunfermline toune, Drinking the blude-rid wine O quhar wull I get a guid sailor to sail this schip of mine.' A translation of this piece would read roughly as 'The King sits in Dunfermline, Drinking the blood-red wine O where will I find a good sailor to sail this ship of mine.'
The 'Scots Musical Museum' is the most important of the numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century collections of Scottish song. When the engraver James Johnson started work on the second volume of his collection in 1787, he enlisted Robert Burns as contributor and editor. Burns enthusiastically collected songs from various sources, often expanding or revising them, whilst including much of his own work. The resulting combination of innovation and antiquarianism gives the work a feel of living tradition.
This is a very popular and famous ballad both about and supposedly by the mythical Scots author and sailor Sir Patrick Spens. The lyrics are thought to have been composed as early as the 1400s but their first appearance in publication was not until the 1750s. The melody to this piece had not been in publication before but and therefore it has been assumed was a contemporary production. There are, however, similarities to 'Will ye go to Flanders' and 'Gramachree Molly'. There are at least three versions of the tune in existence though and it is now difficult to tell which was the original.