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The King sits in Dunfermline town

DigiTrad:
PATRICK SPENCER
SIR PATRICK SPENS
SIR PATRICK SPENS 3


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Phil Edwards 22 Jan 12 - 12:09 PM
pavane 22 Jan 12 - 12:54 PM
Phil Edwards 22 Jan 12 - 01:02 PM
gnomad 22 Jan 12 - 02:03 PM
Phil Edwards 22 Jan 12 - 05:40 PM
Paul Burke 22 Jan 12 - 06:00 PM
gnomad 22 Jan 12 - 06:51 PM
Phil Edwards 23 Jan 12 - 04:01 AM
GUEST,pizel 23 Jan 12 - 04:51 AM
Big Al Whittle 23 Jan 12 - 10:17 AM
gnomad 23 Jan 12 - 10:22 AM
Big Al Whittle 24 Jan 12 - 07:23 AM
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Subject: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 12:09 PM

I've recently worked up two (or three) different versions of the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens. It's not a song I sing very often, but I always find it rewarding when I do - there are some brilliant lines, from the opening on down (and what a great first line that is).

I particularly like the degree of variation there is between different versions. The first version I recorded sinks Sir Patrick on his way to Norway, and goes into great detail about the weather ("Cold and watery blew the wind and grumly grew the sea") and about events on board ship. (Which is odd in itself, considering that nobody lived to tell the tale - did Sir Patrick Spens climb up the mast and give the helm to a little cabin-boy? Who's to say? It's fifty miles to Aberdeen shore, after all, so presumably the cabin-boy didn't make it.) The second version gets Sir Patrick to Norway, fills in a lot of detail about the fit of pique in which he put to sea despite the look of the moon being all wrong, but deals with the shipwreck itself very laconically - "the bows of that good ship did crack and the salt sea did rush in".

As for the third version, I'm thoroughly ashamed of singing, let alone writing, something that panders so blatantly to the stereotype of traditional songs droning on endlessly; in reality I've rarely listened to a performance of a Child ballad with anything other than fascination (although Child 95 can drag on a bit). I would redress the balance by writing a ludicrously disjointed and interminably long parody of "Desolation Row", but unfortunately Dylan's already written one*.

*It's called "Desolation Row".


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: pavane
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 12:54 PM

I always liked Nic Jone's version


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 01:02 PM

M3 T00; the one I learned it from was actually by James Yorkston, but he was following Nic Jones fairly closely. That's my version 1; version 2 is after Peter Bellamy, with a tune that's apparently by Ewan MacColl.


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: gnomad
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 02:03 PM

I have a version printed (as far as I can tell) in 1927, in a collection of English (sic) songs and ballads. It tells rather more of both the Norway incident, and the incomplete voyage back.

This machine has a poor keyboard for a long transcription (26 verses) but if it is of interest I will put it up when on a better PC.


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 05:40 PM

Is it anything like version H here?


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Paul Burke
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 06:00 PM

Don't be so modern rationalist PR. There are thousands of stories that include detail that could only be known by the dead- that horrible Long Black Veil that was so popular a few years ago springs to mind. And don#t forget that there's a huge difference between then - you're lucky anyone here can tell a story at all, and the alternative is to go and play with the bedbugs- and now, when if I don't like your offering, I can turn on the telly/radio/iPod/computer or whatever, and hear what I like.


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: gnomad
Date: 22 Jan 12 - 06:51 PM

By heck, PR, well diagnosed. I take it you have been studying the many versions in some detail to have come so precisely upon the right one (or was it just the verse-count that gave the game away?)

I am sure that PipR will already be aware, but others may not, that some believe this to be a telling of events surrounding the death of Princess Margaret, known as the Maid of Norway, around 1290. I would think it a possible telling of an old folk-memory, but the verses sound rather later in origin. Clearly they don't tell the full tale, given that the job was to bring back "the King's daughter". Margaret died in Orkney, so presumably she either survived, or was not aboard, the wreck.


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 04:01 AM

Paul - it wasn't a serious criticism. Generally with songs like this I think we should just be grateful for what we've got. I love the image of Sir Patrick looking for someone - anyone - to take charge of the ship; you really get the sense of everyone panicking, Sir P. included (but then, he never said he was a good sailor).

gnomad - mainly the verse count!


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: GUEST,pizel
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 04:51 AM

Somewhere from the depths I seem to recall that the story in the ballad related to the mother of the so called Maid of Norway. Her father Alexander 111 did not attend the wedding, held in Norway, sending a number of Lords as his representatives in a fine new ship built for the occasion.
Later historians giving dates for the fatal return of this party may have been influenced by the ballad, or there may be written details in old chronicals.
Sir Patrick Spens was to take her hame ie. Norway was to become her home from that time. "The Kings Dochter tae Noroway tis thou mun tak her hame"


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 10:17 AM

a lovely song. works as poetry. the images are electrifying - has anyone ever done it heavy metal - or orchestrated?

One can imagine the late Alex harvey doing a great version - Alex had that weird professorial groove going. I can remember him handing flowers out to his audience wearing a red smoking jacket.

You can't imagine Boyzone being that brave with material.


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: gnomad
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 10:22 AM

I seem to remember that the Fairport Convention recording of about 1970 was pretty much rocked-up.


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Subject: RE: The King sits in Dunfermline town
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 07:23 AM

The king sat in Dunfermline town
Shouted, "Bloody wine! Fetch a real drink!
Piss off Sir Patrick and fetch me my woman!
No great loss, if the bloody ship sinks."


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