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Sir Patrick Spens Anonymous Poem Analysis Essay

No historical Sir Patrick Spens or Spence is known. “Sir Patrick Spens” may be based on a thirteenth century historical event, or combination of events, involving a Scottish king’s daughter or granddaughter being taken to or brought home from Norway. It may be a conflation of several different shipwrecks, focusing on the dangers of sailing and the supernatural omens that forewarn the doomed. It may simply be a story of suffering and loss that has no specific historical reference but is common to the human condition. Indeed, the ballad has a hauntingly universal appeal.

Many questions and themes emerge. The drowning seems needless, senseless. Yet there is at least a grudging admiration for Sir Patrick’s prompt acquiescence to the king’s unavoidable order and an even clearer sense that Sir Patrick’s men go with him to sea because they are personally loyal and willing followers. One might wonder whether treachery was involved in the old knight’s telling the king that Sir Patrick Spens was the best sailor. One might ask whether the king had an overwhelming reason to risk sending a ship to sea at a bad time of year and thought Sir Patrick was his only hope. Such concerns about human motivation have remained problematic throughout the centuries. The supernatural also continues to intrigue. Is there some unknown power that seeks to warn individuals about their actions? Is there some intuition, or some external projection of inner knowledge, that...

(The entire section is 529 words.)

There are a number of themes which are explored in the poem.  Prominent among these are the themes of loyalty, suffering and loss, and courage.

Loyaltyis a central theme as it relates to both Sir Patrick and his crew.  When Sir Patrick is ordered by the king to go to sea, he is aware that it is a dangerous time of year for sailing, yet he promptly obeys.  His men also...

There are a number of themes which are explored in the poem.  Prominent among these are the themes of loyalty, suffering and loss, and courage.

Loyalty is a central theme as it relates to both Sir Patrick and his crew.  When Sir Patrick is ordered by the king to go to sea, he is aware that it is a dangerous time of year for sailing, yet he promptly obeys.  His men also acquiesce without protest, because they are loyal to Sir Patrick.

The theme of suffering and loss common to the human condition is also explored in the poem.  The impact of the tale comes from the tragic loss of an exceptional man in Sir Patrick Spens, and the finality of the destruction of the ship and everyone aboard.  There is a sense of universality in Sir Patrick's lament when he says, "O wha is this has done this deed, this ill deed done to me".

The theme of courage is developed through the noble character of Sir Patrick.  He is a better man than the lords, who do not want to get "their fancy cork-heeled shoes" wet even aboard ship, and has more substance than the ladies, who are pictured as idly rich, insensitive, and demanding.  The steadfast bravery with which Sir Patrick submits to the king's command and performs his duty even to the face of death might be representative of the courage human individuals must demonstrate in facing whatever trials come their way.

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