It seems as if the message of this ballad was hidden under the portrayal of courage of Patrick Spens. Courage is only one of the representations that were hidden in the story of Sir Patrick Spens. In addition to courage, the story was suggesting that nature can not be defied. Courage and the fact that nature can not be defied are identified from lines 21 to 24 in which Sir Patrick Spens’ crew (A.K.A Merry Men) predetermined that they would encounter a heavy storm on their way to Aberdour. Although Spens was sad about “This ill deed done to me,” (Line 18) and taking sail, he was forced to take sale by order of the king. This is where Sir Spens’ courage comes in, because although he was forced to sail during a bad time of year, he could have avoided it by fleeing or refusing to sail, etc. Instead, he took sail and did his best to complete his journey safely.
This story was such an important example because ships were one of the main sources for transportation during that time (Sir Patrick Spens’ time). In our time we carry the same concepts about man taking flight. Instead of having the stories told by mouth we have them reported by the TV, and instead of boats crashing in a storm, we have planes malfunctioning in a storm. The message contained in this story is one that can be applied to every type of transportation, in almost any period of time. The fact that it can be applied in almost any time period made the ballad a great candidate for spreading the messages it contains because of its song-like nature.
The specific branch of nature that is the most life-threatening is probably water (which is kind of ironic because we can’t survive without it). In the time of Sir Patrick Spens’, it looks as if they knew that water could be fatal; that is why they wanted to educate the future generations of the omniscient danger of water. This story also tells how tragic it is to lose a loved one. In lines 37-40, the story describes the feelings and reactions of the wives of the courageous seamen. The story ends by saying that halfway to Aberdour lies the good Patrick Spens, and the Scot’s lord at his feet. Even the king can be harmed by water.
The ever-present danger of water is the reason why “Sir Patrick Spens” has been carried on from generation to the next.