Click on arrow to hear the song performed by Derek B. Scott, Professor of Critical Musicology, University of Leeds, to his own piano accompaniment.

Professor Scott explains that Longfellow wrote his poem after hearing news of the shipwreck in 1839. He calls his poem a ballad, and it contains reminiscences of the old ballad “Sir Patrick Spens” in some stanzas (the one referring to the moon, for example). Hatton provides it with dramatic musical setting full of descriptive devices for the rain, the skipper’s laughter, the storm, the fog bell, the maiden’s prayer, and the sinking of the ship). At the same time, the use of repeated musical motives helps to give the song unity. It is an unusually elaborate and difficult piece for the drawing-room.


Scott, Derek B. The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour. 2nd ed. Aldershot, Hampshire; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

Last modified 21 April 2013