..÷ and in verse three, his woman, Julie Ann, says, ˘John Henry, you have always been a man, Lord, Lord...÷ (Ballad).
The theme of Sir Patrick Spence is the story of a sea captain, asked by his king to sail his ship (Mostly). The weather is foul, and one of the crewmen has seen a bad omen, the new moon in the arms of the old, which foretells danger, but Sir Patrick sets sail and the ship and all its crew are lost in the storm. The motif does not change from one version to another. The theme in John Henry is that of a hard working man who is determined to work harder than the new steam drill so he is not put out of work by the new machine (Ballad). He works so hard that he literally works himself to death. This motif is kept throughout the different versions of the ballad.
Almost all ballads have verses consisting of four or six lines, and use one of two basic meters, either 4-3-4-3 or 4-4-4-4 (Ballad). The ballad Sir Patrick Spence uses the 4-3-4-3 meter, but the ballad John Henry does not follow either of these meters (Ballad; Mostly). There is no variance in Sir Patrick Spence, all the verses having the same rhythm and rhyming pattern. John Henry has a different rhyming pattern for each verse so there is a lot of variance in the ballad in the version looked at here. The meter is different for each verse. The first verse is 3-3-5-4-4, the second is 4-4-4-4