2.3 The Inchcape Rock – NOTES

Famous English poet Robert Southey has written this ballad. In the 14th Century, the Abbot of Aberbrothok installed a warning bell on the Inchcape Rock – an infamous sandstone reef located 18 km off the east coast of Angus, Scotland. The Inchcape Rock is submerged in water during high tide & is barely visible during low tide. This poem is about a sea-pirate – Sir Ralph the Rover, who removed the warning bell & later met his doom.

Summary –

The ballad opens with beautiful description of the calm atmosphere of the sea, air & the ship. The sea is calm & the waves gently pass over the Inchcape Rock without causing the Inchcape bell to ring. This rock was infamous for causing shipwrecks. There was a town situated on the North Sea coat in the council area of Angus, Scotland. The Abbot of Aberbrothok was a kind-hearted & selfless man. He had placed a bell on it to keep the ships safe from colliding with the rock.

On one shiny bright day, the birds joyfully sang over the sea. The installed buoy could be seen as a dark tiny spot over the green water of the ocean.  Sir Ralph the Rover – sea pirate noticed it from his ship. He was jealous of Abbot who was blessed by the sailors for his good deed. Sir Ralph the Rover was in a cheerful mood but his cheer & joy originated from wickedness. In a small ship, he rowed towards the Inchcape Rock & cut the bell off the float. The bell quickly sank into the sea. He was satisfied & commented that now onwards no shipmen would bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok as there was no bell left to guide them.

He then went in search of ships to plunder. After many days he returned towards Scotland’s shore. The day was rough. The strong winds had blown. Sir Ralph & his crew were not able to see the land as it was too dark. The waves crashing against the coast could be heard which indicated that that they were near the shore. Sir Ralph reassured his men that soon the moon will rise & provide some light on the sea.  One of his shipmen was confused about where they were. All wished if they could hear the bell sound. But that was not possible. Their ship rifted helplessly towards the dangerous Inchcape Rock that was submerged under water & struck hard against the rock. Sir Ralph the Rover hopelessly regretted for cutting the bell from the rock. The waves rushed from all sides & his ship sank into the water. He could hear the dreadful sound of the death bell that the devil below the sea rang with the Inchcape bell. He himself fell into the trap that he had set for others.  The poem confirms the universal truth that “What goes around, comes around”.

Character sketch of Sir Ralph The Rover-

Sir Ralph The Rover was an evil character. He was a sea pirate who becomes rich by looting other ships on the sea. He was overconfident & full of wickedness. He was jealous of the Abbot of Aberbrothok’s fame & reputation. He cuts the bell installed by him to warn the mariners from shipwrecks. He wish that this way no one will bless the Abbot for his good gesture & has no regret. It’s too late when in the end he realizes his mistake. He is a typical foolish villainous character.

Rhyme scheme of the poem – aabb


Figures of speech –

1] Alliteration

1) The ship was as still as she could be

2) The Abbot of Aberbrothok

3) And over the waves its warning rung

4) When the rock was hid by the surge’s swell

5) And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok

6) But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness

7) And I’ll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok

8) won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok

9)They hear no sound, the swell is strong

10) Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock

11) Sir ralph the rover tore his hair

12) The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

2] Metaphor –

1) The devil below was ringing his bell

3] Repetition –

1) No stir in the air, no stir in the sea

2) Quoth Sir Ralph

4] Personification –

1) The ship was as still as she could be

5] Apostrophe –

1) Oh Christ!

6] Onomatopoeia –

1) Down sank the bell with a gurgling sound

2) The breakers roar?

3) The devil below was ringing his bell

7] Inversion –

1) On the deck the Rover takes his stand

2) So thick a haze Oérspreads the sky.

3) Now, where we are, we cannot tell.

4) One dreadful sound could the Rover hear.

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