RTL: The Inchcape Rock of Robert Southey

Lorelei reminded me of Robert Southey’s Inchcape Rock I had read decades ago. That’s the poem in which

The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.

But the evil Ralph the Rover and his men approach the Rock in their boat.

The boat is lower’d, the boatmen row,
And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
And he cut the bell from the Inchcape Float.

Down sank the Bell with a gurgling sound,
The bubbles rose and burst around;
Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the Rock,
Won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”

He and his men go away, did more plundering, and came back to the shores of Scotland. But now there was haze in the sky and they could not see the sun. Rover stands on the deck and can’t see the land. He says:

“Now, where we are I cannot tell,

But I wish we could hear the Inchcape Bell.”

Yes their boat crashed on the Inchcape Rock. In this predicament,
Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair,
He curst himself in his despair;
The waves rush in on every side,
The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

The moral of the poem is contained in a pithy Tamil saying,

keDuván kéDu ninaippán:

Who is going to be ruined thinks (of doing) evil.

Both The Lorelei and the Inchcape Rock talk are about the crashing of boats on rocks in the sea. However, Heine’s Lorelei, with all its melodic beauty, doesn’t convey any obvious moral lesson as the rhythmic Lake-Poet Southey’s Inchcape Rock does.

Jan 15, 2011

4 thoughts on “RTL: The Inchcape Rock of Robert Southey”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s