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The Inchcape Rock Explanation Poem 2.3 Class 12th 2022

Written by Sachin Raut

The Inchcape Rock is a poem about the story of the Abbot of Aberbrothok and a pirate written by Robert Southey. The poem is about the behavior of the people toward others and the poet wants to convey the message that if you did a bad deed for others, the same you return. It means “As you sow so shall you reap.” on this poem, you will be asked about the activity of Appreciation as well as solve the activity given to Stanzas in the poem The Inchcape Rock. 


  • Robert Southey (1774 to 1843) was born in Bristol, England. He was the son of a draper, educated at Westminster School and Balliol College, Oxford. He was a Poet Laureate of England from 1813 to 1843. Some of his short poems are like ‘The Scholar’. ‘The Battle of Blenheim’, ‘Bishop Hatto’, ‘The Inchcape Rock’ etc. are very popular with the school children.
  • ‘The Inchcape Rock’ is a ballad. It’s the story of the 14th-century attempt by the Abbot of Aberbrothok to install a warning bell on Inchcape, a notorious sandstone reef about 11 miles (18km) off the east coast of Angus, Scotland, near Dundee and Fife, occupied by the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
  • Southey was inspired by the legendary story of a pirate who removed the bell on the Inchcape Rock placed by the Abbot of Aberbrothok. The poem gives us a message that those who do wrong things will meet with due punishment.


The first Stanza: 

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

The ship was as still as she could be,

Her sails from heaven received no motion,

Her keel was steady in the ocean.

  • Poet says that in the air there is no movement (stir) and there is no move (stir) over the sea. In the sea, the ship quite stands as it could be, the ship has no motion and its keel is very steady in the ocean. The poet wants to tell that the atmosphere is very quiet and crystal clear in the sky as well as over the sea.

The Second Stanza:

Without either sign or sound of their shock

The waves flow’d over the Inchcape Rock;

So little they rose, so little they fell,

They did not move the Inchcape Bell.

  • In the second stanza, the poet explains that due to the calm atmosphere over the sea there is no motion and waves move very silent without any sign of movement or sound of their fall. The waves of water do have not much movement that they could not move The Inchcape Bell. 

The Third stanza:

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.

  • In the third stanza, the poet gives the reference to The Inchcape Bell. The Abbot of Aberbrothok had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock. When there is a storm over the sea, on the floating object (Abbot) the bell float and swings with it, and by the movements of waves the bell ring. The ring of the bell is a warning to the sailors that under the water the Inchcape Rock is hidden and don’t come this way it is a danger to you.

The Fourth Stanza: 

When the Rock was hid by the surges swell,

The mariners heard the warning bell;

And then they knew the perilous Rock,

And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok.

  • In the fourth stanza, the poet tells that when suddenly the great rise in the level of the sea that time the Inchcape Rock hides and the mariners heard the sound of the Inchcape Bell and then they come to know that there is perilous rock is hide under the water and they bless the Abbot of Abebrothok because of saving the life of Mariners by placing the bell on the Inchcape Rock.

The Fifth stanza:

The Sun in heaven was shining gay,

All things were joyful on that day;

The sea-birds scream’d as they wheel’d round,

And there was joyance in their sound.

  • From the fifth stanza, the poet is telling the story of the pirate Sir Ralph the Rover.
  • In the fifth stanza, the poet explains that on that day the Sun was shining beautifully, and all things were joyful on that day. The sea birds were sounding happy as they wheeled around over the sea.

The Sixth stanza:

The buoy of the Inchcape Bell was seen

A darker speck on the ocean green;

Sir Ralph the Rover, walk’d his deck,

And he fix’d his eye on the darker speck.

  • In the sixth stanza, the poet tells that the floating object (buoy) of the Inchcape Rock was seen easily in a clear atmosphere as Sir Ralph the Rover spot the darker tiny object on the green ocean and he walks his desk and looks at the darker tiny floating object.

The Seventh stanza:

He felt the cheering power of spring,

It made him whistle, it made him sing;

His heart was mirthful to excess,

But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness.

  • In the seventh stanza, the poet tells that Sir Ralf the Rover felt so happy and became so energetic by looking at the Inchcape Bell but in his happiness there was wickedness and he intended to destroy the Inchcape Bell.

The Eighth stanza:

His eye was on the Inchcape float;

Quoth he, “My men, put out the boat,

And row me to the Inchcape Rock,

And I’ll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok’.

  • In the eighth stanza, the poet tells the further action of Sir Ralph the Rover. His eyes were fixed on the Inchcape floating object. He said his men to put out the boat and row him to the Inchcape Rock. He will give pain or trouble to the Abbot of Aberbrothok by destroying the Inchcape Bell from the Inchcape Rock.

The Ninth stanza:

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.

  • In the ninth stanza, the poet tells that as per the order of Sir Ralph the Rover his men put down the boat from the ship and they row Sir Ralph the Rover to the Inchcape Bell and cut the Inchcape Bell from the Inchcape rock.

The Tenth stanza:

Down sunk 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.’

  • In the tenth stanza, the poet tells that by cutting the Bell, the Bell started sinking with a gurgling sound and the bubbles rose and started to burst around over the sea. Sir Ralph the Rover said that now those next who comes to the rock will not bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok because The Bell is not over there. 

The Eleventh Stanza:

  Sir Ralph the Rover, sail’d away,

He scour’d the seas for many a day;

And now grown rich with plunder’d store,

He steers his course for Scotland’s shore.

  • In the eleventh stanza, the poet tells that by cutting the Bell Sir Ralph the Rover felt happy and sailed away over the sea. He traveled freely over the sea and became rich with the big amount of looted wealth and then he directs the course of the ship towards Scotland’s shore.

The Twelfth Stanza:

So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky,

They cannot see the Sun on high;

The wind hath blown a gale all day,

At evening it hath died away.

  • In the twelfth stanza the poet tells that in the direction towards Scotland’s shore, they cannot see easily because of the thick mist that overspread the sky. Even though, they cannot see the Sun in the Sky. The wind has blown the storm all the day but in the evening it vanished away.

The Thirteenth Stanza:

On the deck the Rover takes his stand,

So dark it is they see no land.

Quoth Sir Ralph, ‘It will be lighter soon,

For there is the dawn of the rising Moon.’

  • In the thirteenth stanza, the poet tells that in the evening time Sir Ralph the Rover takes his stand and starts to look around but they cannot see the land and he said his men that it will be lighter soon when the Moon will be rising.

The Fourteenth Stanza:

‘Canst hear’, said one, ‘the breakers roar?

For methinks we should be near the shore’.

‘Now where we are I cannot tell,

But I wish I could hear the Inchcape Bell’.

  • In the fourteenth stanza, the poet tells that one of the sailors said that he can’t hear the sound of waves falling on the seashore. He thinks that they should be near shore but where they are going he can’t be sure and he wishes that he could hear the sound of the Inchcape Bell and will decide in which direction they should go.

The Fifteenth Stanza:

They hear no sound, the swell is strong;

Though the wind hath fallen they drift along,

Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,-

‘O Christ! it is the Inchcape Rock!’

  • In the fifteenth stanza, the poet tells that they could not hear any sound, and water of sea level is increasing so high that the wind has fallen they move slowly along. Still moving the ship strikes and starts shaking by the strike and they felt it is the Inchcape Rock where their ship stroked.

The Sixteenth Stanza:

Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair;

He curst himself in his despair;

The waves rush in every side,

The ship is sinking beneath the tide.

  • In the sixteenth stanza, the poet tells that Sir Ralph the Rover regrets his act of cutting the Inchcape Bell. He curst himself by cutting the Inchcape bell for bad intention. The waves start to rush inside of the ship and the ship is sinking in the sea.

The Seventeenth Stanza:

But even in his dying fear

One dreadful sound could the Rover hear,

A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,

The Devil below was ringing his knell.

  • In the seventeenth stanza, the poet tells that Sir Ralph the Rover is started sinking, and in his dying fear he could hear the dreadful sound. The sound he hears as it was the Inchcape Bell and the Devil below is ringing his knell as someone’s funeral ceremony is going on.


  • Sir Ralph the Rover cut the Inchcape Bell because he wants to give pain or hurt the Abbot of Aberbrothok but the Abbot of Aberbrothok’s intention was good by placing the Bell. By this incident, we can say that Evil digs a pit for others but falls into the same. By the message of the poem we should learn that if we do bad things for others we get the same in returns or as you sow so shall you reap.


Abbot : head of Abbey of monks (Abbey : a building where monks or nuns live or used to live)

buoy : floating object anchored in the sea to mark dangerous places

surges swell : sudden and great rise in the level of the sea

perilous : dangerous

blest : old English form of ‘blessed’

speck : a tiny dot

Sir Ralph the Rover : a sea pirate

quoth : said

plague : cause pain or trouble

scour’d : (here) travelled freely, energetically for ships to rob

plunder’d store : big amount of looted wealth

steers : directs the course of the ship

haze : thin mist

methinks : it seems to me

(archaic form of ‘I think’)

drift : move slowly

tore : pulled hard

knell : the sound of a bell rung solemnly after death or at funeral announcement of death.

You may also learn about the Poem: 2.1 Song of the Open Road.

You may also learn about the Poem: 2.2 Indian Weavers

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Sachin Raut

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