In "Inchcape Rock," where did the boatman row the boat?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Robert Southey's poem "Inchcape Rock" concerns a pirate, Sir Ralph the Rover, who gained wealth by stealing from shipwrecks. It is based on a legend about a fourteenth-century monk, the Abbot of Aberbrothok, who had placed a bell on a buoy to warn mariners of the dangerous reef known as Inchcape Rock. The reef was submerged at high tide and barely visible above the surface of the water at low tide. 

Sir Ralph decided to destroy the buoy (or "float) and sink the bell so that ships, listening for the bell no longer there, would run aground and be wrecked on the reef. Since it was not safe for a regular ship to get near the reef, Sir Ralph had his boatmen row him out to the reef in a small rowboat which rode high enough in the water to safely maneuver around the reef rather than running aground, as is clearly stated in the following lines:

The boat is lower’d, the boatmen row,

And to the Inchcape Rock they go.... 

Once at the reef, Sir Ralph cuts the attachment between the bell and the float, causing the bell to sink. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial