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First, in Inchcape Rock by Robert Southey, the story of the Inchcape Bell is told. It was anchored by the Abbot of Aberbrothok to a buoy atop Inchcape Rock. On mild days, like the one on which the poetic story begins, the waves might wash over the Inchcape Rock but they would not stir the buoy nor the Inchcape Bell. Therefore, the seas were calm and the ship captains, sailors and townspeople needed no warnings of rough seas, which was the function of the Inchcape bell--to give warning of rough and dangerous seas.
Anchored offshore was the plundering ship of Captain Sir Ralph the Rover who was in a boisterous, springlike mood and conceived a mischievous and wicked plan. His sailors rowed him to Inchcape Rock and he cut the Inchcape Bell from its fastening to the buoy (which he called a Float). Sir Ralph watched the bell sink amidst bubbles while thinking of the wicked jest he had played against the memory of the Abbot of Aberbrothok.
Sir Ralph went to sea to plunder merchant ships. When he had gained a full cargo of riches, he returned to Scotland's shores and Inchcape Rock. The skies on that day were dark and overspread with storm threatening clouds. The gale force wind of the daylight hours had died away at night and no sight was to be seen in the black stillness.
The rising moon gave Sir Ralph the Rover occasion to say that there would soon be light enough to see the land by. But the sailors replied that they wished they knew how near to the rocks they were because they could hear the breakers crashing on the rocks--and they sorely wished they could also hear the Inchcape Bell.
A jolt rocked the ship. They had struck the Inchcape Rock. As the ship is torn apart by the storming waves, Captain Ralph the Rover curses his wickedness and, as he faces his dying breaths, hears the Inchcape Bell rung from beneath the waves by the Devil's hand to toll Ralph the Rover's death knell.
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