Lord Ullin's Daughter

by Thomas Campbell

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What does 'fatal shore' mean in the poem "Lord Ullin's Daughter"?

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The “fatal shore” is a metaphor for how the lover will be killed by the lady’s father if he returns to the shore.

This poem is about a tragic love story. In ballad form, we learn how the lady and her lover eloped, but the lady’s father was not happy about it.  The lady decides to flee, but a storm is coming.  She has to decide whether she will risk her life and her lover’s life on the boat, or whether she should return to shore to face her father’s wrath.  She knows that if she does, Lord Ullin will kill him.

Even though her father is the chief of Ulva’s Isle, he is not an important chieftain like the lady’s father. The lover explains that he will be killed if he returns to the shore.

``And fast before her father's men 
Three days we've fled together, 
For should he find us in the glen, 
My blood would stain the heather. 

The two lovers are in an impossible situation.  If they go on the boat, they risk all three of their lives (the lady, the lover, and the boatman).  Yet if they return to shore, the lover will face certain death at the hands of the angry father.  In the end, the father is grieved when he watches his daughter drown along with her lover.

The fatal shore is a metaphor for death. Metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things. We describe the shore as fatal, even though it is not literally the shore that is fatal. It is the father, who will kill the lover when they return to shore. Either way, it’s the same for the young lovers. They cannot return to shore

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In the poem 'Lord Ullin's Daughter' what is the meaning of 'fatal shore'?

This quote from the poem comes towards the end, when Lord Ullin reaches the shore where his daughter and her lover have just been, and he is able to see them and the ferryman as they brave the water in the middle of the storm and try and reach safety. The "fatal shore" as a description captures both the difficulties of the lovers but also is an ironic reflection on Lord Ullin's behaviour and how it has lost him his daughter. The reason why the daughter and her lover are so willing to brave the tempest is that they know Lord Ullin will kill her lover. In the poem, she clearly states she would far rather meet "the raging of the skies" than her father, and she certainly gets her wish. For them, they really have no option except to brave the storm, as if they tarried, Lord Ullin would kill her lover and cause her to live a life without joy or happiness as a result. This is one reason the shore is described as "fatal":

And still they rowed amidst the roar
Of waters fast prevailing;
Lord Ullin reach'd that fatal shore-
His wrath was chang'd to wailing.

However, equally, the shore is "fatal" because Lord Ullin realises his fatal mistake. He has realised that his "wrath" has actually caused him to drive his daughter away from him to a certain death because of the weather. The shore is therefore described as being "fatal" because of the irony of Lord Ullin's quest: he has pursued his daughter to regain her, but the act or pursuing her only means that he has lost her forever.

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