Critical Analysis of Lord Ullin’s Daughter
“Lord Ullin’s Daughter” is a Scottish ballad. It draws its setting from the real landscape of the Scottish Highlands. The Lochgyle Lake is an actual lake, as are the isles of Ulva and of Mull (whose chieftain was Lord Ullin). Hence, a large part of the poem focuses on depicting both the beautiful and the dangerous side of Scotland. The same landscape that can regale the spirits can also cause much death and destruction. The title of this poem may seem to be misleading at first, since Lord Ullin’s daughter only speaks at one point in the time, whereas a larger part of it is devoted to describing the conversation of the Chief of Ulva and the boatman’s conversation as well as Lord Ullin’s reaction at finding his daughter at the door of death. However, what we must understand is that Lord Ullin’s daughter is the object of affection of every other character in this poem. The Chief of Ulva has married her. She is the most important thing in a father’s life is his child. Even the boatman agrees to row across stormy lake after seeing the innocence in Lord Ullin’s daughter’s face. It is only because of her that the fatal journey is undertaken, and the moral of the tale can unfold. Parents are always protective towards their children. However, they must never confuse protectiveness for possessiveness. Being possessive towards one’s child can hamper their freedom and they may be encouraged to rebel. This is what Lord Ullin’s daughter has done. She has eloped in order to escape from her father’s stronghold. His disciplinarian attitude has cost him his daughter’s life.
Poetic Devices in Lord Ullin’s Daughter
Each of the stanzas in this poem follows the same simple rhyme scheme, that is, ABAB.
Metonymy: This rhetorical device consists of the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant. In this poem, the poet uses the device of metonymy in the 3rd line of the 5th stanza when the boatman uses the word “silver” in place of “money” since coins were often made of silver in those days.
Personification: This rhetorical device is used to bestow human qualities on something that is not human. In this poem, the poet uses the device of personification with respect to heaven in the 3rd line of the 7th stanza when he imagines heaven with a scowl on its face.
Central Idea of Lord Ullin’s Daughter
The Chief of Ulva has eloped with Lord Ullin’s daughter against her father’s wishes. Lord Ullin’s men have been chasing them for three days until they have reached the shore of the Lochgyle Lake. It is a stormy day and the boatman only agrees to ferry the couple across after realizing that Lord Ullin’s men will kill the Chief of Ulva if they are discovered together. The storm takes a turn for the worse and everyone on the boat is drowned. Lord Ullin is remorseful that he didn’t allow his daughter to pursue a relationship with the man of her choice, because of which she had been forced to flee under such dreadful weather conditions and was killed.
Themes of Lord Ullin’s Daughter
Ballad structure: This poem has all the chief characteristics of a ballad. Its rhyme scheme is very simple. It tells a tale that might have its origin in Scottish folktales. It even boasts of a supernatural character in the form of the water-wraith, the sight of which is supposed to spell doom for human beings, according to Gaelic legends. As a result, it would not be wrong to classify “Lord Ullin’s Daughter” as a ballad.
Moral: This poem teaches us an important lesson. Parents have every right to protect their children from harm’s way, but they have no right to control their children’s lives. Because Lord Ullin had threatened to put an end to his daughter’s relationship with the Chief of Ulva, she had had to flee even in terribly stormy weather. Because she had always been taught to fear her father, she preferred to face the wrath of the seas and the sky rather than the wrath of her father. As a result of this, she was drowned. Even all of Lord Ullin’s remorse would not bring his precious daughter’s life back to him.
Tone of Lord Ullin’s Daughter
The tone of this poem is predominantly adventurous. Readers experience trepidation as they read about the storm through which the lovers are hoping to escape. Towards the end, the tone changes to one of guilt and remorse as Lord Ullin realizes his mistake. However, readers are unable to sympathize with him.
“Lord Ullin’s Daughter” has everything that makes a ballad an interesting read. There is love, there is adventure, and there is suspense as well. However, the lesson it teaches is an important one and all readers should take it seriously.
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