Lord Ullin’s Daughter






Thomas Campbell


Inspired by the Scottish tradition of chivalry and romance, Thomas Campbell’s ballad Lord Ullin’s Daughter centres around the theme of love and sacrifice portrayed through a narrative involving a chieftain,his beloved, the king and others. Considered to be one of the most popular romantic poems of Campbell,the poem unfolds the story of the attempted elopement resulting in the death of the couple. Well structured and set in a lyrical tone with a regular rhyme scheme, the poem has a curious beginning, a terrifying middle and a tragic end.


In the beginning, the poem portrays that a chieftain is appealing to a boatman to ferry him and his beloved despite stormy weather. The chieftain, chief of Ulva’s island, promises to reward the boatman with a silver pound on helping him and his beloved, Lord Ullin’s daughter, to elope to a distant land.


The chieftain in order to persuade the boatman to help them elope narrates that he and his beloved have been fleeing for three days. To win over the heart of the boatman, the chieftain reiterates that in case he and his beloved are caught by the King’s men, they will kill him leaving his beloved to sigh for ever. Giving up his reluctance, the boatman agrees to ferry them to a distant land.


The middle part of the poem brings out the terror and tension in the hearts of the chieftain and his beloved as they anticipate the arrival of the King’s men. They appeal to the boatman to speed up to evade arrest. The internal tension and terror of the characters simulate with the storm and the raging waves of the sea. At this juncture, in tune with the ethos of Scottish culture, Lord Ullin’s daughter expresses her unwillingness to confront her angry father who has turned down her proposal to marry the chieftain. She prefers to embrace death for the sake of love than confront a wrathful father who will oppose her choice to marry the chieftain.


The poem reaches the climax when the boat carrying the chieftain and his beloved, i.e., Lord Ullin’s daughter capsizes amidst heavy storm. Lord Ullin at this point reaches the shore only to see that his daughter is drowning. At once his wrath transforms into wailing. He cries in grief persuading his daughter to come back. He can witness his daughter waving her hand for rescue but in vain. He even promises to grant amnesty to his daughter and the chieftain for violating the social ethos of marriage prevalent in the Scottish society. But unfortunately, tragedy dwells upon Lord Ullin’s daughter and her lover as both of them are drowned leaving Lord Ullin completely shattered.