Analysis of The Rock of Cader Idris by Felicia Dorothea Hemans

Term Paper, 2004

19 Pages, Grade: 2,0 (B)


Chapter Contents

1. Introduction

2. “The Rock of Cader Idris”
2.1 Imagery
2.1.1 1st stanza
2.1.2 2nd stanza
2.1.3 3rd stanza
2.1.4 4th stanza
2.2 A short review
2.3 Biographical implications

3. Detailed analysis of the ballad’s style
3.1 Stylistic devices
3.2 Prosody
3.2.1 Meter
3.2.2 Rhythm

4. Conclusion

5. Appendix

6. Sources

1. Introduction:

In my paper I will analyse the poem “The Rock of Cader Idris” (1822) by Felicia Dorothea Hemans and in this connection I chiefly confine myself to imagery, Hemans’ biographical background and some stylistic means. The procedure I planned is to analyse the ballad’s content with regard to the four substances earth, water, air and fire, to the senses of perception and to the persona’s transformation from a passive observer to an active creator. I aim to show that the persona’s emotions can be attributed to natural objects and that nature or art respectively takes the role of a healer. Moreover, I would like to illustrate that Hemans knew her trade, namely writing poetry.

Before starting I would like to mention that I did not want to say “it” when talking about the persona, so I decided to use “she” in order to stress that the poem was written by a woman and that the persona herself can be regarded as female, too, as I will show in the sequel.

2. “The Rock of Cader Idris”

At the very beginning, it might be helpful to classify the poem with the intention of giving a very general categorization of “The Rock of Cader Idris”. Due to the monologue that is utilized one can state that Hemans employs the form of a ballad, better of an art ballad, being close to the form of the drama. The poem is composed of a quite plain language telling a dramatic episode of the persona’s life stressed by a gloomy ambience[1].

2.1 Imagery

2.1.1 1st stanza

In the first stanza the persona lays on the rock Cader Idris, that might stand for the substance earth, where she meets with “storms, […] phantoms […] [and] cloud[s]”[2]. Here she hears the song-like “mountain-wind”[3], maybe a symbol of the permanent need for art, constantly increasing in a “solemn and loud”[4] manner around the rock’s peak. Introductory, these first lines characterize the persona: The rock can be a symbol of the persona’s body[5], while the storms can be associated with her strong emotions[6] and the phantoms with her imagination that is still disguised, being represented by the cloud. In her head, there is the everlasting urge for creating and enjoying art (the mountain wind) always being present and circling in her head.

After that, the persona describes the scenario of the shadowy midnight on the rock being full of groaning sounds of “waves”[7], probably representing the substance water, of “breezes”[8], possibly standing for the substance air, and of veiled stars, maybe symbolizing a “blurred” belief in something. The persona’s present state of mind is described: These lines could represent that the persona has uneasy and obscure thoughts of her future (the shadows appearing in the midnight[9]), already representing heralds of her fear, while her strong feelings[10], always being in motion (the “wild waves”)[11], mix with her thinking (the breezes) and with the vague faith[12] (the veiled stars) that something will happen to her. This is certainly a good proof of showing that the persona is passive, as she does only listen to nature and observe it.

The last line has a different tone in comparison with the lines before, because now, for the first time, the persona points to her feeling of solitude and isolation being traced back to the rock’s majesty and magnificence that she feels as gloomy and threatening. She is, so to speak, surprised, amazed and also shocked of the rock being too great in her eyes. Now, the consequence of her mental state is revealed: This line might suggest that the persona is unsure of herself and that she doubts about her talent (“the dread gloom of its grandeur”[13]), for she now realizes that she is on her own and thus responsible for herself. The consequence of her feelings and thoughts she is unable to classify is thus self-doubt and a certain melancholy.

2.1.2 2nd stanza

The second stanza is different from the first one, because now the atmosphere has changed. While the first stanza is full of sounds and thus full of things concerning the sense of hearing, the second stanza deals with the sense of sight. The “silence”[14] in this verse forms a contrast to the rather noisy wind and waves of the first one: The persona falls asleep and, due to the “spirit”[15], starts dreaming of “glorious, unearthly”[16] things over which she is in raptures and of which she stands in awe. The reader is now prepared for the change that will take place: These lines could imply that the persona, while she lets her mind flow in her dream, is stimulated to a consciousness of the complexity of her feelings (the rapture and awe of her heart), surprising and also shocking her. These emotions are maybe caused by the fact that the persona experiences something completely new or that she at least gets aware of the intensity of her sensibility. And, again, she is passive and cannot escape the visions she has.

The poem goes on with the persona observing, despite the “mists of mortality’s breath”[17], how “dread beings [hover] around us[18]: It goes without saying that the creatures the persona is afraid of are ghosts. But what has to be cleared up is the question why the first person singular is replaced with the first person plural. The reason could be that she now is in a way one with the rock since she is really very close to it while she sleeps. Furthermore, she does not feel the ghosts, but she sees them, so this sense of sight is not only inside her but anybody on the rock is able to perceive them. And since there is only this anthropomorphized rock, it is the only thing with which she can ally against the spectres. The “us” is so to speak used in order to feel stronger and to be less frightened. This passage, by the way, is the first and last one the persona gives up her subjectivity in favour of a solidarity and union with the rock. There is then a first clue to the change that was mentioned above: Maybe the persona becomes aware of a development in her nature she is unable to determine closer (the ghosts), which is why she does not know if it will be good or not. This might be the reason why she feels this development as dread, consequently creating terror in her mind.

In the last two lines the persona “call[s] upon darkness”[19] and uses it as protection, in order to conceal her vision that she might either die or become frenzied. This is very likely to be interpreted as the persona’s unwillingness to realize what will happen to her, for she closes her eyes to her mental picture. She does not want to see this alteration, since she believes that she will stop producing art forever and even become mad for she will never ever be able to utter her feelings in form of poetry. Consequently, she will have to bear these emotions without being capable of handling them, because her means for dealing with them, namely producing art, will be gone.


[1] Beck, R./Kuester, H./Kuester, M. Terminologie der Literaturwissenschaft. pp 129

[2] Appendix, p. 18, ll 1,2

[3] Cf. appendix, l. 3

[4] Cf. appendix, l. 4

[5] Becker, Udo. Lexikon der Symbole. pp 73

[6] Cf. Becker. p. 333

[7] Cf. appendix, l. 6

[8] Cf. appendix, l. 6

[9] Cf. Becker. p. 202

[10] These feelings, similar to the streaming water, flow in a way through the body.

[11] Erdmann, Elias,

[12] Koch, Renate.

[13] Cf. appendix, l. 8

[14] Cf. appendix, l. 9

[15] Cf. appendix, l. 9

[16] Cf. appendix, l. 11

[17] Cf. appendix, l. 14

[18] Cf. appendix, l. 13; emphasis made by author

[19] Cf. appendix, l. 15

Excerpt out of 19 pages


Analysis of The Rock of Cader Idris by Felicia Dorothea Hemans
Humboldt-University of Berlin  (Anglistics-American Studies)
2,0 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
507 KB
double spaced.
Analysis, Rock, Cader, Idris, Felicia, Dorothea, Hemans
Quote paper
Hanna M. Stoll (Author), 2004, Analysis of The Rock of Cader Idris by Felicia Dorothea Hemans, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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