The Ballad of Semerwater Questions & Answers

Hi Everyone!! This article will share The Ballad of Semerwater Questions & Answers.

Written by Sir William Watson, this poem is about a beggar who was turned away from a prosperous city.
In my previous posts, I have shared the questions and answers of Nightfall in the City of Hyderabad, How Far Is The River and The Wrong House so, you can check these posts as well.

The Ballad of Semerwater Questions & Answers

Question 1: Complete the blanks with suitable words in reference to the poem.


Semerwater is the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire, England, and is known for its myths and legends. One of the legends of Semerwater tells of a beggar who once visited a prosperous city along the lake. He was extremely hungry and even exhausted after his travels. At the palace he lamented that he was about to faint for lack of food but he was turned away unfed. Despite being rich, the King and the queen failed to welcome him hospitably or even feed the poor man. The beggar helplessly moved on.

He then went to an eller’s cottage in the valley. Here he was given oatcake to eat and ale to drink and a place to rest. The next morning, he cursed the city for its pride with the following words: ‘Semerwater rise, Semerwater sink, and bury the town, all save the house where they gave me food and drink.’

The prosperous city could not feed a pauper but a humble commoner shared his food with the beggar. The poor man took revenge by drowning the city in the waters of Semerwater and cursing it to doom. The proud city was lost forever in gloom under the lake, drowned in weeds and reeds. Now, it is visited only by fish.

The legend has been told and passed down the generations in stories and verse. One of the most famous adaptations is a poem by Sir William Watson called The Ballad of Semerwater.

Question 2: Pick out an example each of alliteration, repetition and rhyme from the first stanza.


Example of alliteration: Deep asleep
Example of repetition: deep asleep, deep asleep
Example of rhyme: lies – skies; tall – wall; bread – unfed; dale – ale; pride – bide; tall – all; gloom – doom.

Question 3: What is fathom a measure of? Why has many a fathom been repeated thrice?

Answer: A fathom is six feet and is a measure of the depth of water. ‘Many a fathom’ has been repeated thrice to emphasise that the city has been literally buried in the water. It was unimaginably fathoms deep.

Question 4: Why do you think a wakeman was standing on the city walls?

Answer: A wakeman or a watchman was standing on the city walls to warn the city in case of an attack or an approaching enemy.

Question 5: Which two figures of speech are found in the use of tower and bower?

Answer: First the use of tower and bower allow for rhyme and assonance (alliteration) and secondly for Imagery.

Question 6: The town was big and prosperous. Which words reveal this in the third stanza?

Answer: The word ‘mickle’ reveals the splendour of the town.

Question 7: Which two things tell us that the poor man was in need of help?

Answer: The fact that the old man was in great pain and nearly faint with hunger and exhaustion tells us that he needed help.

Question 8: Pick out the line that tells us that the royalty did not grant the beggar’s simple request.

Answer: The line that tells us that the royalty did not grant the beggar’s simple request is ‘Kings tower and queen’s bower cast him forth unfed’.

Question 9: Who helped the hungry man?

Answer: After the hungry man was turned away by the king and queen, a humble commoner, who lived under an alder tree, shared his oatcake and ale and even gave the poor man shelter in his home.

Question 10: He has cursed it into Semerwater there to bide. What was the curse? Was it right for the man to curse the city and take revenge?

Answer: ‘Semerwater rise Semerwater sink and bury the town all save the house where they gave me meat and drink’ was the beggar’s curse. It was understandable that the poor, hungry man cursed the king and queen. Despite being prosperous, they turned away the pauper. However, an eller from the same city generously offered him food and shelter. The innocent people of the kingdom need not have suffered for the sins of their unwise rulers.

Question 11: The wealthy king and the queen had cast out the poor and hungry beggar. What insight does the poem reveal about human nature through this situation?

Answer: The wealthy king and the queen had cast out the poor and hungry beggar at a time when he was nearly faint with hunger and exhaustion. But a commoner had unhesitatingly shared his oatcake and ale with the beggar. Such stories reveal mankind’s nature which is possessive of material possessions. The more one has, the less one shares but those with frugal means are ready to be generous despite scarce resources. Such legends take root and are passed on for generation to generation to serve as a moral to share and be generous with our resources, so that we do not earn the ill feelings of even a stranger. The poem is perhaps a gentle reminder to a world given to consumerism, that humans relationships are more significant and precious than mere things.

So, these were The Ballad of Semerwater Questions & Answers.

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