The North Ship Questions & Answers

Hi Everyone!! This article will share The North Ship Questions & Answers.

This poem is written by Philip Larkin. In my previous posts, I have shared the questions and answers of Export Quality, The Hitch-Hiker and A Voice in the Dark so, you can check these posts as well.

The North Ship Questions & Answers

Word Galaxy

  • Anchor – a heavy object attached to a chain and used to hold a ship in place by mooring it to the bottom of the sea
  • Captivity – imprisonment
  • Fire-spiling star – this is possibly a poetic description of a comet
  • Forth – out and away from a starting point; onwards in time
  • Frostily – cold and icy; in an unfriendly way
  • Possessed – completely controlled by an evil spirit (here, the wind)
  • Quaking – trembling or shaking (often with fear)
  • Rigged – fitted or equipped with rigging (sails, ropes, etc.)
  • Unfruitful – not producing good or helpful results

Question 1: Pupils should draw a table in your book like the one below. It is a good idea to draw the column headings and fill in their answers for the first row before moving to the next one. Their answers should be in note form but with enough detail for them to use to answer the you to use them later on.


ShipWhere did it go?What were the conditions at sea?What happened to the ship?Do you have any questions?
First‘turned towards the west’ ‘to a rich country’Windy: ‘the running sea’, ‘wind’ Wild: ‘possessed’ by the windCame back from ‘a rich country’ ‘happily or unhappily’Which country? Happily?
Second‘turned towards the east’lots of waves: ‘the quaking sea’ windy ‘the wind hunted it like a beast’Unable to sail properly? Captured? Did it sink? ‘anchored in captivity’ Came back – ‘happily or unhappily’was it trapped somewhere or did it sink? Unhappily?
Third‘drove towards the north’Dark/deep waters – ‘darkening sea’ Still ‘no breath of wind came forth’ Cold ‘decks shone frostily’ Sea was ‘unforgiving’‘went far and wide’ ‘rigged for a long journey’Did it return? Where was it going?  

Question 2: The wind seems to help the first ship because it ‘carried’ it to a rich country. What does the wind do to the second ship? How would you describe its actions?

Answer: The wind ‘hunted’ the second ship. The word ‘quaking’ in the first line of the third stanza sets up a feeling of fear. It seems like the ship is the prey and the wind is a wild animal chasing it.

The wind takes the second ship into a land where it is kept captive. It didn’t help the second ship and took it to a dangerous and unsafe destination.

Question 3: How is ‘the north’ described in the fourth and fifth stanzas? What impression does the description create?

Answer: The ‘north’ is described in the fourth and fifth stanzas as having ‘high and black’ skies over ‘the darkening sea’; it is cold ‘frostily’ and the seas and ‘unfruitful’ – they have no fish or other produce in them. The impression is of a bleak, dark, cold, empty, still place.

Question 4: Answer the following:

(a) Who do you think the narrator is?

Answer: The poet is the narrator.

(b) Where do you think the narrator is?

Answer: The narrator is at a port.

(c) How does the third ship go ‘wide and far’ if there is ‘no breath of wind’ to sail with?

Answer: The ship goes ‘wide and far’ by adjusting its own sails and having oarsmen.

Question 5: Read the lines and answer the questions:

a. Over the sea, the quaking sea,
And the wind hunted it like a beast

i. What is referred to as the ‘it’ that is being hunted?

Answer: The third ship

ii. What emotion is conveyed by the image of a ‘quacking sea’?

Answer: The emotion of fear is conveyed by the image of a ‘quacking sea’.

iii. Which of the three statements best explains the presentation of the wind in these lines?

(a) The wind is presented as scared and quiet.
(b) The wind is presented as frightening and violent.
(c) The wind is presented as loud and hungry.

b. Into an unforgiving sea
Under a fire-spilling star

i. Why might the sea seem unforgiving?

Answer: The sea is relentless and, as described here, is difficult and hostile. This ship does not seem to have an easy journey.

ii. What do you think a fire-spilling star is?

Answer: The fire-spilling star here is often thought to be a description of a comet. A spectacular sight. Perhaps, though the journey is hard and long, it is full of wonder.

So, these were The North Ship Questions & Answers.

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