The Sirens

James Russell Lowell

   The sea is lonely, the sea is dreary,
The sea is restless and uneasy;
Thou seekest quiet, thou art weary,
Wandering thou knowest not whither;—
Our little isle is green and breezy,
Come and rest thee! Oh come hither,
Come to this peaceful home of ours,
      Where evermore
The low west-wind creeps panting up the shore
To be at rest among the flowers;
Full of rest, the green moss lifts,
   As the dark waves of the sea
Draw in and out of rocky rifts,
   Calling solemnly to thee
With voices deep and hollow,—
      "To the shore
   Follow! Oh, follow!
   To be at rest forevermore!
Look how the gray old Ocean
From the depth of his heart rejoices,
Heaving with a gentle motion,
When he hears our restful voices;
List how he sings in an undertone,
Chiming with our melody;
And all sweet sounds of earth and air
Melt into one low voice alone,
That murmurs over the weary sea,
And seems to sing from everywhere,—
"Here mayst thou harbor peacefully,
Here mayst thou rest from the aching oar;
   Turn thy curvëd prow ashore,
And in our green isle rest forevermore!
And Echo half wakes in the wooded hill,
   And, to her heart so calm and deep,
   Murmurs over in her sleep,
Doubtfully pausing and murmuring still,
      Thus, on Life's weary sea,
      Heareth the marinere
      Voices sweet, from far and near,
      Ever singing low and clear,
      Ever singing longingly.
   It is not better here to be,
Than to be toiling late and soon?
In the dreary night to see
Nothing but the blood-red moon
Go up and down into the sea;
Or, in the loneliness of day,
   To see the still seals only
Solemnly lift their faces gray,
   Making it yet more lonely?
Is it not better than to hear
Only the sliding of the wave
Beneath the plank, and feel so near
A cold and lonely grave,
A restless grave, where thou shalt lie
Even in death unquietly?
Look down beneath thy wave-worn bark,
   Lean over the side and see
The leaden eye of the sidelong shark
      Upturnëd patiently,
   Ever waiting there for thee:
Look down and see those shapeless forms,
   Which ever keep their dreamless sleep
   Far down within the gloomy deep,
And only stir themselves in storms,
Rising like islands from beneath,
And snorting through the angry spray,
As the frail vessel perisheth
In the whirls of their unwieldy play;
   Look down! Look down!
Upon the seaweed, slimy and dark,
That waves its arms so lank and brown,
      Beckoning for thee!
Look down beneath thy wave-worn bark
      Into the cold depth of the sea!
   Look down! Look down!
      Thus, on Life's lonely sea,
      Heareth the marinere
      Voices sad, from far and near,
      Ever singing full of fear,
      Ever singing dreadfully.
   Here all is pleasant as a dream;
The wind scarce shaketh down the dew,
The green grass floweth like a stream
         Into the ocean's blue;
            Listen! Oh, listen!
Here is a gush of many streams,
   A song of many birds,
And every wish and longing seems
Lulled to a numbered flow of words,—
            Listen! Oh, listen!
Here ever hum the golden bees
Underneath full-blossomed trees,
At once with glowing fruit and flowers crowned;—
So smooth the sand, the yellow sand,
That thy keel will not grate as it touches the land;
All around with a slumberous sound,
The singing waves slide up the strand,
And there, where the smooth, wet pebbles be
The waters gurgle longingly,
As if they fain would seek the shore,
To be at rest from the ceaseless roar,
To be at rest forevermore,—
      Thus, on Life's gloomy sea,
      Heareth the marinere
      Voices sweet, from far and near,
      Ever singing in his ear,
      "Here is rest and peace for thee!"
July, 1840

Poems by This Author

from The Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell
And what is so rare as a day in June?
The First Snowfall by James Russell Lowell
The snow had begun in the gloaming,
The Present Crisis by James Russell Lowell
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide
Under the Willows [May is a pious fraud of the almanac] by James Russell Lowell
May is a pious fraud of the almanac

Further Reading

Poems about Sharks
Angel Shark
by Hailey Leithauser
Ants and Sharks
by Tomasz Rózycki
by Ernest Hilbert
At Shark Reef Sanctuary
by Eva Alice Counsell
Beach Walk
by Henri Cole
Coffee and Oranges
by Joel Brouwer
Flying Fish: An Ode [excerpt]
by Charles Wharton Stork
Haunted Seas
by Cale Young Rice
I Wonder What It Feels Like to be Drowned?
by Robert Graves
In a Breath
by Carl Sandburg
Inheritance of Waterfalls and Sharks
by Martín Espada
Murray Dreaming
by Stephen Edgar
No Place Like Home
by Stephen Cushman
Ode on Dictionaries
by Barbara Hamby
Plague of Dead Sharks
by Alan Dugan
by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Seal Lullaby
by Rudyard Kipling
Sharks in the Rivers
by Ada Limón
Sharks' Teeth
by Kay Ryan
Shoal of Sharks
by Richard O'Connell
Song of the Paddlers [excerpt]
by Herman Melville
Submarine Mountains
by Cale Young Rice
Summer [excerpt]
by James Thomson
The Bluefish
by Isaac McLellan
The Maldive Shark
by Herman Melville
The Ripple Effect
by Jamey Dunham
The Sea is History
by Derek Walcott
The Shark
by Judith Beveridge
The Shark
by William Henry Venable
The Shark
by Lord Alfred Douglas
The Shark
by Isaac McLellan
The Shark's Parlor
by James Dickey
The Sharks
by Denise Levertov
The Steel Rippers
by Patricia Carlin
Tiger Shark
by Hailey Leithauser
Untitled [There, by the crescent moon, the shark]
by Shido
Upon Shark
by Robert Herrick
What To Do About Sharks
by Vivian Shipley
White Sales
by Allen Grossman
World Below the Brine
by Walt Whitman