Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 9/"The Sirens"
Sweet evil of the sea! fair-wingèd girls
Who dwell by Scylla’s wide insatiate maw,
Or where Charybdis foaming ever curls
His shining waters, mortal never saw
Terrors more pleasing, ne’er heard sweeter swell
Of music than from out your rocky cell.
Though the wind urge the doomèd ship away,
Though favouring breezes fill her bellying sails,
Still can one sweet low voice the vessel stay,
One loving whisper calm the boisterous gales.
Ah me! for all her crew, who homeward bound
Still love to linger on that silvery sound.
All unaware, with pleasure to their death
They pass, lull’d ever by that dulcet band,
Till the song changes to a fitful breath,
Rustling through bones which whiten on the sand;
But the next ship which sails that sunny sea
Hears only the sweet Sirens’ melody.
Well have the poets fabled such a tale,
In the creative mind of olden time.
Such to a younger age seems but a veil,
Fair as the fairest summer of their clime,
In which they would adorn a moral truth
Which, unadorn’d, must cause too bitter ruth.
For their cold creed would fain explain away
The Sirens’ music as the noise of waves,
Beating tumultuous in some rocky bay,
Or echoing faintly from some distant caves;
Yet in that legendary song, I wis,
Is hid some truth of morals such as this.
Yet no—’twere better without explanation,
That each should make his Siren what he list,
For magic music is in every station
To make man listen where he should resist;
Listening, aye, listening to those loving tones,
Perchance he changes into whitening bones.