Siren Song

Siren Song

by Margaret Atwood

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.

Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?

I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical

with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

Summary of Siren Song

  • Popularity of “Siren Song”: This poem is written by Margaret Atwood, a renowned Canadian poet, novelist, and critic. Siren Song is inspired by Greek mythology. It is known for its themes of deception and isolation. It was first published in 1974 in her collection, You Are Happy. The poem speaks about the tricks sirens use to manipulate sailors and lure them to death.
  • “Siren Song” As a Representative of Lust: This poem refers to Greek mythology. However, here the siren is a half-woman and half-bird. She sings her melancholy song to attract men, mostly sailors. She calls her song irresistible. At first, she sings that she hates her situation and doesn’t want to kill anyone. She continues to explain her hatred towards her sisters. The siren later claims that she will disclose the secret of this song if anyone rescues her. As the man or a sailor approaches, she reveals that her song of plea was a trick to tempt them. Hence men become victims due to their lustful desires as concluded by the sirens.
  • Major Themes in “Siren Song”: Lies and deception are the dominant themes of this poem. At first, the readers may assume that the siren is indeed telling the truth. Perhaps she didn’t want to kill anyone or lure the sailors to their death. However, at the end of the poem, it is revealed that every word sung by the siren were lies. She successfully deceives the men who heard her song and tells them that she indeed tricked them.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Siren Song”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to convey their emotions, ideas, and themes to make texts more appealing to the reader. Margaret Atwood has also used some literary devices to make her poem mysterious and interesting. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is given below

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ee/ in “even though they see the beached skulls”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “I will tell the secret to you”.
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break. Instead, it moves over the next line. For example,

“The song nobody knows
Because anyone who has heard it
Is dead, and the others can’t remember.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to perceive things involving five senses. For example, “even though they see the beached skulls”, “with these two feathery maniacs” and “to leap overboard in squadrons.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The entire poem is an extended metaphor for a supernatural theme that attracted sailors to their death. The second metaphor is the deceptive physical attraction.
  1. Allusion: Allusion is a belief and an indirect reference of a person, place, thing, or idea of a historical, cultural, political, or literary significance. The poem alludes to the Greek’s myth of Sire, half-woman and half-bird like creatures.
  2. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a sentence which is posed to make the point clear. For example,

“Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Siren Song”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of lines and verses. There are nine three-lined stanzas in this poem.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Tercet: A tercet is a three-lined stanza borrowed from Hebrew poetry. Here, each stanza is a tercet.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used when as an assurance to someone and also let them know that we trust them.

“Is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique.”