Elinor Morton Wylie

(7 September 1885 – 16 December 1928 / Somerville, New Jersey)

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Sea Lullaby


The old moon is tarnished
With smoke of the flood,
The dead leaves are varnished
With colour like blood.

A treacherous smiler
With teeth white as milk,
A savage beguiler
In sheathings of silk

The sea creeps to pillage,
She leaps on her prey;
A child of the village
Was murdered today.

She came up to meet him
In a smooth golden cloak,
She choked him and beat him
to death, for a joke.

Her bright locks were tangled,
She shouted for joy
With one hand she strangled
A strong little boy.

Now in silence she lingers
Beside him all night
To wash her long fingers
In silvery light.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Terry Craddock (10/16/2014 4:53:00 PM)

    Wow a 'Sea Lullaby' where the sea lures us in, the reader with the light of the moon upon reflective waters, lures a small boy in with a smooth golden cloak then choked him and beat him/ to death, for a joke. The personification of the sea as bright locks... tangled, (as) She shouted for joy/ With one hand she strangled/ A strong little boy illuminates a savage glee in claiming the life of a small child.
    From the opening two stanzas

    The old moon is tarnished
    With smoke of the flood,
    The dead leaves are varnished
    With colour like blood.

    A treacherous smiler
    With teeth white as milk,
    A savage beguiler
    In sheathings of silk

    to the turn and vicious entrapment of prey like a spider leaping upon a fly in a web

    The sea creeps to pillage,
    She leaps on her prey;
    A child of the village
    Was murdered today.

    the poem lures us in with a bewildering choice of themes and visual images. The last lines add other dimensions with the eerie beauty of in the concluding lines

    Now in silence she lingers
    Beside him all night
    To wash her long fingers
    In silvery light. (Report) Reply

  • John Richter (10/16/2014 3:18:00 PM)

    Perfectly eerie for this fine fall! The artist's form is almost completely unbroken:

    A: 6 syllables
    B: 5 syllables
    C: 6 syllables
    D: 5 syllables

    Bar ump bar rump bar rump,
    Bar ump bee bar ump...

    Artistic license allows the word murdered to be pronounced in 3 syllables, but golden should have been gold to make this poem absolutely form perfect. (Report) Reply

  • Kay Staley (10/16/2014 8:05:00 AM)

    Fun to read; horrifying energy. I love how the author characterizes the sea and makes it into a human form. Very fascinating and will stick with the reader for quite a long time. (Report) Reply

  • Aftab Alam Khursheed (10/16/2014 3:16:00 AM)

    As the title sea lullaby...the beauty of keepeth the wrath, the death..death by waves..lovely imagery is very perfect (Report) Reply

  • Karen Sinclair (10/16/2012 2:45:00 AM)

    Beautiful in its reflective nature, and gentle simplicity...i love the visuals lain down by words of a lady with a wonderful imagination.... (Report) Reply

Read all 13 comments »

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