Stephen Crane

(November 1, 1871 – June 5, 1900)

What Says the Sea, Little Shell?


"What says the sea, little shell?
What says the sea?
Long has our brother been silent to us,
Kept his message for the ships,
Awkward ships, stupid ships."

"The sea bids you mourn, O Pines,
Sing low in the moonlight.
He sends tale of the land of doom,
Of place where endless falls
A rain of women's tears,
And men in grey robes --
Men in grey robes --
Chant the unknown pain."

"What says the sea, little shell?
What says the sea?
Long has our brother been silent to us,
Kept his message for the ships,
Puny ships, silly ships."

"The sea bids you teach, O Pines,
Sing low in the moonlight;
Teach the gold of patience,
Cry gospel of gentle hands,
Cry a brotherhood of hearts.
The sea bids you teach, O Pines."

"And where is the reward, little shell?
What says the sea?
Long has our brother been silent to us,
Kept his message for the ships,
Puny ships, silly ships."

"No word says the sea, O Pines,
No word says the sea.
Long will your brother be silent to you,
Keep his message for the ships,
O puny pines, silly pines."

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Judith Reis (12/18/2005 7:30:00 AM)

    I interpret the poet's reference to 'our brother' as one who has died at or has been buried at sea. In the second verse, the dead man has sent a description of hell. The poet is saying this soul now dwells in a hopeless realm. It's a shame that the sea cannot shout out this soul's message/warning about this dark realm where his life's choices have taken him...that his message is kept only for the ships. The living would benefit from knowing the truth or what lies ahead in eternity when we live a life outside of God's will. (Report) Reply

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