Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Siren Song" by Margaret Atwood along with Analysis

"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 beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who had 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.



Margaret Atwood’s “Siren Song” is very clever, concise, and darkly facetious. The speaker is one of the three Sirens, which alludes to Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, the three Sirens were half-bird, half-women creatures whose songs were so alluring mariners could not resist following the music to the Sirens’ island only to be destroyed by its rocky coast. This knowledge sets the stage for the speaker’s intentions. Atwood cleverly makes it seem as though this particular Siren is unhappy and therefore requires aid. The Siren is appealing to the listener as if he is unique and only he can save her, “Help me!/ Only you, only you can/ you are unique,” (22-24). So in pretending to need rescuing, she lures the mariner. While this is quite heartless, the way Atwood composes the poem is actually quite humorous, “bird suit”, “squatting”, “feathery maniacs”, and “looking picturesque and mythical”. Through this humor, it is apparent that the speaker is deceptive. The Siren claims that she will reveal the secret of their deadly song when actually it is the song she sings that is bait.
Allusion is not the only literary device Atwood includes in her poem. Her use of enjambment makes the poem more one-sided dialogue, an appeal that starts off soft and intriguing and then picks up pace towards the end with urgency, “I will tell the secret to you/ to you, only to you/ Come closer” (19-21). This adds to the overall flow and even surprise to the poem.
I enjoyed Atwood’s “Siren Song” because of all the reasons there are to appreciate this poem. It is funny, especially in how the Siren seems bored with her “job” because human men to her are so stupid, “At last. Alas/ it is a boring song/ but it works every time,” (25-27). The duplicity of how she will tell the secret of the song when actually what she is already saying is the song is one of the things I loved most about the poem, along with how she is truly the predator and the sailor is the one who needs saving.

7 comments:

Miranda said...

Thank you :)

sean said...

Brilliant. I know this poem well.

Ashley said...

GREAT Analysis... thanks so much! I have to read this in front of my class tomorrow! #NERRRVOUS!

john said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Stone said...

Thank you so much! This analysis will definitely help with my AP.

illusionist said...

my hero :) you saved me haha

Emma Johnson said...

what does it mean that the siren song is "the one song everyone would like to learn"?