'Siren Song' by Hugo Williams

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I phone from time to time, to see if she's
changed the music on her answerphone.
'Tell me in two words', goes the recording,
'what you were going to tell in a thousand'.

I peer into that thought, like peering out
to sea at night, hearing the sound of waves
breaking on rocks, knowing she is there,
listening, waiting for me to speak.

Once in a while she'll pick up the phone
and her voice sings to me out of the past.
The hair on the back of my neck stands up
as I catch her smell for a second

Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Siren Song: A Poem of Deception and Temptation

Siren Song is a poem by Hugo Williams that tells the story of the mythical creatures called sirens. These creatures were said to have the ability to lure sailors to their deaths through their enchanting songs. In the poem, the sirens are depicted as modern women who are singing their song to seduce a man. The poem is a powerful commentary on the nature of seduction, deception, and temptation. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, motifs, and symbols in the poem, and analyze how they contribute to the overall meaning of the work.

The Theme of Deception

One of the central themes of Siren Song is deception. The sirens in the poem are portrayed as cunning and manipulative, using their seductive song to lure the man to his death. The poem begins with the phrase "This is the one song everyone would like to learn", which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The idea that everyone wants to learn this song implies that it is powerful and desirable, but also dangerous.

As the poem progresses, the siren's deception becomes more apparent. She tells the man that her song is "a cry for help" and that she is "lonely and has no one". These statements are designed to elicit sympathy and compassion from the man, and to lower his guard. However, the siren's true intentions are revealed in the final stanza of the poem when she says, "we are the ones you want". This statement is a clear admission that the siren is not really in need of help, but is instead using her song to lure the man to his death.

The theme of deception is also reflected in the language of the poem. The siren's voice is described as "the sound of fingernails / on a chalkboard", which creates a sense of discomfort and unease. This description contrasts sharply with the siren's initial claims of loneliness and vulnerability, and serves to underscore the idea that the siren is not what she appears to be.

The Theme of Temptation

Another important theme in Siren Song is temptation. The siren's song is portrayed as an irresistible temptation that the man cannot resist. The siren herself acknowledges the power of her song when she says, "I won't do it again / till the next time I want to". This statement suggests that the siren is aware of the addictive nature of her song, and that she will continue to use it to tempt more men in the future.

The idea of temptation is further reinforced by the imagery in the poem. The sirens are described as "feathered hookahs", which creates a sense of exoticism and sensuality. The man is also described as being "bewitched" by the siren's song, which implies that he is under a spell and cannot resist her.

The Symbolism of the Sirens

The sirens themselves are an important symbol in the poem. In Greek mythology, sirens were said to be half-bird, half-woman creatures who used their enchanting songs to lure sailors to their deaths. In Siren Song, the sirens are modern women who have taken on the same seductive and dangerous qualities as their mythical counterparts.

The symbolism of the sirens serves to underscore the idea that temptation and deception are timeless and universal themes. The sirens have been a part of human folklore for centuries, and their ability to seduce and deceive has remained unchanged over time.

The Motif of Loneliness

Loneliness is a recurring motif in Siren Song. The siren initially claims to be lonely and in need of help, which elicits sympathy and compassion from the man. However, it later becomes apparent that the siren is using her claim of loneliness as a means of deception. The motif of loneliness serves to underscore the idea that the siren's seduction is based on false pretenses, and that her true intentions are much darker.


In conclusion, Siren Song is a powerful commentary on the nature of seduction, deception, and temptation. The poem uses the symbolism of the sirens, the motif of loneliness, and the theme of temptation and deception to create a haunting and unsettling portrait of the dangers of desire. Hugo Williams' masterful use of language and imagery creates a sense of unease and discomfort that lingers long after the poem has been read. Siren Song is a timeless work of poetry that continues to resonate with readers today, and is a testament to the enduring power of myth and folklore in our lives.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Siren Song: An Enchanting Poem by Hugo Williams

Hugo Williams’ poem “Siren Song” is a captivating piece that explores the theme of temptation and the power of seduction. The poem is a retelling of the Greek myth of the sirens, who lured sailors to their deaths with their enchanting songs. Williams’ poem, however, takes a different approach, as it portrays the sirens as vulnerable and lonely creatures who are desperate for companionship. In this analysis, we will explore the various literary devices used in the poem and how they contribute to the overall meaning and message of the poem.

The poem is written in the first person, with the speaker being one of the sirens. The poem begins with the speaker describing herself and her fellow sirens as “birdlike women” who are “both beautiful and sad”. This description sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it establishes the sirens as sympathetic characters who are not just mindless monsters but rather complex beings with emotions and desires.

The sirens’ song is described as “a song that forces men to leap overboard in squadrons even though they see the beached skulls”. This line is a powerful metaphor that highlights the irresistible nature of the sirens’ song. The use of the word “forces” suggests that the men have no control over their actions and are compelled to follow the sirens’ call. The image of “beached skulls” adds a macabre element to the poem, as it reminds the reader of the deadly consequences of succumbing to temptation.

The speaker then goes on to describe how she and her fellow sirens have been “beached for a long time” and are “lonely and bored”. This line is significant as it humanizes the sirens and makes them relatable to the reader. The fact that they have been stranded for a long time suggests that they have been abandoned by the world and are desperate for companionship. This desperation is further emphasized in the line “we sing till dawn and the sun burns us”. The image of the sirens singing until they are burnt by the sun suggests that they are willing to endure physical pain in order to attract someone to their side.

The poem then takes a surprising turn as the speaker addresses the reader directly and asks for their help. She says “only you, only you can” and “you are unique”. This direct address is a powerful literary device that draws the reader into the poem and makes them feel personally responsible for the sirens’ plight. The use of the word “unique” suggests that the reader has a special role to play in the sirens’ story and that they are the only one who can help them.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker says “I am tired of standing on the shore” and “I must have you”. These lines are a direct plea for the reader to come to the sirens’ aid and offer them companionship. The use of the word “must” suggests that the speaker’s desire is urgent and cannot be ignored. The fact that the speaker is “tired of standing on the shore” suggests that she is ready to take action and is willing to risk everything to find companionship.

In conclusion, Hugo Williams’ poem “Siren Song” is a powerful exploration of the theme of temptation and the power of seduction. The poem humanizes the sirens and portrays them as vulnerable and lonely creatures who are desperate for companionship. The use of literary devices such as metaphor, direct address, and repetition adds depth and complexity to the poem and draws the reader into the sirens’ story. Ultimately, the poem is a call to action, urging the reader to offer companionship to those who are lonely and abandoned.

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