A Hauntingly lovely poem: The Shell

For some strange reason, the opening nine lines of this poem by James Stephens, The Shell, have stayed with me since my high school years. It certainly evokes a feeling.

James Stephens. 1882–

123. The Shell

AND then I pressed the shell
Close to my ear
And listened well,
And straightway like a bell
Came low and clear 5
The slow, sad murmur of the distant seas,
Whipped by an icy breeze
Upon a shore
Wind-swept and desolate.
It was a sunless strand that never bore 10
The footprint of a man,
Nor felt the weight
Since time began
Of any human quality or stir
Save what the dreary winds and waves incur. 15
And in the hush of waters was the sound
Of pebbles rolling round,
For ever rolling with a hollow sound.
And bubbling sea-weeds as the waters go
Swish to and fro 20
Their long, cold tentacles of slimy grey.
There was no day,
Nor ever came a night
Setting the stars alight
To wonder at the moon: 25
Was twilight only and the frightened croon,
Smitten to whimpers, of the dreary wind
And waves that journeyed blind—
And then I loosed my ear … O, it was sweet
To hear a cart go jolting down the street. 30

Want More Great Dream Interpretations?

Carol Chapman

CarolChapman is an author and inspirational speaker. She speaks at weekend retreats,day-long events, and half-day programs. Her seminars are not onlyinformative and transformational but also fun and entertaining. They ofteninclude participatory workshops and visual aids, such as videos andphotographs. She specializes in dream interpretation, reincarnation, andAtlantis, and is the author of When WeWere Gods, Arrival of the Gods in Egypt, and Have Your Heart’s Desire.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Carol Chapman - April 4, 2013

Hi Marsha,

How great to meet someone else who remembers this poem.

It is so perfect for the feeling you get when listing to the other-worldly sound inside a shell.

Thanks for writing!

Marsha - April 4, 2013

Your not alone. But I had the first 15 lines committed to memory since high school. It was the first time heard the natural world described as an entity without us in such a hauntingly beautiful way. Thanks for the company.


Leave a Reply:

WordPress Help