The Sighing of the Shell


“Listen, darling, and tell to me

What the murmurer says to thee,

Murmuring ‘twixt a song and a moan,

Changing neither tune nor tone.”


“Yes, I hear it, far and faint,

Like thin-drawn prayer of drowsy saint;

Like the falling of sleep on a weary brain,

When the fevered heart is quiet again.”


“By smiling lip and fixed eye,

You are hearing more than song or sigh:

The wrinkled thing has curious ways –

I want to know the words it says.”


“I hear a wind on a boatless main

Sigh like the last of a vanishing pain;

On the dreaming waters dreams the moon,

But I hear no words in their murmured tune.”


“If it does not say that I love thee well,

‘Tis a senseless, ill-curved, worn-out shell;

If it is not of love, why sigh or sing?

‘Tis a common, mechanical, useless thing.”


“It whispers of love – ’tis a prophet-shell –

Of a peace that comes, and all shall be well;

It speaks not a word of your love to me,

But it tells me to love you eternally.”


George MacDonald