by Margaret Atwood
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls
- That last colon in line 3 might lead us to believe that we'll actually hear the song that the speaker is building up so much. But alas, we see here that we just have more elaboration on how irresistible the song is and the fatal consequences that are associated with it.
- Men lose their minds over this song, leaping overboard even though they're leaping right into an island filled with "beached skulls." So by now we understand that this is no ordinary song. There's definitely something enchanting about it, as if it puts listeners into some sort of spell.
- Maybe the Siren-speaker is also alluding to just how predictable (and foolish) these men are. It's as if they've lost all reason and common sense, since they see the fatal consequences staring them right in the face.
- Then again, we also see that the speaker uses the word "forces" in line 4, which tells us these men literally cannot resist the song. It's got them spellbound, so we should cut those sailors a little slack.
- The second stanza is chock full of enjambment too, which really lends that story telling sound to this poem. We're not getting twisted up in fancy meters and punctuation. It's all one smooth, casual story being told to us without any poetic frills. (For more on things like poetic frills, don't forget to check out "Form and Meter.")