What Is the Theme of the Poem “Sea Lullaby”?

One theme in Elinor Morton Wylie’s poem “Sea Lullaby” is the drowning of a village boy. Another theme is the personification of the water as a woman, which makes the drowning less of an accident and more of a murder.

“Sea Lullaby” serves as a eulogy for a village boy who drowned. It explains why the boy died and serves as a cautionary tale. Beware the water, the poet says, because she creeps up to villages to seek out prey and kills them mercilessly, choking and beating them to death. The water takes pleasure in these killings, shouting for joy and killing “for a joke.” Water is so sadistic that she stays with her victims long after they’ve died.

The poet uses natural aspects of water, such as its sea foam and the shape of its waves, in her descriptions of the water as a murderer. The sea foam becomes the water’s teeth, while its waves become its fingers. By personifying water as a calculating killer with “a treacherous smile,” the poet strips away the possibility that the drowning is an accident. Instead, the poet claims that the death is premeditated. The poet makes clear that the boy was murdered, shifting blame away from other villagers, the boy’s parents or the boy himself.