Louis Marie-Anne Couperus (The Hague, 10 June 1863 - De Steeg, 16 July 1923) was a Dutch novelist and poet. His oeuvre contains a wide variety of genres: lyric poetry, psychological and historical novels, novellas, short stories, fairy tales, feuilletons and sketches. Couperus is considered to be one of the foremost figures in Dutch literature. In 1923, he was awarded the Tollensprijs (Tollens prize). Couperus and his wife travelled extensively in Europe and Asia, and he later wrote several related travelogues which were published weekly.
But the ship resounded with music. There was the constantly repeated melodious phrase of the three hundred rowers, soft and monotone, in a melancholy minor, with ever the same refrain, after which the boatswain gave out the chant, after which the chorus of rowers again threw back their long, hushed phrase of melancholy, the soft, monotonous accompaniment of the wearying work, the musical encouragement to repeat the same movement of the arms and the same bending of the body over the loins.
This music rose in a mournful swell from the ship’s lower deck and harmonizing with it was the soft stroke of the oars, which were like the legs of some graceful sea-animal; the ship herself, with her swanlike raised prow, suggested an elegant monster swimming through the lake-calm waters of that silvery night-world, a monster with a swan’s neck and hundreds of slender, evenly-moving legs and winged with two rose-yellow sails, which rose and bellied gently at the ship’s own motion, but did not swell, because the wind lay still.
While the great, winged navigium glided upon that harmony of slaves’ song and oar-strokes, there came from the rear half-deck the blither song of the sailors idling after their work. It sounded cheerful with deep, bass male voices, without the rowers’ melancholy; and there was one sailor who gave the time in a higher voice, for the seamen were at liberty to sing, but their singing must be artistically led, because melodious music meant a prosperous voyage and averted evil chances and did not let the shrill voices of the sirens ring from under the waters and because the pure sound of the human voice kept away the rocks drifting under the sea and compelled the sea-serpent to dive back into the deep.