MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Mermaid
Jacob Noseworthy NFLD 1 Tape 4A Track 2
Pouch Cove Audio:
Ballad / mermaid dream

These that live in cities are like sheep penned in a fold
But little do they know what we poor mariners do behold
A year ago I took a trip across the Northern sea
On board the Pretty Peggy from … to good Dundee

But one delightful summer's night as I stood at the wheel
I heard a woman's voice that seemed to sing below the keel
First it sung below the keel six fathoms in the tide
And then it sounded on the port and then the Starboard side

The wind being light southeast by south the sea was calm below
The Northern-

(speaks): No I'm goin' wrong on that

The Northern sky so bright as day and in a rosy glow
And as I stood up aft of the wheel like someone at a door
Up sprang a mermaid dripping wet jumped from the sea on board

Her hair being of the golden as it hid her lovely neck
And hung down in a cloak behind until it swept the deck
With a voice so sweet and musical she then addressed me
Saying, "Come my jolly mariner and live beneath the sea."

"I will take you to my parent's cave where you may live at ease
And feed you on the best of fish that swims about the sea."
"Oh no my handsome fair one, too happy I would be
If I could go along with you and live beneath the sea."

"For you know my dear I must have air I cannot breathe the brine
Unless you come along with me you never can be mine
I'll take you in a caravan and ride this country road
And not one soul will see my pet until they'll pay a pound."

"With one pound notes and sovreigns too we soon shall have enough
And every day we'll eat soft tack and live on steak and duff."
And then I made a reach at her and bade her to embrace
But she rose up her tiny hand and slapped me in the face

A harder clout I never got it made my senses reel
Take that an angry voice exclaimed for sleeping at the wheel
I looked around with watery eyes no mermaid could I see
But just up aft of the binnacle the old captain glowered at me

(speaks):That's it.


Sources: This is not the Child ballad (#289) of the same name, which has the Roud number 124; Leach 673.


Text notes:The singer, a sailor, sees a mermaid but later realizes he was dreaming and asleep at the wheel. In the Child ballad version, the mermaid is an omen of a shipwreck and the sailors begin to lament their lost families in preparation for death.   

Tune notes: Dorian mode in 4/4 metre.

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