The Mermaid

Artist
James Bell
Released
2013
Genre
Traditional
  1. The Mermaid -:-- / 04:42

“Oh but weirdos I fear they will be…”

History

A very well-known song with many variants. In Popular Music of the Olden Time by W. Chappell it’s described as a “fragment of an old sea song, contributed by Mr. Charles Sloman in 1840.” The song seems to suggest that mermaids were believed to have a sort of ‘Flying Dutchman’ effect: that simply to set eyes on them meant certain death. How the composer then managed to write the song after their own death is a bit of a mystery, but quite a common one in traditional songs. Chappell also specified this one should be performed “Right jovially, and moderately fast.” I did my best.

Lyrics

One Friday morn as we set sail,
Not very far from land,
We there did espy a fair pretty maid
With a comb and a glass in her hand, her hand, her hand,
With a comb and a glass in her hand.

—————————————–
While the raging seas did roar,
And the stormy winds did blow,
While we jolly sailor-boys were up into the top,
And the land-lubbers lying down below, below, below,
And the land-lubbers lying down below.
—————————————–

Then up starts the captain of our gallant ship,
And a brave young man was he:
“I’ve a wife and a child in fair Bristol town,
But a widow I fear she will be.”

—————————————–
For the raging seas did roar…
—————————————–

Then up starts the mate of our gallant ship,
And a bold young man was he:
“Oh! I have a wife in fair Portsmouth town,
But a widow I fear she will be.”

—————————————–
For the raging seas did roar…
—————————————–

Then up spoke the cook of our gallant ship,
And a gruff old bastard was he:
“Oh! I have a wife and a mistress and a dog,
Oh but widows I fear they will be.”

—————————————–
For the raging seas did roar…
—————————————–

And then up spoke the little cabin-boy,
And a pretty little boy was he;
“Oh! I am more griev’d for my daddy and my mummy
Than are you for your wives all three.”

—————————————–
For the raging seas did roar…
—————————————–

Then three times round went our gallant ship,
And three times round went she;
For the want of a life-boat we all went down,
And we sank to the bottom of the sea.

—————————————–
For the raging seas did roar…
—————————————–

Credits & Copyright

Traditional, adapted and recorded by James Bell in 2012/3. Released in November 2013. Remastered in March 2017. (P) House of Lyra. Photo by Jeremy Bishop.