Here are my favorite poems about mermaids categorized:
- Mermaid poems that rhyme
- Short poems about mermaids
- Mermaid poems by famous poets
So if you want the best poems about mermaids, then you’re at the right place.
Let’s jump right in!
Ethereal Poems About Mermaids
Dive into a captivating collection of carefully curated poems about mermaids, thoughtfully organized for your delightful exploration.
Our selection features enchanting works that delve into the mystique of mermaids, capturing their ethereal grace, mesmerizing allure, and the mythical realms they inhabit.
With our handpicked assortment, you can now discover the finest poems celebrating the enchanting world of mermaids, all conveniently gathered in one place.
Indulge in these poetic gems, allowing their words to transport you to a realm where the shimmering seas and magical melodies of mermaids come alive, evoking a sense of wonder and fascination.
Let’s get started!
My #1 Favorite Poem About Mermaids
“The Sea-Fairies” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Slow sail’d the weary mariners and saw,
Betwixt the green brink and the running foam,
Sweet faces, rounded arms, and bosoms prest
To little harps of gold; and while they mused,
Whispering to each other half in fear,
Shrill music reach’d them on the middle sea.
Whither away, whither away, whither away? fly no more.
Whither away, from the high green field, and the happy blossoming shore?
Day and night to the billow the fountain calls;
Down shower the gambolling waterfalls
From wandering over the lea;
Out of the live-green heart of the dells
They freshen the silvery-crimson shells,
And thick with white bells the clover-hill swells
High over the full-toned sea.
O, hither, come hither and furl your sails,
Come hither to me and to me;
Hither, come hither and frolic and play;
Here it is only the mew that wails;
We will sing to you all the day.
Mariner, mariner, furl your sails,
For here are the blissful downs and dales,
And merrily, merrily carol the gales,
And the spangle dances in bight and bay,
And the rainbow forms and flies on the land
Over the islands free;
And the rainbow lives in the curve of the sand;
Hither, come hither and see;
And the rainbow hangs on the poising wave,
And sweet is the color of cove and cave,
And sweet shall your welcome be.
O, hither, come hither, and be our lords,
For merry brides are we.
We will kiss sweet kisses, and speak sweet words;
O, listen, listen, your eyes shall glisten
With pleasure and love and jubilee.
O, listen, listen, your eyes shall glisten
When the sharp clear twang of the golden chords
Runs up the ridged sea.
Who can light on as happy a shore
All the world o’er, all the world o’er?
Whither away? listen and stay; mariner, mariner, fly no more.
Mermaid Poems That Rhyme
“The Sea Faery” by Madison Julius Cawein
She was strange as the orchids that blossom
And glimmer and shower their balm
And bloom on the tropical ocean,
That crystals round islands of palm:
And she sang to and beckoned and bound me
With beauty immortal and calm.
She was wild as the spirits that banner,
Auroral, the ends of the Earth,
With polar processions, that battle
With Darkness; or, breathing, give birth
To Silence; and herd from the mountains
The icebergs, gigantic of girth.
She was silver as sylphids who blend with
The morning the pearl of their cheeks:
And rosy as spirits whose tresses
Trail golden the sunset with streaks:
An opaline presence that beckoned
And spake as the sea-rapture speaks:
‘Come with me! come down in the ocean!
Yea, leave this dark region with me!
Come! leave it! forget it in thunder
And roll of the infinite sea!
Come with me! No mortal bliss equals
The bliss I shall give unto thee.’ . . .
And so it was then that she bound me
With witchcraft no mortal divines,
While softly with kisses she drew me,
As the moon draws a dream from the pines,
Down, down to her cavern of coral,
Where ever the sea-serpent twines.
And ever the creatures, whose shadows
Bulk huge as an isle on the sight,
Swim cloud-like and vast, without number,
Around her who leans, like a light,
And smiles at me sleeping, pale-sleeping,
Wrapped deep in her mermaiden might.
“The Sea Maid” by John Le Gay Brereton
In what pearl-paven mossy cave
By what green sea
Art thou reclining, virgin of the wave,
In realms more full of splendid mystery
Than that strong northern flood whence came
The rise and fall of music in thy name —
Thy waiting name, Oithona!
The magic of the sea’s own change
In depth and height,
From where the eternal order’d billows range
To unknown regions of sleep-weary night,
Fills, like a wonder-waking spell
Whispered by lips of some lone-murmuring shell,
Thy dreaming soul, Oithona.
In gladness of thy reverie
What gracious form
Will fly the errand of our love to thee,
By ways with winged messengers aswarm
Through dawn of opalescent skies,
To say the time is come and bid thee rise
And be our child, Oithona?
“The Mermaid” by George Wharton Edwards
To yon fause stream that, near the sea,
Hides mony an elf and plum,
And rives wi’ fearful din the stanes,
A witless knicht did come.
The day shines clear–far in he’s gane
Whar shells are silver bright,
Fishes war loupin’ a’ aroun’,
And sparklin’ to the light.
Whan, as he laved, sounds cam sae sweet
Frae ilka rock an’ tree;
The brief was out, ’twas him it doomed
The mermaid’s face to see.
Frae ‘neath a rock, sune, sune she rose,
And stately on she swam,
Stopped i’ the midst, and becked and sang
To him to stretch his han’.
Gowden glist the yellow links
That round her neck she’d twine;
Her een war o’ the skyie blue,
Her lips did mock the wine;
The smile upon her bonnie cheek
Was sweeter than the bee;
Her voice excelled the birdie’s sang
Upon the birchen tree.
Sae couthie, couthie did she look,
And meikle had she fleeched;
Out shot his hand–alas! alas!
Fast in the swirl he screeched.
The mermaid leuch, her brief was gane,
And kelpie’s blast was blawin’,
Fu’ low she duked, ne’er raise again,
For deep, deep was the fawin’.
Aboon the stream his wraith was seen,
Warlochs tirled lang at gloamin’;
That e’en was coarse, the blast blew hoarse,
Ere lang the waves war foamin’.
“The Water Lady” by Thomas Hood
Alas, the moon should ever beam
To show what man should never see!-
I saw a maiden on a stream,
And fair was she!
I staid awhile, to see her throw
Her tresses black, that all beset
The fair horizon of her brow
With clouds of jet.
I staid a little while to view
Her cheek, that wore in place of red
The bloom of water, tender blue,
I staid to watch, a little space,
Her parted lips if she would sing;
The waters closed above her face
With many a ring.
And still I staid a little more,
Alas! she never comes again!
I throw my flowers from the shore,
And watch in vain.
I know my life will fade away,
I know that I must vainly pine,
For I am made of mortal clay,
But she’s divine!
“Sea Dreams” by Madison Julius Cawein
Oh, to see in the night in a May moon’s light
A nymph from siren caves,
With a crown of pearl, sea-gems in each curl
Dance down white, star-stained waves!
Oh, to list in the gloam by the pearly foam
Of a sad, far-sounding shore
The strain of the shell of an ocean belle
From caves where the waters roar!
With a hollow shell drift up in the moon
To sigh in my ears this ocean tune: –
“Wilt follow, wilt follow to caverns hollow,
That echo the tumbling spry?
Wilt follow thy queen to islands green,
Vague islands of witchery?
O follow, follow to grottoes hollow,
And isles in a purple sea,
Where rich roses twine and the lush woodbine
Weaves a musky canopy!”
Oh, to float in the gloam on the bubbly foam
With her lily face above!
Oh, to lie in a barque and a wild song hark,
And a billow-nymph to love!
I’d lie at her feet and my heart should beat
To the music of her sighs;
But the stars in her face my passion should trace,
Unseen all the stars of the skies.
Away, away with the witch of spray
To her Aidenn islands far;
And the blue above, drunk-mad with love,
Dance down each singing star.
Leave, leave to the heaven its morning star
In a cloud of bolted snow,
To laugh at the world and herald far
Our wedlock and joy below.
“The Sea-King” by Madison Julius Cawein
In green sea-caverns dim,
A monarch pale and slim,
Whose soul’s a frown,
He ruleth cold and grim
In foamy crown:
In green sea-caverns dim,
He hears the Mermaid sing
Far off like some curs’d thing,
That ne’er is glad,
A vague, wild murmuring,
That drives men mad:
He hears the Mermaid sing
Strange monster bulks are there,
Or roll huge eyes that glare
And then are gone;
Weird foliage passing fair
Where clings the spawn:
Strange monster bulks are there,
What cares he for wrecked hulls
Red gold the water dulls!
Grim, dead-men jeers
On jaws of a thousand skulls
What cares he for wrecked hulls
Man’s tears are loved of him,
Set in the foamy rim
Of his frail crown
To pearls the tear-drops dim
Freeze at his frown:
Man’s tears are loved of him,
Here be the halls of Sleep
Chill, shadowy, and deep,
Where hangs no lute
To make the still heart leap
Of man or brute:
Here be the halls of Sleep
“The Mermaid” by Madison Julius Cawein
The moon in the East is glowing;
I sit by the moaning sea;
The mists down the sea are blowing,
Down the sea all dewily.
The sands at my feet are shaking,
The stars in the sky are wan;
The mists for the shore are making,
With a glimmer drifting on.
From the mist comes a song, sweet wailing
In the voice of a love-lorn maid,
And I hear her gown soft trailing
As she doth lightly wade.
The night hangs pale above me
Upon her starry throne,
And I know the maid doth love me
Who maketh such sweet moan.
From out the mist comes tripping
A Mermaiden full fair,
Across the white sea skipping
With locks of tawny hair.
Her locks with sea-ooze dripping
She wrings with a snowy hand;
Her dress is thinly clipping
Two breasts which perfect stand.
Oh, she was fair as the heaven
On an autumnal eve,
And my love to her was given
When I saw how she did grieve.
Amort o’er the sea came speeding
This sea sprite samite-clad,
And my heart for love was bleeding,
But its beating I forbade.
On the strand where the sand was rocking
She stood and sang an air,
And the winds in her hair kept locking
Their fingers cool and bare.
Soft in her arms did she fold me,
While sweet and low she moaned;
Her love and her grief she told me,
And the ocean sighed and groaned.
But I stilled my heart’s wild beating,
For I knew her love was dim;
Full coldly received her greeting,
Tho’ my life burnt in each limb.
In my ear right sweet she was sighing
With the voice of the pink-veined shells;
Her arms ’round my neck kept tying,
And gazed in mine eyes’ deep wells.
With her kisses cold did she woo me,
But I dimmed my heart’s wild beat;
With the stars of her eyes did she sue me,
But their passion did mine defeat.
With the cloud of her sea-dipped tresses
She veiled her beautiful face; –
And oh! how I longed for her kisses
And sighed for her soft embrace!
But out in the mist she went wailing
When the dawn besilvered the night,
With her robes of samite trailing
In the foam-flowers sad and white.
Like a spirit grieved went moaning
In a twilight over the sea,
And it seemed the night was groaning,
And my heart beat wild in me.
But I hushed my heart’s fierce beating,
For a Mermaid false was she;
Yet I sighed at her faintly fleeting
Across the dim, dark sea.
The moon all withered is glowing,
The mist and she are gone;
My heart to ice is growing,
And I sob at the coming dawn.
“The Mermaid” by John Leyden
An oozy film her limbs o’erspread,
While slow unfolds her scaly train ,
With gluey fangs her hands were clad,
She lash’d with webbéd fin the main.
Hegrasps the Mermaid’s scaly sides,
As with broad fin she oars her way;
Beneath the silent moon she glides,
That sweetly sleeps on Colonsay.
Proud swells her heart ! she deems, at last,
To lure him with her silver tongue,
And, as the shelving rocks she past,
She raised her voice and sweetly sung.
In softer, sweeter strains she sung,
Slow gliding o’er the moonlight bay,
When light to land the chieftain sprung ,
To hail the maid of Colonsay.
O sad the Mermaid’s gay notes fell,
And sadly sink remote at sea!
So sadly mourns the writhéd shell
Of Jura’s shore its parent sea.
And ever as the year returns,
The charm – bound sailors know the day ;
For sadly still the Mermaid mourns
The lovely chief of Colonsay.
“The Mermaid’s Song” by Hannah F. Gould
Come, mariner, down in the deep with me,
And hide thee under the wave;
For I have a bed of coral for thee,
And quiet and sound shall thy slumber be
In a cell in the Mermaid’s cave!
On a pillow of pearls thine eye shall sleep,
And nothing disturb thee there;
The fishes their silent vigils shall keep;
There shall be no grass thy grave to sweep,
But the silk of the Mermaid’s hair.
And she, who is waiting with cheeks so pale,
As the tempest and ocean roar,
And weeps when she hears the menacing gale,
Or sighs to behold her mariner’s sail
Come whitening up to the shoreShe has not long to linger for thee!
Her sorrows will soon be o’er;
For the cord shall be broken, the prisoner free;
Her eye shall close, and her dreams will be
So sweet, she will wake no more!
“A Little Mermaiden” by Matthew Arnold
Down, down, down!
Down to the depths of the sea!
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,
Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings: “O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy!
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well;
For the wheel where I spun,
And the blessed light of the sun!”
And so she sings her fill,
Singing most joyfully,
Till the spindle drops from her hand,
And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,
And over the sand at the sea;
And her eyes are set in a stare;
And anon there breaks a sigh,
And anon there drops a tear,
From a sorrow-clouded eye,
And a heart sorrow-laden,
A long, long sigh;
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden
And the gleam of her golden hair.
“An Island Legend” by Eleanour Norton
A maiden loved this dreamer of the morn,
This island- poet of the hills and sea,
Yet loving him in vain , was ever torn
By sad desire, or fruitless ecstasy.
The rounded richness of her cheek was torn
With sighing for a rapture ne’er to be:
When from her casement like a flower she leant
Lost in night’s hush, and love’s bewilderment.
Of noble birth she was — a creature white,
Purer than dawn, more delicate than flowers,
A being fashioned for supreme delight
And for the peace of love’s delicious hours.
Jewelled with innocence, and youth, and light,
She touched her harp, or broidered in her bowers,
Deeming her heart nigh broken in its pain
Of love divinely spent, yet spent in vain.
She watched his form on the horizon flee,
Or from her tower she saw with strainéd eyes
His golden sail upon a golden sea
Like to some burning fantasy arise.
And wept– “
More dear the mermaids melody
To that cold heart than my most piteous sighs.”
And when they met, it was to understand
She had her tears, and he his fairy -land.
Then, to her startled soul a scheme was born
And ere the day had widened into blue,
She stole into the silence of the morn
Like Proserpina, ‘ mid the Grecian dew,
And with the leaves from ancient forests torn
She wove a garment of the richest hue.
All shining green, the colour of that sea
That trembled through the groves of Thessaly.
“The Mermaid’s Song” by M. Taylor
A mermaid sat on a lonely rock,
Far, far amid the sea;
And no human voice her voice could mock,
She sung so melodiously:
The wild-birds stoop’d from on high,
And the dolphins gather’d round; —
Nor dash ofwave, nor sea-bird’s cry,
Disturb’d the dulcet sound.
The sun beneath the wave had gone,-
No cloud on the sea its shadow threw;
But the moon’s fair light o’er the waters shone,
And the little stars were shining too.
“O, lovely groves in the distant land,
With fountains of crystal sheen,
May delight the children of mortal strand;
But no mortal eye hath seen
The beauty that dwells beneath the sea,
Or the coral halls prepared for me!
With gold from the East my home is deck’d:
With richest spoils of the ocean-wreck’d;
And things on the earth that are deem’d most fair
And sacred, too, —all, all are there.
“I have the merchant’s hoard of gold,
And the treasures he fondly deems are sold;
But day and night, and night and day,
Will pass in endless round away,
Ere his vessels return to the land they left;-
He is now of his wealth and power bereft.
Many love-tokens I fondly keep,
Given to lovers from lovers parted;
But those who received them soundly sleep,
While the givers are broken-hearted.
Yes! long shall they weep who wait for those
O’er whom the wave of the ocean flows.”
“Song of the Sirens” by Arthur Symons
Our breasts are cold, salt are our kisses,
Your blood shall whiten in our sea-blisses;
A man’s desire is a flame of fire,
But chill as water is our desire.
Chill as water that sucks in
A drowning man’s despairing chin
With a little kissing noise;
And like the water’s voice our voice.
Our hands are colder than your lovers’.
Colder than pearls that the sea covers;
Are a girl’s hands as white as pearls?
Take the hands of the sea-girls,
And come with us to the under-sands;
We will hold in our cold hands
Flaming heart and burning head,
And put thought and love to bed.
We are the last desires; we have waited,
Till, by all things mortal sated,
And by dreams deceived, the scorn
Of every foolish virgin morn,
You, awakening at last,
Drunken, beggared of the past,
In the last lust of despair
Tangle your souls into our hair.
“The Siren’s Song” by Grace Constant Lounsbery
Oh, tarry ye a while,
For welcome, in this isle
That harbours its delights for thine and thee,
While listening ye rejoice
To hear the Siren’s voice,
The Siren’s song of love and mystery.
We twain are wondrous fair,
And deep within our hair
The nestling shadows flee from garish day;
The sunset in our eyes
Lingers, when from the skies
The splendour of the sunlight fades away.
The pale narcissi stand
Like nymphs on either hand,
And marvel at their whiteness in the brook;
For all their rivalry
No flower that flecks the lea,
Can vie with us in field or dell or nook.
No winter here devours
The summer’s fruits or flowers;
The fettered winds go whispering to and fro;
No heedless foot forgets
And slays the violets,
That hide them where the reeds and grasses blow.
Here Love’s sweet self unarmed
Feels all his fierce ways charmed;
His influence falls, like showers of vernal rain,
On tired flowers freshening,
Or birds awakening,
While pleasure knows no aftermath of pain.
Come, idle where the stream,
With many a glint and gleam,
Floats all its silver ripples to the sea;
Or, where the dappled shade
Half hides the darkening glade,
Pursue the dancing shadows stealthily.
Like some shy-footed fawn,
Surprise the startled morn;
And dive within the river where it slips,
And deepens, and grows still,
Forgetting how each rill
Upon the mountain sang with boistrous lips.
Lo! far within the wood,
Where dwells the Satyr brood,
Are springs of milk and honey, while, men say
Half hidden, through the green,
Half guessed at, and half seen,
The mænad and the bassarid do play-
Garlands they gather there
To weave about thine hair,
And, lo, thy couch they smother o’er with flowers.
They laugh and live as one
Who hides him from the sun,
Through all the verdant length of vernal hours.
And when the nightingale,
Within the distant dale,
Maddens the midnight with her song of songs,
That wanderer, the moon,
With listening feigns a swoon,
And far unto the dawn her stay prolongs.
What profits it to plough
The barren sea? Each bough
Hangs heavy with its fruit, its shade, for thee;
While we the Sirens haunt
Thy heart with fairest chaunt
And life is one mellifluous harmony.
Since each deciduous rose,
And soft ephemeral snows,
And loves more fragile and more fair than these,
With stern fatality
Mock man’s mortality,
Give o’er thy soul to songs that soothe and ease.
Then tarry ye a while,
Fair wanderer, in this isle
That harbours its delights for thine and thee.
Yea, tarry, and rejoice
To hear the Siren’s voice,
Oh, stay thy ship, fair wanderers; tarry ye.
“Song of the Sirens” by Caroline Giffard Phillipson
Come! Come! Come! Mariners
faint and weary,
Rest! Rest! Rest! fair is our
Stay! Stay! Stay! Are not the black ships
Fly! Fly! Fly! over the pearly foam.
Lift! Lift! Lift! Hear ye the harp-tones
Near! Near! Near! ſweet are the melodies
Far! Far! Far! echoes around are dying,
Lift! Lift! Liſt! Lift to the Sirens’ Song.
Come! Come! Come! dark grow the purple
Rest! Rest! Rest! white hands the garlands
Stay! Stay! Stay! lovely are ocean’s daughters,
Fly! Fly! Fly! clear is the rofy wine.
Lift! Lift! Lift! hear ye our charmèd numbers,
Near! Near! Near! hovers night’s drowſy
Far! Far! Far! lies the old land ye’re ſeeking,
Lift! Lift! Lift! Litt to the Sirens’ Song.
Come! Come! Come! Chief with the long
Rest! Rest! Rest! knowledge of all is ours!
Stay! Stay! Stay! Warriors renown’d in story,
Fly! Fly! Fly! feast in our fragrant bowers.
Lift! Lift! Lift! waves o’er the pale sands are
Near! Near! Near! see ye our torches gleaming,
Far! Far! Far! morning’s bright chariot lingers,
Lift! Lift! Lift! Lift to the Sirens’ Song.
“Jotunheim” by Madison Julius Cawein
Still in my dreams I hear the mermaid singing;
The mermaid music at its portal ringing;
The mermaid song, that hinged with gold its door,
And, whispering evermore,
Hushed the ponderous hurl and roar
And vast æolian thunder
Of the chained tempests under
The frozen cataracts that were its floor.—
And, blinding beautiful, I still behold
The mermaid there, combing her locks of gold,
While at her feet, green as the Northern Seas,
Gambol her flocks of seals and walruses;
While, like a drift, her dog,—a Polar bear,—
Lies by her, glowering through his shaggy hair.
Short Poems About Mermaids
“The Mermaid” by Oliver Herford
Although a Fishwife in a sense,
She does not barter Fish for Pence.
Fisher of Men, her Golden Nets
For foolish Sailormen she sets.
All day she combs her hair and longs
For Dimpled Feet and Curling-tongs.
All night she dreams in ocean caves
Of Low tide Shoes and Marcel Waves.
And while the Fishwife, making sales,
May sell her wares upon her scales,
The Mermaid, wonderful to tell,
Must wear her scales upon herself’.
“The Water-Nymph of the Rock” by Sir John Carr
The nymph, to whom this stream you owe,
Conceals herself in caves of stone:
Like her your benefits bestow;
Give, without wishing to be known.
“The Water Nymphs” by Ellis Parker Butler
They hide in the brook when I seek to draw nearer,
Laughing amain when I feign to depart;
Often I hear them, now faint and now clearer
Innocent bold or so sweetly discreet.
Are they Nymphs of the Stream at their playing
Or but the brook I mistook for a voice?
Little care I; for, despite harsh Time’s flaying,
Brook voice or Nymph voice still makes me rejoice
“The Mermaid” by William Butler Yeats
A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
“The Siren” by Oliver Herford
The Siren may be said to be
The Chorus-Lady of the Sea;
Tho’ Mermaids claim her as their kin,
Instead of fishy tail and fin
Two shapely feet rejoice the view
(With all that appertains thereto).
When to these other charms we add
A voice that drives the hearer mad,
Who will dispute her claim to be
The Chorus-Lady of the Sea?
Mermaid Poems by Famous Poets
“The Sea Spirit” by Madison Julius Cawein
Ah me! I shall not waken soon
From dreams of such divinity!
A spirit singing ‘neath the moon
Wild sea-spray driven of the storm
Is not so wildly white as she,
Who beckoned with a foam-white arm
With eyes dark green, and golden-green
Long locks that rippled drippingly,
Out of the green wave she did lean
And sang; till Earth and Heaven seemed
A far, forgotten memory,
And more than Heaven in her who gleamed
Sleep, sweeter than love’s face or home;
And death’s immutability;
And music of the plangent foam,
Sweep over her! with all thy ships,
With all thy stormy tides, O sea!-
The memory of immortal lips
“The Mermaids” by Walter De la Mare
Sand, sand; hills of sand;
And the wind where nothing is
Green and sweet of the land;
No grass, no trees,
No bird, no butterfly,
But hills, hills of sand,
And a burning sky.
Sea, sea, mounds of the sea,
Hollow, and dark, and blue,
The whole sea through;
No flower, no jutting root,
Only the floor of the sea,
With foam afloat.
Blow, blow, winding shells;
And the watery fish,
Deaf to the hidden bells,
In the water splash;
No streaming gold, no eyes,
Watching along the waves,
But far-blown shells, faint bells,
From the darkling caves.
“The Mermaid” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?
I would be a mermaid fair;
I would sing to myself the whole of the day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair;
And still as I comb’d I would sing and say,
“Who is it loves me? who loves not me?”
I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall,
Low adown, low adown,
From under my starry sea-bud crown
Low adown and around,
And I should look like a fountain of gold
With a shrill inner sound,
Over the throne
In the midst of the hall;
Till that great sea-snake under the sea
From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps
Would slowly trail himself sevenfold
Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate
With his large calm eyes for the love of me.
And all the mermen under the sea
Would feel their immortality
Die in their hearts for the love of me.
But at night I would wander away, away,
I would fling on each side my low-flowing locks,
And lightly vault from the throne and play
With the mermen in and out of the rocks;
We would run to and fro, and hide and seek,
On the broad sea-wolds in the crimson shells,
Whose silvery spikes are nighest the sea.
But if any came near I would call, and shriek,
And adown the steep like a wave I would leap
From the diamond-ledges that jut from the dells;
For I would not be kiss’d by all who would list,
Of the bold merry mermen under the sea;
They would sue me, and woo me, and flatter me,
In the purple twilights under the sea;
But the king of them all would carry me,
Woo me, and win me, and marry me,
In the branching jaspers under the sea;
Then all the dry pied things that be
In the hueless mosses under the sea
Would curl round my silver feet silently,
All looking up for the love of me.
And if I should carol aloud, from aloft
All things that are forked, and horned, and soft
Would lean out from the hollow sphere of the sea,
All looking down for the love of me.
“The Mermaid of Margate” by Thomas Hood
On Margate beach, where the sick one roams,
And the sentimental reads;
Where the maiden flirts, and the widow comes—
Like the ocean—to cast her weeds ,—
Where urchins wander to pick up shells,
And the Cit to spy at the ships,—
Like the water gala at Sadler’s Wells,—
And the Chandler for watery dips;—
There’s a maiden sits by the ocean brim,
As lovely and fair as sin!
But woe, deep water and woe to him,
That she snareth like Peter Fin!
Her head is crown’d with pretty sea-wares,
And her locks are golden and loose:
And seek to her feet, like other folks’ heirs,
To stand, of course, in her shoes!
And, all day long, she combeth them well,
With a sea-shark’s prickly jaw;
And her mouth is just like a rose-lipp’d shell,
The fairest that man e’er saw!
And the Fishmonger, humble as love may be,
Hath planted his seat by her side;
‘Good even, fair maid! Is thy lover at sea,
To make thee so watch the tide?’
She turn’d about with her pearly brows,
And clasp’d him by the hand:—
‘Come, love, with me; I’ve a bonny house
On the golden Goodwin Sand.’
And then she gave him a siren kiss,
No honeycomb e’er was sweeter;
Poor wretch! how little he dreamt for this
That Peter should be salt-Peter:
And away with her prize to the wave she leapt,
Not walking, as damsels do,
With toe and heel, as she ought to have stept,
But she hopt like a Kangaroo;
One plunge, and then the victim was blind,
Whilst they galloped across the tide;
At last, on the bank he waked in his mind,
And the Beauty was by his side.
One half on the sand, and half in the sea,
But his hair began to stiffen;
For when he look’d where her feet should be,
She had no more feet than Miss Biffen!
But a scaly tail, of a dolphin’s growth,
In the dabbling brine did soak:
At last she open’d her pearly mouth,
Like an oyster, and thus she spoke:—
‘You crimpt my father, who was a skate;—
And my sister you sold—a maid;
So here remain for a fish’ry fate,
For lost you are, and betray’d!’
And away she went, with a seagull’s scream,
And a splash of her saucy tail;
In a moment he lost the silvery gleam
That shone on her splendid mail!
The sun went down with a blood-red flame,
And the sky grew cloudy and black,
And the tumbling billows like leap-frog came,
Each over the other’s back!
Ah, me! it had been a beautiful scene,
With a safe terra-firma round;
But the green water-hillocks all seem’d to him
Like those in a church-yard ground;
And Christians love in the turf to lie,
Not in watery graves to be;
Nay, the very fishes will sooner die
On the land than in the sea.
And whilst he stood, the watery strife
Encroached on every hand,
And the ground decreas’d—his moments of life
Seem’d measur’d, like Time’s, by sand;
And still the waters foam’d in, like ale,
In front, and on either flank,
He knew that Goodwin and Co. must fail,
There was such a run on the bank.
A little more, and a little more,
The surges came tumbling in;
He sang the evening hymn twice o’er,
And thought of every sin!
Each flounder and plaice lay cold at his heart,
As cold as his marble slab;
And he thought he felt, in every part,
The pincers of scalded crab!
The squealing lobsters that he had boil’d,
And the little potted shrimps,
All the horny prawns he had ever spoil’d,
Gnawed into his soul, like imps!
And the billows were wandering to and fro,
And the glorious sun was sunk,
And Day, getting black in the face, as though
Of the night-shade she had drunk!
Had there been but a smuggler’s cargo adrift,
One tub, or keg, to be seen,
It might have given his spirits a lift
Or an anker where Hope might lean!
But there was not a box or a beam afloat,
To raft him from that sad place;
Not a skiff, not a yawl, or a mackarel boat,
Nor a smack upon Neptune’s face.
At last, his lingering hopes to buoy,
He saw a sail and a mast,
And called ‘Ahoy!’—but it was not a hoy,
And so the vessel went past.
And with saucy wing that flapp’d in his face,
The wild bird about him flew,
With a shrilly scream, that twitted his case,
‘Why, thou art a sea-gull too!’
And lo! the tide was over his feet;
Oh! his heart began to freeze,
And slowly to pulse:—in another beat
The wave was up to his knees!
He was deafen’d amidst the mountain-tops,
And the salt spray blinded his eyes,
And wash’d away the other salt-drops
That grief had caused to arise:—
But just as his body was all afloat,
And the surges above him broke,
He was saved from the hungry deep by a boat,
Of Deal—(but builded of oak.)
The skipper gave him a dram, as he lay,
And chafed his shivering skin;
And the Angel return’d that was flying away
With the spirit of Peter Fin!
“The Merman” by James Whitcomb Riley
Who would be
A merman gay,
With a mermaid’s knee,
For a throne?
I would be a merman gay;
I would sit and sing the whole day long;
I would fill my lungs with the strongest brine,
And squirt it up in a spray of song,
And soak my head in my liquid voice;
I’d curl my tail in curves divine,
And let each curve in a kink rejoice.
I’d tackle the mermaids under the sea,
And yank ’em around till they yanked me,
And then we would wiggle away, away,
To the pea-green groves on the coast of day,
Chasing each other sportively.
There would be neither moon nor star;
But the waves would twang like a wet guitar
Low thunder and thrum in the darkness grum–
Neither moon nor star;
We would shriek aloud in the dismal dales–
Shriek at each other and squawk and squeal,
“All night!” rakishly, rakishly;
They would pelt me with oysters and wiggletails,
Laughing and clapping their hands at me,
“All night!” prankishly, prankishly;
But I would toss them back in mine,
Lobsters and turtles of quaint design;
Then leaping out in an abrupt way,
I’d snatch them bald in my devilish glee,
And skip away when they snatched at me,
O, what a jolly life I’d lead,
Ah, what a “bang-up” life indeed!
Soft are the mermaids under the sea–
We would live merrily, merrily.
“The Nymphs” by Ivan Turgenev
I stood before a chain of beautiful mountains forming a semicircle. A
young, green forest covered them from summit to base.
Limpidly blue above them was the southern sky; on the heights the sunbeams
rioted; below, half-hidden in the grass, swift brooks were babbling.
And the old fable came to my mind, how in the first century after Christ’s
birth, a Greek ship was sailing on the Aegean Sea.
The hour was mid-day…. It was still weather. And suddenly up aloft, above
the pilot’s head, some one called distinctly, ‘When thou sailest by the
island, shout in a loud voice, “Great Pan is dead!”‘
The pilot was amazed… afraid. But when the ship passed the island, he
obeyed, he called, ‘Great Pan is dead!’
And, at once, in response to his shout, all along the coast (though
the island was uninhabited), sounded loud sobs, moans, long-drawn-out,
plaintive wailings. ‘Dead! dead is great Pan!’ I recalled this story…
and a strange thought came to. ‘What if I call an invocation?’
But in the sight of the exultant beauty around me, I could not think of
death, and with all my might I shouted, ‘Great Pan is arisen! arisen!’
And at once, wonder of wonders, in answer to my call, from all the wide
half-circle of green mountains came peals of joyous laughter, rose the
murmur of glad voices and the clapping of hands. ‘He is arisen! Pan is
arisen!’ clamoured fresh young voices. Everything before me burst into
sudden laughter, brighter than the sun on high, merrier than the brooks
that babbled among the grass. I heard the hurried thud of light steps,
among the green undergrowth there were gleams of the marble white of
flowing tunics, the living flush of bare limbs…. It was the nymphs,
nymphs, dryads, Bacchantes, hastening from the heights down to the
All at once they appear at every opening in the woods. Their curls float
about their god-like heads, their slender hands hold aloft wreaths and
cymbals, and laughter, sparkling, Olympian laughter, comes leaping, dancing
Before them moves a goddess. She is taller and fairer than the rest; a
quiver on her shoulder, a bow in her hands, a silvery crescent moon on her
‘Diana, is it thou?’
But suddenly the goddess stopped… and at once all the nymphs following
her stopped. The ringing laughter died away.
I see the face of the hushed goddess overspread with a deadly pallor; I saw
her feet grew rooted to the ground, her lips parted in unutterable horror;
her eyes grew wide, fixed on the distance… What had she seen? What was
she gazing upon?
I turned where she was gazing…
And on the distant sky-line, above the low strip of fields, gleamed, like
a point of fire the golden cross on the white bell-tower of a Christian
church…. That cross the goddess had caught sight of.
I heard behind me a long, broken sigh, like the quiver of a broken string,
and when I turned again, no trace was left of the nymphs…. The broad
forest was green as before, and only here and there among the thick network
of branches, were fading gleams of something white; whether the nymphs’
white robes, or a mist rising from the valley, I know not.
But how I mourned for those vanished goddesses!
“The Water-Maid” by Madison Julius Cawein
There she rose as white as death,
Stars above and stars beneath;
Where the ripples brake in splendor
To a million, million starlets
Twinkling on lake-lilies tender,
Rocking to the ripple barlets.
She, brow-belted with white lilies,
Rose and oared a shining shoulder
To a downward-purpling boulder:
With slim fingers soft and milky,
Haled her from the spray-sprent lilies
To a ledge, and sitting silky
Sang unto the list’ning lilies,
Sang and sang beneath the heaven,
Belted, wreathed with lilies seven;
Falsely sang a wild, wild ditty
To a wool-white moon;
Till a child both frail and pretty
Found her singing on the boulder, –
Dark locks on a milky shoulder, –
‘Neath the wool-white moon.
And the creature singing there
Strangled him in her long hair.
“The Sirens’ Song” by William Browne
Steer, hither steer your winged pines,
All beaten mariners!
Here lie Love’s undiscover’d mines,
A prey to passengers—
Perfumes far sweeter than the best
Which make the Phoenix’ urn and nest.
Fear not your ships,
Nor any to oppose you save our lips;
But come on shore,
Where no joy dies till Love hath gotten more.
For swelling waves our panting breasts,
Where never storms arise,
Exchange, and be awhile our guests:
For stars gaze on our eyes.
The compass Love shall hourly sing,
And as he goes about the ring,
We will not miss
To tell each point he nameth with a kiss.
—Then come on shore,
Where no joy dies till Love hath gotten more.
“A Knight of the Ocean-Sea (excerpt)” by Alfred Noyes
There was one
Myself had idly scratched away one dawn,
One mad May-dawn, three hundred years ago,
When out of the woods we came with hawthorn boughs
And found the doors locked, as they seemed to-night.
Three hundred years ago-nay, Time was dead!
No need to scan the sign-board any more
Where that white-breasted siren of the sea
Curled her moon-silvered tail among such rocks
As never in the merriest seaman’s tale
Broke the blue-bliss of fabulous lagoons
Beyond the Spanish Main.
And, through the dream,
Even as I stood and listened, came a sound
Of clashing wine-cups : then a deep-voiced song
Made the old timbers of the Mermaid Inn
Shake as a galleon shakes in a gale of wind
When she rolls glorying through the Ocean-sea.
“Water-Nymphs” by Alexander Pushkin
A merry procession
From deep in the stream
The moon draws us upward
To bask in her beam.
River floor and water leaving.
Merrily at dead of night,
Glassy surface head-flrst cleaving
We arise to seek the light.
Hear our voices calling, teasing.
Vibrant through the upper air;
Shaken dry on free winds wreathing.
See our green and dripping hair.
“The Sea-Girls (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)” by T. S. Eliot
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
“A Japanese Love-Song” by Alfred Noyes
The young moon is white,
But the willows are blue:
Your small lips are red,
But the great clouds are gray:
The waves are so many
That whisper to you;
But my love is only
One flight of spray.
The bright drops are many,
The dark wave is one:
The dark wave subsides,
And the bright sea remains!
And wherever, O singing
Maid, you may run,
You are one with the world
For all your pains.
Tho’ the great skies are dark,
And your small feet are white,
Tho’ your wide eyes are blue
And the closed poppies red,
Tho’ the kisses are many
That colour the night,
They are linkèd like pearls
On one golden thread.
Were the gray clouds not made
For the red of your mouth;
The ages for flight
Of the butterfly years;
The sweet of the peach
For the pale lips of drouth,
The sunlight of smiles
For the shadow of tears?
Love, Love is the thread
That has pierced them with bliss!
All their hues are but notes
In one world-wide tune:
Lips, willows and waves,
We are one as we kiss,
And your face and the flowers
Faint away in the moon.
“Antipholus” by William Shakespeare
O, train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note,
To drown me in thy sister’s flood of tears.
Sing, siren, for thyself, and I will dote;
Spread o’er the silver waves thy golden hairs,
And as a bed I’ll take them and there lie,
And in that glorious supposition think
He gains by death that hath such means to die;
Let Love, being light, be drowned if she sink!
“Ariel Sings” by William Shakespeare
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Hark! now I hear them,–Ding-dong, bell.
“Sam” by Walter De La Mare
When Sam goes back in memory,
It is to where the sea
Breaks on the shingle, emerald-green,
In white foam, endlessly;
He says – with small brown eye on mine –
“I used to keep awake,
And lean from my window in the moon,
Watching those billows break.
And half a million tiny hands,
And eyes, like sparks of frost,
Would dance and come tumbling into the moon,
On every breaker tossed.
And all across from star to star,
I’ve seen the watery sea,
With not a single ship in sight,
Just ocean there, and me;
And heard my father snore. And once,
As sure as I’m alive,
Out of those wallowing, moon-flecked waves
I saw a mermaid dive;
Head and shoulders above the wave,
Plain as I now see you,
Combing her hair, now back, now front,
Her two eyes peeping through;
Calling me, ‘Sam!’ – quietlike – ‘Sam!’…
But me … I never went,
Making believe I kind of thought
‘Twas some one else she meant….
Wonderful lovely there she sat,
Singing the night away,
All in the solitudinous sea
Of that there lonely bay.”
“P’raps,” and he’d smooth his hairless mouth,
“P’raps, if ’twere now, my son,
P’raps, if I heard a voice say, ‘Sam!’…
Morning would find me gone.”
“Song: Sabrina Fair” by John Milton
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of Lillies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-droping hair,
Listen for dear honour’s sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save.
Listen and appear to us
In name of great Oceanus,
By the earth-shaking Neptune’s mace,
And Tethys grave majestick pace,
By hoary Nereus wrincled look,
And the Carpathian wisards hook,
By scaly Tritons winding shell,
And old sooth-saying Glaucus spell,
By Leucothea’s lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis tinsel-slipper’d feet,
And the Songs of Sirens sweet,
By dead Parthenope’s dear tomb,
And fair Ligea’s golden comb,
Wherwith she sits on diamond rocks
Sleeking her soft alluring locks,
By all the Nymphs that nightly dance
Upon thy streams with wily glance,
Rise, rise, and heave thy rosie head
From thy coral-pav’n bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have.
Listen and save.
Sabrina rises, attended by water-Nymphes,
By the rushy-fringed bank,
Where grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
My sliding Chariot stayes,
Thick set with Agat, and the azurn sheen
Of Turkis blew, and Emrauld green
That in the channell strayes,
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O’re the Cowslips Velvet head,
That bends not as I tread,
Gentle swain at thy request
I am here.
From “Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare
Well, go thy way: thou shalt not from this grove
Till I torment thee for this injury.
My gentle Puck, come hither. Thou rememberest
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
To hear the sea-maid’s music.
“The Midden’s Song” by Walter De la Mare
Swim to see
Oh, how beautiful
Finned and fine,
What’s your gold
Compared with mine?
“Why, then, has
Wise Tishnar made
One so lovely,
Yet so sad?
“Lone am I,
And can but make
A little song,
For singing’s sake.”
“The Sirens” by James Russell Lowell
The sea is lonely, the sea is dreary,
The sea is restless and uneasy;
Thou seekest quiet, thou art weary,
Wandering thou knowest not whither;—
Our little isle is green and breezy,
Come and rest thee! Oh come hither,
Come to this peaceful home of ours,
The low west-wind creeps panting up the shore
To be at rest among the flowers;
Full of rest, the green moss lifts,
As the dark waves of the sea
Draw in and out of rocky rifts,
Calling solemnly to thee
With voices deep and hollow,—
“To the shore
Follow! Oh, follow!
To be at rest forevermore!
Look how the gray old Ocean
From the depth of his heart rejoices,
Heaving with a gentle motion,
When he hears our restful voices;
List how he sings in an undertone,
Chiming with our melody;
And all sweet sounds of earth and air
Melt into one low voice alone,
That murmurs over the weary sea,
And seems to sing from everywhere,—
“Here mayst thou harbor peacefully,
Here mayst thou rest from the aching oar;
Turn thy curvëd prow ashore,
And in our green isle rest forevermore!
And Echo half wakes in the wooded hill,
And, to her heart so calm and deep,
Murmurs over in her sleep,
Doubtfully pausing and murmuring still,
Thus, on Life’s weary sea,
Heareth the marinere
Voices sweet, from far and near,
Ever singing low and clear,
Ever singing longingly.
It is not better here to be,
Than to be toiling late and soon?
In the dreary night to see
Nothing but the blood-red moon
Go up and down into the sea;
Or, in the loneliness of day,
To see the still seals only
Solemnly lift their faces gray,
Making it yet more lonely?
Is it not better than to hear
Only the sliding of the wave
Beneath the plank, and feel so near
A cold and lonely grave,
A restless grave, where thou shalt lie
Even in death unquietly?
Look down beneath thy wave-worn bark,
Lean over the side and see
The leaden eye of the sidelong shark
Ever waiting there for thee:
Look down and see those shapeless forms,
Which ever keep their dreamless sleep
Far down within the gloomy deep,
And only stir themselves in storms,
Rising like islands from beneath,
And snorting through the angry spray,
As the frail vessel perisheth
In the whirls of their unwieldy play;
Look down! Look down!
Upon the seaweed, slimy and dark,
That waves its arms so lank and brown,
Beckoning for thee!
Look down beneath thy wave-worn bark
Into the cold depth of the sea!
Look down! Look down!
Thus, on Life’s lonely sea,
Heareth the marinere
Voices sad, from far and near,
Ever singing full of fear,
Ever singing dreadfully.
Here all is pleasant as a dream;
The wind scarce shaketh down the dew,
The green grass floweth like a stream
Into the ocean’s blue;
Listen! Oh, listen!
Here is a gush of many streams,
A song of many birds,
And every wish and longing seems
Lulled to a numbered flow of words,—
Listen! Oh, listen!
Here ever hum the golden bees
Underneath full-blossomed trees,
At once with glowing fruit and flowers crowned;—
So smooth the sand, the yellow sand,
That thy keel will not grate as it touches the land;
All around with a slumberous sound,
The singing waves slide up the strand,
And there, where the smooth, wet pebbles be
The waters gurgle longingly,
As if they fain would seek the shore,
To be at rest from the ceaseless roar,
To be at rest forevermore,—
Thus, on Life’s gloomy sea,
Heareth the marinere
Voices sweet, from far and near,
Ever singing in his ear,
“Here is rest and peace for thee!”