Mermaid Poetry

To My Saxon Blonde by John Godfrey Saxe
The Little Mermaid by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Untitled from the novel A Mermaid in Nikoli by William Woods
Undine by Renee Vivien
The Mermaid by Lord Alfred Tennyson

To My Saxon Blonde
By John Godfrey Saxe

They say the dark-eyed maids of Spain
Are passionate and fond;
But eyes of blue are tender and true;
Give me my Saxon blonde!

An arch coquette is the bright brunette;
Blithe and merry and gay;
Her love may last till the Summer is past,
But my blonde's forever and aye!

If bards of old the truth have told,
The Sirens have raven hair;
But o'er the earth since art had birth,
They paint the Angels fair!

Ah, well! — maybe, the truth to see,
A lover is over fond;
And I can't deny - nor will I try –
My love is a golden blonde!

The Little Mermaid (After Hans Christian Andersen's story)
By Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Only the little mermaid knows the price
One pays for mortal love, what sacrifice
Exacted by the Sea-Witch, should one choose
A mermaid's careless liberty to lose.

Into the smoky cauldron she must throw
A mermaid's kingdom, gleaming far below
The restless waves in filtered light that falls
Through dim pellucid depths on palace walls.

All childhood haunts must go, all memories;
Her swaying garden of anemones
Circled by conch-shells, where the sea-fans dance
To unheard music, bending in a trance.

No longer - now she seeks a mortal home -
Sharing with sisters laughter light as foam.
Those moon-bright nights alone upon the shore,
Singing a mermaid's song, are hers no more.

The magic sweetness of a mermaid's song,
She must abandon, if she would belong
To mortal world, the gift - O fatal choice -
That might have won the Prince, her golden voice.

The mermaid's silver tail, with which to dart
From octopi; the mermaid's coral heart
That felt no pain, she now must do without,
Exchanged for mortal longing, mortal doubt.

Untitled from the novel A Mermaid in Nikoli
By William Woods

One night a thousand miles from any land,
The sea heaving and black, I quite alone,
Pulled up a live mermaid hand over hand
In the nets, terrified, weeping, took her down
In my arms, in these very arms to the cabin,
Dried her hair, shaking,
Touched her cold mouth and saw the light
She had not seen before spread in her eyes,
Took her small breast, I swear,
Under this very hand with which I write,
Kissed the shark's red bite at her waist till she,
Shuddering, muttered about a grizzled sailor's ghost
Drifting below in the wrack,
But he the ship he had lost loved, and not her.
"Take me, he has forgot," she said,
Weeping almost too much to breathe. So I,
Shaking as much as she, heart, body sick to see her cry,
Lifted her back into the sea that I had got her by.

Undine
By Renee Vivien

Your laughter is light, your caress deep,
Your cold kisses love the harm they do;
Your eyes-blue lotus waves
And the water lilies are less pure than your face..

You flee, a fluid parting,
Your hair falls in gentle tangles;
Your voice-a treacherous tide;
Your arms-supple reeds.

Long river reeds, their embrace
Enlaces, chokes, strangles savagely,
Deep in the waves, an agony
Extinguished in a night drift.

The Mermaid
By Lord Alfred Tennyson

I

Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Singing alone,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?

II

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
Springing alone
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.

III

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.

More Mermaid Poetry
Mermaids in Literature
Alfred Lord Tennyson: 'The Merman'
Alfred Lord Tennyson: 'The Mermaid'
The Water-Nymph by Alexander Pushkin