Important to know: In maritime folklore, the sighting of a mermaid spelled certain doom for sailors and their ships.
Fun fact: JRR Tolkein wrote a song in Old English to the tune of The Mermaid.
Feel free to omit a verse or two for very, very young children, if that seems best. But... learn one verse at a time and I suspect they will surprise you!
My search for lyrics turned up innumerable variations, and no two were alike. The lyrics here most closely follow this recording by Smithsonian Folkways.
On Friday morning we set sail
Not being far from the land
It was there we espied a fair mermaid
With a comb and a glass in her hand
And the ocean's waves do roll
And the stormy winds do blow
And we poor sailors are skipping at the top
While the landlubbers lie down below below below
While the landlubbers lie down below
The boatswain at the helm stood
And was steering his course right well
With tears a-standing in his eyes,
Saying oh how the seas do swell
And then spoke the mate of our gallant ship
And a well-spoken man was he
Saying, “I have a wife in fair Plymouth town
And this night a widow she will be.”
Then spoke the captain of our gallant ship
And a valiant man was he
Saying, “For the want of a longboat
We shall sink to the bottom of the sea.”
And up spoke the cookie of our gallant ship
And a gruff old soul was he
Saying, “I care much more for me pots and me pans
Than I do fer the bottom of the sea!”
Then up spoke the boy of our gallant ship
And a well-spoken lad was he.
Saying, “I have a mother in fair Bristol town
And this night she will weep for me.”
The moon gave light and the stars shone bright
And my mother is looking for me
She may look, she may weep with a watery eye
She may look to the bottom of the sea.
Then once around spun our gallant ship
And twice around spun she
And the third time around spun our gallant ship
And she sank to the bottom of the sea
Do check out the Brobdingnagian Bards' lively version with comic touches and slightly different lyrics.
Lynn's Youtube Playlist for AO Folk Songs 2022-2023
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