Music Midi CD - Time & Tide
The Mermaid

Words: traditional
Music: traditional

Last night as I lay on my bed
Being not far from sleep
The thought of my true love come running through my mind
And poor sailors a-sailing on the deep.

As we set sail all on that day
Being not far from land
We espied a mermaid a-sitting on the rock
With a comb and a glass in her hand.

And the song she sang she sang so sweet
No answer could us make
Till at length our gallant ship she turned three times around
Which made our poor hearts for to ache.

Then up stepped the captain of our gallant ship
A well spoken man was he
"I have a wife in fair Bristol Town
Tomorrow a widow she will be".

Then up and there stepped our bosun bold
In his hand a lead and line.
All for to plough the seas that are so wide and deep
No hard rock nor sand could he find.

Then up and there stepped our little cabin boy
A pretty little boy was he
"I have a mother in fair Plymouth Town
Tomorrow a-crying she will be".

Launch a boat, launch a boat, you brave Plymouth boys.
Don't you hear how the trumpets sound?
For the want of a longboat on the ocean we were lost
And most of our merry men drowned.


"The Mermaid" - While at primary school in Suffolk, I like many others before and since had to endure the music lesson. This entailed standing and singing songs from the Oxford Book of songs, accompanied by a usually out of tune piano played by a less than capable teacher. Such gems as "The Nightingale", "Maid of Amsterdam" (much abridged, I hasten to add) and the rollicking "Mermaid"!!
Many years ago, condemned to primary school, I remember being exhorted to sing a version of this song - but being commanded to sing it "sweetly" and keep in time. Hammer, hammer, hammer went the piano, fifty or so voices roared out "and the stormy seas did roar, and the angry winds did blow" etc. Because of my intransigence - I was trying to workout why we should sing happily and "sweetly" about our ship sinking!! Besides my voice had broken at ten years of age - 3' 11'' with a bass voice!! Impossible - I was sent to do gardening instead of music. If anything I was more a disaster even gardening than singing - still am.
Years later I came across this version which I find infinitely superior to that school version. If you're really interested you can find it in an excellent book: "The Penguin Book of English Folk Song".

I. W.


Music Midi CD - Time & Tide