The Mermaid (MacEdward Leach)
(Jack Belay's Song)

These that live in cities
are like sheep penned in a fold,
But little do they know what
we poor mariners do behold;
A year ago I took a trip
across the Northern Sea,
On board the Pretty Peggy
from Archangel to Dundee.

But one delightful summer's night
as I stood at the wheel,
I heard a woman's voice that seemed
to sing below the keel;
First it sung below the keel
six fathoms in the tide,
And then it sounded on the port
and then the starboard side.

The wind being light, southeast-by-south,
the sea was calm below,
The northern sky so bright as day
and in a rosy glow;
And as I stood abaft of the wheel
like someone at a door,
Up sprang a mermaid dripping wet,
jumped from the sea on board.

Her hair being of the golden
as it hid her lovely neck,
And hung down in a cloak behind
until it swept the deck;
With a voice so sweet and musical
she then addressed me,
Saying, "Come my jolly mariner
and live beneath the sea.

"I will take you to my parent's cave
where you may live at ease,
And feed you on the best of fish
that swims about the sea."
"Oh, no, my handsome fair one,
too happy I would be,
If I could go along with you
and live beneath the sea.

"For you know, my dear, I must have air,
I cannot breathe the brine,
Unless you come along with me,
you never can be mine;
I'll take you in a caravan
and ride this country road,
And not one soul will see my pet
until they'll pay a pound.

"With one pound notes and sovereigns, too,
we soon shall have enough,
And every day we'll eat soft tack
and live on steak and duff."
And then I made a reach at her
and bade her to embrace,
But she rose up her tiny hand
and slapped me in the face.

A harder clout I never got,
it made my senses reel,
"Take that!" an angry voice exclaimed,
"for sleeping at the wheel."
I looked around with watery eyes,
no mermaid could I see,
But just abaft of the binnacle
the old captain glowered at me.

####.... Author unknown. (Not related to Child ballad #289) ....####
This ballad is a variant of Jack Belay's Song published in 1881 in J Sands' story of adventure for boys in the pampas of Buenos Ayres and the wilds of Patagonia, Frank Powderhorn, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, London, Edinburgh, and New York.

Sung by Jacob Noseworthy [1900-1985] of Pouch Cove, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Note: Binnacle - pedestal with compass for use by a ship's helmsman.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]