Mermaid Poems

Here is a collection of mermaid poems, and some of the mermaid statues that may have inspired them – or been inspired by them.

The Cayucos Mermaid sculpture

The Mermaid

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.

– William Butler Yeats

Oberon

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?

– William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Mermaid & Dolphin at Acapulco's Sinfonia del Mar

Mermaid at Club Hotel Letoonia

Loreley

I do not know what haunts me,
What saddened my mind all day;
An age-old tale confounds me,
A spell I cannot allay.

The air is cool and in twilight
The Rhine’s dark waters flow;
The peak of the mountain in highlight
Reflects the evening glow.

There sits a lovely maiden
Above so wondrous fair,
With shining jewels laden,
She combs her golden hair.

It falls through her comb in a shower,
And over the valley rings
A song of mysterious power
That lovely maiden sings.

The boatman in his small skiff
Is seized by a turbulent love,
No longer he marks where the cliff is,
He looks to the mountain above.

I think the waves must fling him
Against the reefs nearby,
And that did with her singing
The lovely Loreley.

– Author Unknown

Antipholus

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!

– William Shakespeare – Comedy of Errors

Mermaid in Marmaris

Amphitrite underwater mermaid sculpture

Mermaid

Leagues, leagues over the sea I sail
Couched on a wallowing dolphin’s tail.

The sky is on fire, the waves a-sheen,
I dabble my foot in the billows green.

In a sea-weed hat on the rocks I sit,
where tern and sea-mew glide and beat,
and where dark shadows the cormorants meet.

In caverns cool when the tide’s a wash,
I sound my conch to the watery splash.

From out their grottos at evenings beam,
the mermaids swim with locks agleam.

– Walter De La Mare

The Merman

Who would be A merman bold,
Sitting alone, Singing alone
Under the sea, With a crown of gold,
On a throne?

I would be a merman bold,
I would sit and sing the whole of the day;

I would fill the sea-halls with a voice of power;
But at night I would roam abroad and play
With the mermaids in and out of the rocks,
Dressing their hair with the white sea-flower;
And holding them back by their flowing locks
I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kiss’d me
Laughingly, laughingly;
And then we would wander away, away,
o the pale-green sea-groves straight and high,
Chasing each other merrily.

There would be neither moon nor star;
But the wave would make music above us afar-
Low thunder and light in the magic night-
Neither moon nor star.
We would call aloud in the dreamy dells,
Call to each other and whoop and cry
All night, merrily, merrily.

They would pelt me with starry spangles and shells,
Laughing and clapping their hands between,
All night, merrily, merrily,
But I would throw to them back in mine
Turkis and agate and almondine;
Then leaping out upon them unseen

I would kiss them often under the sea,
And kiss them again till they kiss’d me
Laughingly, laughingly.
0, what a happy life were mine
Under the hollow-hung ocean green!
Soft are the moss-beds under the sea;
We would live merrily, merrily.

– Lord Alfred Tennyson

Mermaid of Soter Point

The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen

Ariel

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
Burthen Ding-dong
Hark! now I hear them,–Ding-dong, bell.

-William Shakespeare – The Tempest

Ulysses and the Siren

Siren:
Come worthy Greek, Ulysses, come,
Possess these shores with me;
The winds and seas are troublesome,
And here we may be free.
Here may we sit and view their toil
That travail in the deep,
And joy the day in mirth the while,
And spend the night in sleep.

Ulysses:
Fair nymph, if fame or honour were
To be attain’d with ease,
Then would I come and rest me there,
And leave such toils as these.
But here it dwells, and here must I
With danger seek it forth;
To spend the time luxuriously
Becomes not men of worth.

Siren:
Ulysses, O be not deceiv’d
With that unreal name;
This honour is a thing conceiv’d
And rests on others’ fame.
Begotten only to molest
Our peace, and to beguile
The best thing of our life, our rest,
And give us up to toil.

Ulysses:
Delicious nymph, suppose there were
Nor honour nor report,
Yet manliness would scorn to wear
The time in idle sport.
For toil doth give a better touch,
To make us feel our joy;
And ease finds tediousness as much
As labour yields annoy.

Siren:
Then pleasure likewise seems the shore
Whereto tends all your toil,
Which you forgo to make it more,
And perish oft the while.
Who may disport them diversly,
Find never tedious day,
And ease may have variety
As well as action may.

Ulysses:
But natures of the noblest frame
These toils and dangers please,
And they take comfort in the same
As much as you in ease,
And with the thoughts of actions past
Are recreated still;
When pleasure leaves a touch at last
To show that it was ill.

Siren:
That doth opinion only cause
That’s out of custom bred,
Which makes us many other laws
Than ever nature did.
No widows wail for our delights,
Our sports are without blood;
The world we see by warlike wights
Receives more hurt than good.

Triton and Nereida sculpture

Ulysses:
But yet the state of things require
These motions of unrest,
And these great spirits of high desire
Seem born to turn them best,
To purge the mischiefs that increase
And all good order mar;
For oft we see a wicked peace
To be well chang’d for war.

Siren:
Well, well, Ulysses, then I see
I shall not have thee here,
And therefore I will come to thee
And take my fortunes there.
I must be won that cannot win,
Yet lost were I not won;
For beauty hath created been
T’ undo, or be undone.

– Samuel Daniel

The Mermaid

‘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?

Mermaid of the North

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.

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.

– Lord Alfred Tennyson

Sabrina Fair

Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph that liv’st unseen
Within thy airy shell
By slow Meander’s margent green,
And in the violet-imbroider’d vale
Where the love-lorn nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well:
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair
That likest thy Narcissus are?

O if thou have
Hid them in some flow’ry cave,
Tell me but where
Sweet Queen of Parley, Daughter of the Sphere,
So mayst thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all heav’ns harmonies.

Sabrina fair
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping 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 majestic pace;
By hoary Nereus’ wrinkled look,
And the Carpathian wizard’s hook;
By scaly Triton’s winding shell,
And old soothsaying 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,
Wherewith 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 rosy head
From thy coral-pav’n bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answer’d have.
Listen and save.

Triton and Nereida sculpture

Sabrina rises, attended by water-nymphs, and sings
By the rushy-fringed bank,
Where grows the willow and the osier dank,

My sliding chariot stays,
Thick set with agate, and the azurn sheen
Of turkis blue, and em’rald green
That in the channel strays,
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O’er the cowslip’s velvet head,
That bends not as I tread;
Gentle swain at thy request
I am here.

– John Milton

Mermaid Statue in Lancashire.

The Sea Maid

To where I watch on the yellow sands,
and they pluck sweet music with sea-cold hands.
They bring me coral and amber clear.
But when the stars in heaven appear,
their music ceases, they glide away.
They swim for their grottos across the bay.
Then listen only to my shrill tune,
the surfy tide, and the wondering moon.

– William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Sam

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 eyes 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.”

– Walter De La Mare

The New Mermaid
The Mermaid
Little John Bottlejohn

Little John Bottlejohn lived on the hill,
and a blithe little man was he.
And he won the heart of a pretty mermaid
Who lived in the deep blue sea.
And every evening she used to sit
And sing by the rocks of the sea,
“Oh! little John Bottlejohn, pretty John Bottlejohn,
Won’t you come out to me?”

Little John Bottlejohn heard her song,
And he opened his little door,
And he hopped and he skipped,
and he skipped and he hopped,
Until he came down to the shore.
And there on the rocks sat the little mermaid,
And still she was singing so free,
“Oh! little John Bottlejohn, pretty John Bottlejohn,
Won’t you come out to me?”

Little John Bottlejohn made a bow,
And the mermaid, she made one too;
And she said, “Oh! I never saw anyone half
So perfectly sweet as you!
In my lovely home ‘neath the ocean foam,
How happy we both might be!
Oh! little John Bottlejohn, pretty John Bottlejohn,
Won’t you come down with me?”
Little John Bottlejohn said, “Oh yes!

I’ll willingly go with you,
And I never shall quail at the sight of your tail,
For perhaps I may grow one, too.”
So he took her hand, and he left the land,
And plunged in the foaming main.
And little John Bottlejohn, pretty John Bottlejohn,
Never was seen again.

– Laura E. Richards

Sea-girls

Shall I part my hair? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk along the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think they sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaweed 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 chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with sea-weed of red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

– T.S.Eliot

Reina de los Mares
Nerissa, Mermaid of Salt Spring Island

“El Poeta y la Sirena”

Surge de entre las ondas azuladas
Una deidad risueña y misteriosa,
De frescos labios de color de rosa
Y un seno de marfil, encantador.
Su lúcido cabello de azabache
Rueda sobre sus hombros de alabastro,
Tienen sus ojos el fulgor de un astro
Y el fuego centelleante del amor.

– Julián del Casal

“The Poet and the Mermaid”

Emerging from the blue waves
A cheerful and mysterious deity,
With fresh pink lips
And an enchanting ivory breast.
Her splendid raven hair
Locks on her alabaster shoulders
Her eyes have the glow of a star
And the flashing fire of love.

– Julián del Casal