On an island small and stony
Dwelt three mermaids, fair and lovely
Hiding from men and matrimony –
Leaving their broken hearts under the sea.
Their lives were spent in giving grief
To men, their lifelong enemies
Hearts broken made these three believe
That all men were the same, on land or at sea.
So they broke fine sailors’ hearts
And led them to a watery death.
The mermaids were ruthless, cunning, and smart
And no man evoked a change of heart.
Until one blue sea morning, warm with winds west,
Came sailing the good ship Buona Fortuna
Skimming over the white wave crests,
Captained by Giorgio D’AVesso, no less.
D’Avesso was a pirate, wealthy and cruel
A regular tyrant with a heart small and cool.
No one could touch his innermost being,
Until on the island he saw mermaids singing.
Three beauties with fishtails and hair smooth as silk –
On the right with black locks and skin white as milk
The one in the center with curls of light gold
But the one on the left made his heartbeat stop cold.
Her hair was a shimmering fountain of bronze
Her neck was a swan’s, her eyes like the dawn
Her cheek was a rose petal resting upon
A face quite so perfect, Giorgio felt woebegone.
He shouted, “An island, out on the port!
Steer to the north, man, steer to the north!”
He leaned o’er the rail –
“To the north, to the north!”
“But the wind’s in the west and ’tis fine as can be!
To the east, for we’re heading for home, Italy!”
“To the north!” Giorgio bellowed.
“To the north, that’s our road!”
He stood at the bow, taking deep breaths of air,
For as they drew closer, the maid seemed more fair.
She saw him coming, staring; she yet combed her hair
Seeming too proud to notice his stare.
“Sir, to the east, for nothing we see
Of value on that isle – let’s keep to the sea!
Let’s keep to the sea till we reach Italy –
There’s naught on that island for you or for me!”
“Fools!” Giorgio roared.
“Fools, don’t you see
The most beautiful lady
There ever could be!
Fools – keep to the east
But as for me,
I won’t be returning to fine Italy!”
He tore off his coat
He dove in the sea
Still his men didn’t see
“Farewell, good fools,” they heard Giorgio cry.
“You’ll be wishing you stayed with me here, by and by!”
“Captain!” they cried.
“Captain, you’ll die!
Nothing is there on that dead stony isle!”
“Leave, fools!” Giorgio yelled.
“And recall – you near held
Beauty itself, beauty beheld –
But beauty you spurned
And now living is hell!”
The men turned the ship
They steered to the east
Leaving their captain to dream his mad dreams.
His mind was quite gone
His eyes full of scenes
Of women and beauty that no one could see.
D’Avesso swam swift to the island of stone
The mermaid he loved still plied her shell comb
But her thick lashes flew as she saw his approach
She noticed his coming, but did not him reproach.
But what feelings burned in that womanly breast!
She had been wronged and never had guessed
That man once again would win her hard soul
But he came, and he had her, body and soul.
And as he drew near to her isle so small,
A blue wave rose up, huge, like a wall
And he would sure drown if the great wave would fall.
For a moment she moved not, she was in such shock,
Then she clutched at her heart and slipped from the rock.
“Leave him!” her friends cried, guessing her aim.
“Leave him, Cor, for he’s not worth your name!”
“No!” called Cor as she dove. “For I love him, I do!
And I won’t sit and wait because you tell me to –
I know I can save him from a burial so blue!”
D’Avesso was flagging; his spirits would fail
Unless his good mermaid whose fear made her pale
Could come rescue him from his present travail.
“Sweet Cor!” he gasped. “Flower of my life!
Save me, dear mermaid, for I am in strife!”
He gasped – was swallowed by monstrous waves
Cor, her cheeks white, dove down, him to save.
“Be brave!” she thought. “Pirate, be brave!”
Cor dragged Giorgio up from the sea’s selfish soul
She swam to the island, his safety her goal.
She laid his head on a rock, his feet on a shoal.
Her hair fell over his stern sailor face
As shiny as starlight, delicate as lace.
She touched his cheeks softly, like an embrace.
Her friends both had vanished, and left not a trace.
In barely a moment her sailor awoke –
He opened his mouth, beginning to choke.
She sat him up quickly, and, whispering low,
Told him don’t fear, he just was quite chilled.
He turned to see her and in a short space
He brushed back her hair, touched her pale face.
“Cor,” he said. “Cor, I love you.”
* * * * *
A storm was coming, the sky growing dark,
In the dark cave below, the mermaids did hark.
The one with the black locks was worried, of course.
She said, “My dear friend, I feel much remorse.
I should have stopped her. I shouldn’t have stayed.
Now this night they’ll die, the man and the maid.
For he’s nowhere to go, and she won’t him betray.”
“What shall we do, Shark?” the blond mermaid asked.
“To sever them seems an impossible task.”
“Only to minds that are small, my dear Shell.
You and I can cure her right well.
She’s very loyal; I’m sure you can tell.
All we must do is cast o’er her a spell.”
“A spell? How, dear Shark?
Tell me! I hark!”
“She’s under delusions of love now, dear Shell.
We must give her delusions of friendship as well
And soon we will her quick-lived love quell.”
Shell’s forehead wrinkled – she tried hard to see –
“But dearest Shark, why can’t he
Stay on this island, this matter to me
Seems rather strange; why can’t he – ”
“Shell!” her friend cried. “Listen now –
We made a promise, we three took a vow
To avenge ourselves on all of men
To do our part to get revenge.
And Cor cannot just break her vow
Because she’s fallen in love again now!”
* * * * *
At midnight the man and his pretty mermaid
Were watching the sky from the rock where they lay
Half on the dry rock, half on the sea
But wholly aware, him of her, her of he.
The clouds so covered the starry night sky
That just now and then, a star they espied.
So instead, they turned to each other’s eyes.
By and by the pirate, so tired
Closed his eyes and slept a while.
The mermaid watched with loving care
As if he might suddenly die right there.
And as he slept, the clouds closed in.
The thunder began with awful din.
The lightning struck, the sea rose up
The mermaid had to save her love.
As she dragged him up the rock,
The mermaid’s friends rose from the sea.
Behind them streamed their long wet locks
But their faces were dark, not to be seen.
The thunder crashed, the lightning broke
The mermaid with the black locks spoke:
“Cor, we all three made a vow.
You are obliged to keep it now.
This man of yours whom you so love
Is one of them we vowed to crush.
Leave him here – abandon him –
And come and be our friend again.”
They sank into the dark storm seqa
Leaving Cor alone with he
Who had so captivated her
And evermore her love would be.
But two friends were more than one
And she had made a vow with them.
And Giorgio one sad day would die
While she lived on, sans him, sans love.
As thunder roared, the pirate woke.
He blinked at Cor, smiled, and spoke:
“My Cor, I see the storm has come.
By all means we should find a home –
But I can’t move; my limbs are numb.”
Tears glistened; the mermaid could hardly breathe.
She leaned down, whispered, “I love thee,”
Then pushed him out into the sea.
Then followed him on waves of black
Finding his hand as the sea roared back
With the cruel bright lightning piercing the dark
As the sea dragged man and maid to its heart.