REH Word of the Week: maid of the mer



1. a fabled marine creature with the head and upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish

[origin: 14th century; Middle English mermayde, from mere sea (from Old English) + mayde maid]


“The sun was close to the western sea when the fairest maid of the mer
Swam by me, beckoning with her hand, and I set my course by her.
I scarcely needed to touch an oar, in a merry laughing throng
The sea-girls swarmed on every hand and hurried my boat along.

“The sun was touching the western sea, gold on a sea of blue,
When riding the green waves motionless, a galley loomed to view.
Barnacles crusted her ancient strakes, her tall mast held no sail;
I found a rusty anchor chain and clambered across the rail.

“So ancient was she I gaped and gazed in wonder, craning my neck;
Skeletons sat at the rotting oars and lay on the sun-warped deck.
A steel-bound chest on the main bridge stood and a skeleton lay thereon.
From the size of the bones he must have been a giant of thews and brawn.

[from “Buccaneer Treasure”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 204 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 404]