The Little Mermaid 

Stave 1

Down below the ocean,

Far from the beach,

Blue as cornflowers, clear as glass,

Deeper than an anchor line’s reach,

Where plants ripple as fish pass,

Mermaids play,

Telling tales of a human world.

How strange to think that up on earth

Flowers had a fragrance and birds sang.

They were impatient for the day,

Their fifteenth birthday;

To sit on rocks in the moonlight

And watch great ships sail.

The youngest mermaid had the longest wait,

Gazing through dark water at the pale glow of the moon,

Listening to her sisters’ tales of lying on sandbars

In a calm sea, watching the shore until it was late,

When lights sparkled like hundreds of stars

And bells in church towers rang.

Oh how she listened when her sisters sang

Of clouds of scarlet and plum,

A white veil of wild swans

Flying across a rosy sun.

They had seen green hills, forests and castles,

The sea in winter with icebergs like pearls

And children with no fish tails.

Little Mermaid Stave 1

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Stave 2

On the day the mermaid turned fifteen,

As the sun




The deep,

She rose like a bubble and burst through to see

Coral clouds glitter, the evening star gleam.

Buoyed on the ocean, with one raised sail,

Was a three-masted ship.

She was entranced in the wavering light,

As hundreds of lanterns lit up the night.

Lured by music from the barque

To a porthole whose brightness pierced the dark,

She saw in the cabin a dark-eyed prince

And fell in love.

There arose all at once a terrible gale,

Hideous waves like ghostly whales

Caused planks to burst and masts to snap;

In a crackle of lightning, the vessel cracked.

The mermaid plunged down after her love,

Raised his body to the waves above

That carried

Them to shore.


Image found on

Stave 3

The storm passed;

There was no ship in sight.

Red and glowing, the sun rose,

Marking the end of night,

Bringing life to the prince’s face.

She kissed his forehead and his eyes,

Stroked his wet hair and his cheek

Underneath the lightening sky.

Towing him gently to a little bay,

Where fine white sand had washed ashore,

Soft and warm in the youthful light of day,

The little mermaid left the prince.

Before her was dry land:

Tall blue mountains,

Green forests,

A church where bells rang

And young girls roamed

In a fertile garden.

Disguised in sea foam,

Concealed behind a crop of rocks

The little mermaid could only watch

As a maiden found the prince.

When he was revived

He smiled

At everyone but the mermaid

Who had saved his life.

Sad and silent

She returned

To her sisters and the sea.

Little Mermaid Another Stave 3

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Stave 4

Early every morning

And in twilight shadows,

The little mermaid

Rose up to the shallows

Where she left the prince.

The seasons turned:

Snow melted on the mountains,

Sunshine bounced merrily

Amongst the crystal fountains.

The little mermaid’s sisters

Recognised her heartbreak

And took her to a castle,

Built of pale and yellow stone,

With staircases of marble

And magnificent golden domes.

The mermaid waited every night

Beneath the prince’s balcony,

Alone in the moonlight,

Her heart full of longing

To be a human.

The Little Mermaid Stave 4

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Stave 5

Hearing that mortals

Had eternal souls

The mermaid yearned

To be loved by the prince;

For that she would give up her fishtail.

She set off for the maelstrom,

The sea witch’s home,

Barren of sea flowers and grass,

Where currents swirled and roared,

Through which she had to pass.

She swam through a fearsome forest,

Of monsters

Coiled around bleached bones

Of humans who had perished,

Where she found the crone,

Who granted whatever she wished.

The sea witch made a potion

That she must drink on shore,

When she would remain a human

For ever more.

If the prince did not recognise her,

On the morning after he married another

Her heart would burst;

She would become foam on water.

The only payment

Was the mermaid’s enchanting voice:

For which

The sea witch

Cut out her tongue.

Little Mermaid Stave 5

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Stave 6

For the last time the mermaid returned to her home.

She thought her heart would break as she rose through the foam

And swam to shore.

The silver moon was high when she drank the bitter potion;

The sharpest pain passed through her and she fainted away.

When the sun had risen over the ocean

She awoke to the prince’s stare.

Her fishtail was gone and she was naked –

The mermaid covered herself with her hair.

When the prince asked for her name,

Her sad eyes were tender but no words came.

Each exquisite step felt like razor-sharp knives

But hand in hand with the prince

She drifted like sea foam.

At the castle she was clothed in silk and linen

She was the fairest of the women,

Even the slave girls who sang for the prince.

Oh how she wanted to sing!

When the slaves danced,

She raised her pale arms,

Rose up on her toes and took to the floor,

Dancing as no one had danced before

On knives.

She slept outside the prince’s door

On a cushion of velvet

Like a pet.

He took her riding in fragrant forests;

They climbed steep mountains among the clouds.

But in deepest night when everyone slept

The mermaid cooled her burning feet

In the cold sea water

Soothed by the songs

Of Neptune’s daughters.

Little Mermaid Stave6

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Stave 7

The prince’s love for the mermaid grew

But he could never make her his bride.

She reminded him of the maiden

On the shore who saved his life;

It was her he wanted to be his wife.

It wasn’t long before the prince was betrothed

To a princess across the sea.

The mermaid accompanied him on the trip;

They sailed away on a magnificent ship

While the prince and his sailors danced and sang.

But a mermaid who has no tears

Suffers so much more;

In the moonlit night she sat and stared,

Listening to the ocean roar,

Thinking about her home.

Her sisters ascended from the deep,

They wrung their hands, began to weep,

And then disappeared below.

The ship arrived in a harbour

Where all the church bells rang,

Trumpets blew from tall towers

And choirs sang

To announce the prince’s wife,

Who he recognised at once

As the maiden who saved his life.

Stave 7

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Stave 8

When evening came they boarded the ship;

The princess’s dowry was stored in the hold

And the couple slept on the quarterdeck

In a tent of purple and gold.

Away from the glow of the lanterns’ light,

The mermaid knew this was the last night

She would breathe the same air

And see the same stars

As the prince.

Resting on the handrail,

She looked out to the east,

Awaiting the first ray of sunlight

And dreading its might.

She saw her sisters emerge from the spray,

Their hair shorn from their heads

By the witch in return for a silvery knife

For the mermaid to take the prince’s life

Before the sun came up;

His blood must wash her human feet

To restore the mermaid’s tail.

She pulled aside the purple drapes

And kissed the prince goodbye.

As a bloody light crept into the sky

She threw the knife into the waves

That shone red where it fell.

The mermaid dived from the ship

And melted like foam in the swell.

Stave 8

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