“The Mermaid”


A group of sailors see a mermaid (meaning that they can expect a shipwreck). Various crew members lament the families they are leaving behind. The ship sinks.

Supplemental text

Mermaid, The [Child 289]
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From the recording by Ernest Stoneman and his Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers
(Victor 21648). Transcribed by Lyle Lofgren.

"It's nine times around," said the captain of the ship,
"And it's nine times around," said he.
"Nine times around, are we sinking in the deep,
While the landlord lies dreaming down below."

    Oh, the raging sea, how it roars,
    And the cold chilly winds, how they blow,
    And tonight us poor sailors are sinking in the deep,
    While the landlord lies dreaming down below.

First on the deck was the captain of the ship,
And a fine looking fellow was he,
Saying, "I have a wife in Old Mexico,
And tonight she is looking for me."

Next on the deck was the lady of the ship,
And a fine looking lady was she,
Saying, "I have a husband in New Mexico,
And tonight he is looking for me."

Last on the deck was the sassy little cook,
And a sassy little cook was he.
He cared no more for his wife and his child
Than he did for the fish in the sea.


Legend has it that a ship that sees a mermaid will be destroyed. (Some versions say that all aboard are to be drowned as well, but they could hardly drown at the time; else how would anyone know what destroyed the ship?) Ord also notes that it was considered unlucky for ships to sail on a Friday -- and most versions do seem to involve sailing on that day.

One of the verses of this, "three times around went our gallant ship," seems to have circulated independently as a nursery rhyme; see, e.g., Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #862, p. 322. - RBW

Creighton-Maritime moves the locale to New York City: "board bill on Fifth Avenue," "sweetheart in Madison's Square," and the wreck [took place] as "we neared Jersey flats, Sandy Hook was on our lea." - BS


  • Bodleian, 2806 c.17(273), "The Mermaid" ("One Friday morning we set sail"), W. Armstrong (Liverpool), 1820-1824; also Harding B 11(3641), Harding B 11(3642), 2806 c.17(272), Harding B 11(2228), Harding B 11(2519), Firth c.12(413), 2806 c.17(271), 2806 c.17(275), Harding B 11(2404), Harding B 11(2603), Harding B 11(2403), "The Mermaid"; 2806 c.13(248), Firth c.12(414), Harding B 11(3146), "The Mermaid" or "The Gallant Ship"
  • LOCSinging, sb20297a, "The Mermaid," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878


  • Emma Dusenberry, "The Mermaid" (AFS, 1936; on LC58) {Bronson's #40}
  • William Howell, "The Mermaid" (on FSBBAL2)
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "The Mermaid Song" (on BLLunsford01) {cf. Bronson's #32}
  • New Lost City Ramblers, "Raging Sea" (on NLCR02)
  • Ernest Stoneman & His Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers, "The Raging Sea, How It Roars" (Victor Vi 21648, 1928) {Bronson's #20}


  1. Child 289, "The Mermaid" (6 texts)
  2. Bronson 289, "The Mermaid" (42 versions)
  3. SharpAp 42, "The Mermaid" (3 texts plus 1fragment, 4 tunes) {Bronson's #17, #41, #24, #14}
  4. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 363-368, "The Mermaid" (3 texts plus a fragment and a version from the Forget-me-not Songster, 1 tune) {Bronson's #25}
  5. Flanders-Ancient4, pp. 271-280, "The Mermaid" (4 texts plus a fragment, 3 tunes) {E=Bronson's #39}
  6. Belden, pp. 101-102, "The Mermaid" (1 text)
  7. Randolph 39, "The Wrecked Ship" (3 texts, 2 tunes) {Bronson's #42, #40}
  8. Davis-Ballads 48, "The Mermaid" (8 texts plus 4 fragments, the last of which may not be this song; 2 tunes entitled "The Stormy Winds," "The Mermaid"; 1 more version mentioned in Appendix A) {Bronson's #22, #12}
  9. Davis-More 44, pp. 344-349, "The Mermaid" (3 texts, 1 tune)
  10. BrownII 48, "The Mermaid" (2 texts)
  11. Chappell-FSRA 23, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
  12. Hudson 26, p. 127, "The Mermaid" (1 short text)
  13. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 189-190, "TheMermaid" (1 text)
  14. Creighton-Maritime, p. 26, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune)
  15. Creighton/Senior, pp. 106-107, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #31}
  16. Blondahl, p. 90, "Black Friday" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Smith/Hatt, p. 38, "Then Turn Out You Jolly Tars" (1 fragment)
  18. Mackenzie 16, "The Royal George" (1 text)
  19. Thomas-Makin', pp. 34-35, (no title) (1 fragment)
  20. Leach, pp. 673-674, "The Mermaid" (1 text)
  21. Friedman, p. 404, "The Mermaid" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  22. FSCatskills 71, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune)
  23. Niles 62, "The Mermaid" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  24. Vaughan Williams/Lloyd, pp. 70-71, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #36}
  25. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, pp. 98-99, "Waves on the Sea" (1 text, 1 tune)
  26. Botkin-NEFolklr, pp. 562-563, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune)
  27. Harlow, pp. 147-149, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune)
  28. Hugill, pp. 560, "The Mermaid" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  29. Shay-SeaSongs, p. 124, (no title) (1 fragment, almost certainly of this song)
  30. Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 71-73, "The Mermaid" (1 text, 1 tune)
  31. LPound-ABS, 11, pp. 26-27, "Three Sailor Boys" (1 text)
  32. JHCox 33, "The Mermaid" (1 text)
  33. Ord, pp. 333-334, "The Mermaid" (1 text plus a fragment)
  34. Silber-FSWB, p. 93, "The Mermaid" (1 text)
  35. BBI, ZN2143, "On a Friday morning we set sail"
  37. ADDITIONAL: Walter de la Mare, _Come Hither_, revised edition, 1928; #413, "One Friday Morn" (1 text)
  38. ST C289 (Full)
  39. Roud #124
  40. BI, C289


Alternate titles: “The Sinking Ship”; “Oh, the Lamp Burns Dimly Down Below”; “The Stormy Winds Do Blo”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1765?
Found in: Britain(England(All),Scotland(Aber)) US(Ap,MA,NE,NW,Ro,SE,So,SW) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland