Saturday, 28 July 2012

Day 36: Mermaid

A fable is a story with animals or mythical creatures, which contains a moral. Aesop's Fables are a familiar name to many I'm sure. 

But here we have a fable within a poem from Pablo Neruda. There are many layers of meaning and interpretation here, from a debate on  gender relations, to the conflict between the natural and civilized worlds. Mermaids, of course, are a mythical symbol used to represent many different ideas, most usually associated with gender relations and feminism.

Me, I think it's a critique of men's boorish behaviour in the presence of women they perceive as 'other'! Or a woman finally getting what she wants (to be a desirous object of affection to the opposite sex) only to discover the emptiness of it. (Yep, I'm a feminist!) What do you think?

Oh, and I just love the description of the mermaid: Her eyes were the colour of distant love, her twin arms were made of white topaz. Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light.' Beautiful language as always from Neruda.

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks - Pablo Neruda 

All those men were there inside,
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death. 


  1. Beautiful. I've read this before, and I love it - I find it haunting, cruel, beautiful and sad.

    I love the photo you chose to go with this, too.

  2. Yes, it is very cruel, and sad. But beautiful.

    Personally, I love mermaids! All the myths surrounding them and the connotations - I find them fascinating. And with so much to say.

    Thanks Cheryl for the comment!

  3. Love love love this!! Its a very orginal and different interpretation of the mermaid, and the metaphor of the mermaid. Enchanting imagery from Neruda, and love your intro to the post!!

  4. Ooh, thanks! Enchanting indeed.


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