By Jay Nicholls
PIRATE BLACKTARN AND THE MERMAID Pirate Blacktarn was sailing on a quest. Each day he woke, feeling full of joy and zest. “I’m going to find a mermaid, swimming in the sea And then when I find one, I’ll ask her to marry me.” The crew all sighed, “Blacktarn’s full of daft ideas, We can see this adventure is going to end in tears. Who’d marry Blacktarn when he doesn’t wash his hair? And he’s got holes in his socks that let in all the air. He’s lost his sword and the sheath is full of sweets And he’s useless at cards ’cos he always cheats.” “If he thinks a mermaid is going to marry him, He’s soft in the head,” agreed Parrot Tim. “Poor old Captain,” said Stowaway Fay, “But we won’t find mermaids anyway. They’re magic and mysterious and secret and strange And they live in hidden places, far out of range.” But then one evening, after a long day’s sail They saw a mermaid on a rock, swishing her tail. “A mermaid, a mermaid,” Blacktarn cried with delight. “Come Crew, come and see this special sight.” “Mermaid, mermaid, mermaid ahoy! I’ve come to marry you,” cried Blacktarn with joy. But the mermaid just laughed and jumped from the rocks. “I can’t marry a man with big holes in his socks.” Poor Pirate Blacktarn was dreadfully upset But he found Bosun Mick, mending a fishing net. And he asked if he’d help him mend his holy socks. “You do it,” said Mick, “here’s the sewing box.” So as the red sun set and the silver moon rose, Poor Pirate Blacktarn sat darning his hose. Then the very next day, all tidy and neat He went to the mermaid, who sat looking sweet And he showed her his socks and his very clean feet. “Now you can marry me, oh mermaid my dear.” “Oh no,” she said, “you’d better disappear. You haven’t washed your hair for at least a year. And your beard is tangled and matted and rough I can’t marry you, you’re not smart enough.” Poor Pirate Blacktarn shed a very sad tear Then he whispered to Rakesh, hardly loud enough to hear “Please will you lend me your comb and your shampoo.” Rakesh was astonished but he didn’t dare to argue. All night long, Blacktarn washed and brushed his hair And curled and combed his beard with the utmost care. And then in the morning, all shiny and tangle free, He went to the mermaid and asked, “Will you marry me?” But the cruel mermaid only shook her head “No, for you haven’t got a sword,” she said. “And even worse, you keep sweets in the sheath.” And laughing she dived into the waves beneath. Poor Pirate Blacktarn went grumpily away “Looks like I’ll have to go searching today.” “Will you help me find my sword?” he asked Big Bob the cook. “No,” answered Bob, “you’ll have to look.” All day and night, Blacktarn rummaged through his junk And found his rusty sword, hidden by his bunk. He cleaned and polished till it gleamed and flashed Then put it in his sheath and to the mermaid dashed. “Now you must marry me, please dearest mermaid.” “Oh no Pirate Blacktarn, I can’t I’m afraid.” “Oh dear,” groaned Blacktarn, “now what must I do?” “Nothing, because I’m married to a merman, fine and true.” “What!” Blacktarn jumped up and down with rage, Then burst into tears and started to rampage. “But never mind Pirate, I’ve bought you a gift For I can see your spirits are in need of a lift.” And she held out a shell, all curved and curly, A beautiful thing, all whorled and pearly. This magical shell you must put to your ear And the music of Mer is the melody you’ll hear, The sound of their singing will make you happy again And you’ll forget all your anger and sadness and pain, So all your hard work hasn’t been in vain.” And down she dived into the green sea’s domain. “Farewell Pirate” Blacktarn held the shell and listened amazed, For a wonderful music made him joyous and dazed. “You know,” he said merrily to his startled crew “I’m glad I didn’t marry, it really wouldn’t do. That mermaid now, might have made a nice wife But would she have suited our sea faring life?” “Well come on crew, now we’re single and free We must get sailing across the Lemon Sea.”
Note: The ‘Pirate Blacktarn’ poems were written in the early 1990s but were never submitted anywhere or shown to anyone. By lucky chance they were recently rescued from a floppy disc that had lain in the bottom of a box for almost thirty years. There are twelve poems in the series but no indication as to what order they were written in and the author no longer remembers. However, they seem to work well when read in any order. They all feature the same cast of characters, the eponymous pirate and his crew, including a stowaway and an intelligent parrot. The stories told by the poems are set on a fictional body of water named the Lemon Sea. (Dug up by Rhys Hughes from the bottom of an abandoned treasure chest).
Jay Nicholls was born in England and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She has worked in academia for many years in various student support roles, including counselling and careers. She has written poetry most of her life but has rarely submitted it for publication.