A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
(W B Yeats)
I've never met a mermaid. And sadly it looks like this isn't now going to happen - the US government has abolished them:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has clarified and confirmed that no evidence of existence of mermaids has ever been found.
"No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That's a question best left to historians, philosophers, and anthropologists," NOAA said in a statement denying the existence of half-female, half-fish creatures of the sea.
So why is it that, since the dawn of time, there have been stories and legends about mermaids? Is it the delusional sexual fantasies of sailors? Or is it a desire to populate empty places with beauty and intelligence?
Like all magic creatures, the mermaid serves a purpose. And that means it is sufficient for us to believe they exist for that purpose to be served. Mermaids are the good spirits of the sea - a glint of hope and pleasure in an otherwise entirely terrifying and foreign place.
But like all these creatures of magic, for all their beauty and intelligence, they are not to be trusted;
"Kisses", she said, "are as true at sea as they are false on land. You men kiss the earth-born maidens to betray them. The kiss of a sea-child is the seal of constancy. You are mine till death."