Once there was a Mermaid who became the slave of a Fisherman; or perhaps, it was a Fisherman who became a Mermaid’s slave; it’s all complicated and strange, and I don’t think anyone has the whole story, but I’ll tell what I can before I drown.
For it was the Fisherman who saw the enchanted beauty of the Mermaid; and some say he loved her because she was beautiful, which is no great basis on which to build a relationship, only she was beautiful because she made him think of the Sea, and the Sea held his heart beneath its waves, in a long-sunken storage chest.
In many tales, the Mermaid is an ethereal beauty of deep pools and foam, and the Seaman a rough, unlettered, unattractive specimen; but need it be so? What’s a mermaid’s standard of beauty? And what do we say about a man who goes out, daily, to earn bread in defiance of tempest, storm, strange beasts from the underdepths of the waters, and the simple challenges of filling a small, simple fishing net with enough fish to feed yourself, much less anyone else? There is a bravery and a responsibility and a strength and, perhaps, something worth love.
The tales say the Mermaid was the slave of the Fisherman; and one might reverse it and say the Fisherman is the slave of the Mermaid. For was he not captivated by her eyes, by her shapely form, by her siren song?
What if they were both captivated by each other, and if they were slaves, not of force, not of some sort of brutal theft from their lives, but rather, of their love?
A pretty story; but really, between you and I, dear reader, why must we tell lies?
There was only one love here, only one persecutor, only one pitiless and abusive enforcer of What We Ought do With Our Emotions, and that was our very ancient enemy: The Sea.
What was it in her eyes by the ever-shifting currents of the Sea?
What lifted and dropped his heart but the pitiless tides of the Sea?
What made their kisses addictive but the taste of brine?
No, friends, the Sea—endless and ancient enemy of Humanity, devourer of our greatest civilizations, our progenitor and still, in its own mind, our Keeper and Owners—has joined forces with Love, the oppressor who wrecks our lives, wrecks our families, wrecks our happiness in order to bring together those who would otherwise be safely apart and able to live out honest lives.
Beware being drowned by these icy and uncaring forces.
Come with me, friend, and I will help drown you with Words, my first love, my first joy, my onliest begetter.
Words have never claimed to be kind.
Words have never claimed to be sustaining (like sea-water) only to end up filled with salt.
Let us leave the Fisherman and the Mermaid to sadness and slavery, and let us leap from word to word, and if words might suffocate, might suffuse, might crush us, might drive us out of our senses—at least words never claimed to be anything but what they are. They are the tools of civilizations and of monsters; but I repeat myself.
One day, the Mermaid died, or the Sailor died, drowned in tears; and you can read all about it, and so much more.
Leave you the ridiculous and mortal world behind, and come with me for words words words words words words words.
the Slave of Letters,