Married to a Mermaid linocut

Sea shanty linocuts

June 25, 2014

Sea Shanty linocut illustrations

I’ve recently been exhibiting some of my linocuts in an exhibition as part of the run up to the 2014 Folkestone Triennial. The ‘Open Quarter’ was an held over the weekend of 21-22 June 2014 and for that show I made these two linocuts. I based my designs on traditional and contemporary sea shanties. I’ve added some pictures and details about them below so you can have a look and read a little about the stories behind them (I’d recommend listening to the Decemberist’s song, link below).

Married to a Mermaid linocut illustration
Married to a Mermaid

A3 linocut and screen print. Limited edition of 16.

The sea shanty ‘Married to a Mermaid’ is about a young farmer who falls in love with a knight’s daughter. Unimpressed, the knight sees to it that young farmer join the Navy and he is sent to sea. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and caught in a storm, the sailor falls overboard and sinks to the bottom of the deep blue sea. In vain and without success his crew mates try to rescue him from the waves. Suddenly with a bang the sailor appears from the ocean and sings,

‘My comrades and my messmates,
Oh, do not weep for me,
For I’m married to a mermaid,
At the bottom of the deep blue sea.’

This is just a short summary of the shanty taken from ‘Married to a Mermaid’ by James Thompson (1700-1748). Here’s a complete version of the song.

The Mariner's revenge song linocut
The Mariner’s Revenge Song.

A3 linocut and screen print. Limited edition of 16.

Taken from the lyrics of the The Decemberists song of the same name.
Two sole survivors of a sunken ship are trapped in the belly of a large whale. With time to kill one man starts to recount a tragic story to the other man.

He tells him that as a young boy of three the sailor had seen his mother penniless and rotten with illness after being taken in by the affections of a charming man. The charming man soon turned out to be a drunken gambler and after spending all her money he left his mother and soon after she died. As his mother lay dying she whispered in her son’s ear,

“Find him, Bind him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he
Wakes up naked
Clawing at the ceiling
Of his grave”

Racked with thoughts of revenge 15 years went by, when by chance the boy who was now a man overheard a whaler talking to a captain of a ship. Recognising the captain as the drunken vagabond he followed the man. Seizing his opportunity he became employed by the captain and set sail aboard his ship. Twenty months went by and the man patiently waited for his moment to reek revenge. Suddenly out in the middle of the sea there was a rumble, the sky went dark and the ocean shook. A giant whale came up from the dark blue depths and swallowed the crew. Only two survivors remained. As the story is retold to the old captain the younger man leans across and tells him he is going to enjoy whispering the last words he’ll ever hear in his ear whilst trapped in the belly of a whale.

Summary of a story taken from the lyrics of a song by The Decemberists called ‘The Mariner’s Revenge Song’.
Here’s link to The Decemberists website and a link to YouTube where you can hear the song.

The Mariner's revenge song linocut detail
The Mariner's revenge song linocut detail



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