Showing posts with label Nymphs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nymphs. Show all posts

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mermaid, Nymph, Siren

A siren, in Greek mythology, was an assemblage or portmanteau, part bird, part woman, and was both dangerous (a “siren” to this day warns of danger, a usage derived from the siren’s song that lured men to their doom) and seductive—a prototype of the femme fatale. At least originally. In later folklore, they lost their wings, and became fully aquatic and mermaid-like (“la mer” meaning “the sea” in French, hence mermaid means “sea-maiden”), revealed by the fact that in the Spanish and French languages, for instance, the word for mermaid is respectively Sirena and Sirène. Hence sirens and mermaids are often confused in the popular imagination. In contrast, the Greek word nymph, a female spirit usually associated with a specific geographical place, has both “bride” and “veiled” among its meanings; a “nymph” has come to mean a young woman of marriageable age. Hence the words mermaid, nymph, and siren all refer to highly seductive and desirable women, although potentially dangerous: for the Victorians, a “nymphomaniac” was a fundamentally disturbed woman, revealed by her excessive interest in sex. Perhaps because of its association with the word “nymphomania,” the word “nymph” seldom occurs in the lyrics of popular music. Mermaids and sirens, however, are mythical creatures that often make appearances, figures of elusive beauty. I’m including Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” in the following playlist, primarily because it is the precursor song of Van Morrison’s “Queen of the Slipstream” (“Going away far across the sea/But I’ll be back for you/Tell you everything I know”): both are romantic songs are about nymphs, beautiful young women waiting for the return of their lovers. But both “Can't Get It Out of My Head” and “Queen of the Slipstream” are also figurations of the Muse, signaling the singer is among the poetic elect.

Mermaids, Nymphs, And Sirens:
Aeon – Nymph
Tori Amos – Siren
Tim Buckley – Song to the Siren
Cream – Tales of Brave Ulysses
Bobby Darin – Beyond the Sea
Electric Light Orchestra – Can’t Get It Out My Head
Hall and Oates – Maneater
Van Morrison – Queen of the Slipstream
Nightwish – Siren
Robert Plant – Song to the Siren
Sade – Mermaid
Shel Silverstein – Mermaid Song
XTC – Mermaid Smiled