Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Of Antient Meremaids

Friends, Romans, Countrymen [& women], I bring to you this day this trifle. A courier came burdened from great distances within the Empire [Florida ultimately, a Place laden with much non-credible legend and barbarous custom]. He carried a large container, which he dare not attempt to fit within the sacred box for postal communication [though the communications therein are rarely sacred]. In truth it fit not. He laid it on the floor and went rapidly away murmuring to the gods. I took the capacious container with a sense of premonition that maybe there was something inside [my intuitions are strikingly correct in matters such as this]. Opening the box, there lay within a Prodigious Booke. Fully a foot in height and a palm in thickness. It was a Pliny. A Booke of Prodigies indeed.

Struck by this astonishing occurrence, I risked inspecting the antient pages, all fully intact and flexible [thanks to unusually high cloth content by the magicians of 17th century paper-making]. Turning these wonder-filled pages carefully, I came to [of all serendipitous subjects] this knowledge about Meremaids:

" And as for the Meremaids called Nereides, it is no fabulous tale that goeth of them:
for looke how painters draw them, so they are indeed: only their bodie is rough and
skaled all over, even in those parts wherin they resemble a woman. For such a Mere-
maid was seene and beheld plainely upon the same coast neere to the shore: and the in-
habitants dwelling neer, heard it a farre off when it was a dying, to make a pitteous mone
crying and chattering very heavily. Moreover, a lieutenant or governour under Augustus
Casar in Gaule, advertised him by his letters, That many of these Nereides or Meremaids
were seen cast upon the sands, and lying dead. I am able to bring forth for mine authors
divers knights of Rome, right worshipfull persons and of good credite, who testifie that
in the coast of the Spanish Ocean neere unto Gades, they have seen a Mere-man, in every
respect resembling a man as perfectly in all parts of the bodie as might bee. And they
report moreover, that in the night season he would come out of the sea abourd their
ships: but look upon what partsoever he setled, he waied the same down, and if he rested
and continued there any long time, he would sinke it clean."

And that, my friends, should put a stop to all doubt and unseemly speculation.

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