The Fisherman and his Soul
By Oscar Wilde
EVERY evening the young Fisherman went out upon the sea, and threw his nets into the
When the wind blew from the land he caught nothing, or but little at best, for it was a
bitter and black-winged wind, and rough waves rose up to meet it. But when the wind blew to
the shore, the fish came in from the deep, and swam into the meshes of his nets, and he took
them to the market-place and sold them.
Every evening he went out upon the sea, and one evening the net was so heavy that
hardly could he draw it into the boat. And he laughed, and said to himself `Surely I have
caught all the fish that swim, or snared some dull monster that will be a marvel to men, or
some thing of horror that the great Queen will desire,' and putting forth all his strength, he
tugged at the coarse ropes till, like lines of blue enamel round a vase of bronze, the long veins
rose up on his arms. He tugged at the thin ropes, and nearer and nearer came the circle of flat
corks, and the net rose at last to the top of the water.
But no fish at all was in it, nor any monster or thing of horror, but only a little Mermaid
lying fast asleep.
Her hair was as a wet fleece of gold, and each separate hair as a thread of line gold in a
cup of glass. Her body was as white ivory, and her tail was of silver and pearl. Silver and pearl
was her tail, and the green weeds of the sea coiled round it; and like sea-shells were her ears,
and her lips were like sea-coral. The cold waves dashed over her cold breasts, and the salt
glistened upon her eyelids.
So beautiful was she that when the young Fisherman saw her he was filled with wonder,
and he put out his hand and drew the net close to him, and leaning over the side he clasped
her in his arms. And when he touched her, she gave a cry like a startled sea-gull and woke,
and looked at him in terror with her mau