Mermaids are often associated with Sirens from Greek Mythology. Though, the first known stories appeared in ancient Assyria where it is said the goddess Atargatis turned herself into a mermaid after accidentally killing her human lover. Guilt-ridden by what she had done, she dove into the sea to take the form of a fish, but, the waters refused to hide her beauty--- her divine visage remained, while her lower half took the fish-form she had cursed herself with.
I suppose it's from this myth that Mermaids were often connected with sea tragedy--- drownings, storms and shipwrecks. Though, there are still a few traditions that depict the Mermaids as good--- benevolent creatures that can and do fall in love with humans.
The Biological order, Sirenia, (dugongs and manatees)-- takes its name from the Siren legend as it is the
belief of some that the ancient sea-explorers often mistook these aquatic mammals for Mermaids.
While Mermaids are known for their beauty, Mermen, on the other hand, are often depicted as anything other than beautiful. There are a few myths, specifically Finnish myths, where Mermen are handsome and bearded men with fish-tails who can cure illness. But, both Greek and Irish mythologies depict Mermen as grotesque with green hair. The Irish descriptions also include, a red nose, pointed green teeth and pig eyes. Is it any wonder the legends of Mermaids falling in love with human men exists?
With Sea-Swept Sighs
There's a peace that comes with the savage sea,
a stillness raking 'cross the cresting waves.
It's in this peace you're yearning heart is apt to find,
a bit of home to lift your dreary day.
With locks of gold and songs to break a Siren's heart,
the ethereal beauty finds her way to you.
Just a glimpse is all she'll give and all you'll ever hold,
look not away or you'll think your dream untrue.
Your ship will sail the seas, from home and back again,
the perils that you find enough to still your heart.
But, one fleeting glance from a Mermaid's smile,
is all the treasure you'll wish for as your paths part.