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Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art, by John Vinycomb, [1909], at

Merman or Triton

"Triton, who boasts his high Neptunian race
 Sprung from the God by Solace's embrace."
                                Camoëns, "Lusiad."

"Triton his trumpet shrill before them blew
 For goodly triumph and great jolliment
 That made the rocks to roar as they were rent."
                       Spenser, "Faerie Queen."
                      (Procession of the Sea Deities.)

Triton was the only son of Neptune and Amphitrite. The poet Apollonius Rhodius describes him as having the upper parts of the body of a man, while the lower parts were those of a dolphin.

p. 240

[paragraph continues] Later poets and artists revelled in the conception of a whole race of similar tritons, who were regarded
Merman or Triton.
as a wanton, mischievous tribe, like the satyrs on land. Glaucus, another of the inferior deities, is represented as a triton, rough and shaggy in appearance, his body covered with mussels and seaweed; his hair and beard show that luxuriance which characterises sea-gods. Proteus, as shepherd of the seas,
Triton, with two tails. German.
is usually distinguished with a crook. Triton, as herald of Neptune, is represented always holding, or blowing, his wreathed horn or conch shell. His mythical duties as attendant on the supreme sea-divinity

p. 241

would, as an emblem in heraldry, imply a similar duty or office in the bearer to a great naval hero.

Examples.—The City of Liverpool has for sinister supporter a Triton blowing a conch shell and holding a flag in his right hand.

Mermaid and Triton supporters.

Lord Lyttelton bears for supporters two Mermen proper, in their exterior hands a trident or.

Ottway, Bart.—Supporters on either side, a Triton blowing his shell proper, navally crowned or, across the shoulder a wreath of red coral, and holding in the exterior hand a trident, point downward.

Note.—In classic story, Triton and the Siren are distinct poetic creations, their vocation and attributes

p. 242

being altogether at variance—no relationship whatever existing between them. According to modern popular notions, however, the siren or mermaid, and triton, or merman as they sometimes term him, appear to be viewed as male and female of the same creature (in heraldic parlance baron and femme). They thus appear in companionship as supporters to the arms of Viscount Hood, and similarly in other achievements.


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