April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO JANE STIRLING ; 10 July 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480710-JWC-JWS-01; CL 23: 68-70


Monday [10? July 1848]

My dear Miss Sterling

Mr Chopin cannot speak English, nor understand it spoken—alas no!—but can he understand it written I wonder? Here are some verses to his honour and glory, by Capt Sterling the brother of John—who attended me to the concert the other day1—and as it strikes me they come less under the category of prose run mad than the generality of his poetical effusions, it might be worth while to give them to Mr Chopin with my inarticulate blessing; provided only that he can make head or tail of them— Perhaps like all of the name you can rhyme prettily yourself—in that case you might translate them into french verses for his convenience—

I never liked any music so well—because it feels to me not so much a sample of the man's art offered “on approbation” (the effect of most music for me) but a portion of his soul and life given away by him—spent on those who have ears to hear and hearts to understand. I cannot fancy but that every piece he composes must leave him with many fewer days to live. I wish he could speak English, for I should be able to speak a little English to him—with my heart in it—for even in my capability to speak English I am as my Husband said the other night “intermittent.”

I have sprained one of my great toes! and it is all black the poor toe and as large as two natural ones.

Affectionately yours

Jane Carlyle

Chopin's playing
The pale wizard's fingers
With magical skill
Make a music that lingers
In memory still.
These wild bells are tinkling
And shooting stars twinkling;
Great meteors are rushing—
Soft rivulets gushing—
Through meadows of flowers,
And deep shady bowers,
Fall of music the maddest
The sweetest—the saddest
Men's ears all entrancing
With quick echoes glancing
Now nightingales breathing
Now fierce oceans seething.
The soft cadence dying
To heaven is flying
Bears the soul of the hearer
To paradise nearer,
And seems a thanksgiving
From all who are living.
With ecstasy thrilling
The heart tones distilling
Through space resound lowly
Pathetic and holy.
Like a chant of the fairies
The harmony varies
With long drawn whisperings
Out of life's hidden springs,
Till the pale wizard waking
With every nerve shaking
Pours a last peel of thunder
That leaves us in wonder—
So his magical fingers
With exquisite skill
Make a music that lingers
In memory still—

London 7 July 1848