April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO KATE STERLING; March 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490300-JWC-KS-01; CL 23: 246-247


5 Cheyne Row / Thursday [March 1849?]

My dear Katie

It was very nice of you to think of sending me the Song; I return you my hearty thanks for it, and an imaginary kiss in the mean time—to be made into a real one the first opportunity

But you must tell Miss Rankin[?],1 with my kind remembrance, that I should like to have a bass put to these notes; for I dont sing at this date, not the least in the world, only play—with both hands however, and I am not sure that I could find thorough bass enough in my whole head to do this simple thing for myself, without error— Not that I was not taught thorough bass in my youth, but that and the multiplication-table and a few other things I forgot as fast, or faster, than I learnt them—

We are not clever enough here to print our verses as well as make them; but I dare say your uncle,2 if you speak him fair, won't mind printing the enclosed for you—and then you may brag the world with Mermaids, and when you tire of your Uncles take up with mine—not that I made this other mermaid “out of my own brains” (as Miss Bölte would say) She is Goethe's mermaid, whom I merely did into English, when long ago, a young lady about your own age,3 I aspired to the reputation of a Poetess Heaven forgive me!

I hope your Uncle will bring you all to London again before long—and that we shall never wear out of friendship again— I am sure it would have been very sad for your dear Father to think I was for so many years never to see the faces of his children—

With kindest wishes for you all / affectionately yours

Jane W. Carlyle

The Fisher
(from the german of Goethe)
The water rush'd, the water swell'd;
A Fisher floating there,
Calm gazing on the hooks he held,
Felt little joy or care.
Cool to the heart no heed he gave
But to his flick'ring lines;
When lo! uprising from the wave,
A Beautious mermaid shines.
She softly spoke, she softly sang;
“Ah Cruel! wherefore wish
With wit of man and wiles of man
To lure my harmless fish?
Couldn't thow but know how merry plays
The minnow down below,
Thou'dst haste with me where pleasure stays
To hide from toil and woe.
Doth not the moon, doth not the Sun
In Ocean love to bathe?
And do they not more bright return,
When they have breath'd the wave?
Doth Heaven's vast dome not lure thee
Here glass'd in lucid blue?
Doth not thy face here shadow'd lure thee
Down to eternal dew?”
The water rush'd, the water swell'd,
It lav'd his naked foot;
His heart with fond desire was fill'd,
As at loves soft salute.
She sang, she charm'd, tho' awing him
More wild his bosom burn'd;
Half leaning—she half drawing him,
He sank and ne'er return'd—
And that was an end / of him