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Transcription Tuesdays II: Love Thee

Ariana Malthaner

Isabella Woods’ autograph book is a delight to browse through. Not only does it contain treasured poems and songs collected by the owner, but it also contains a number of original poems and well-wishes left by clearly dear friends, family and even admirers.

Unfortunately for us, many of the writers fail to identify themselves, presumably functioning under the assumption that Isabella would remember who they were! While understandable, it is somewhat disappointing as historians to be unable to provide credit where credit is due.

Today’s transcription is courtesy of an anonymous person whose initials appear to be N.H.N, although a reading of N.W.N is also possible. The poem is dated as March 7th 1865, and the writer expresses great love for the Mrs. Woods.

Love Thee

Oh yes? – so well, so tenderly

Thou’rt lov’d ador’d by me

Fame, fortune, wealth and liberty

More worthless without theee

Though brimmed with blessings, pure and rare

To spurn the draught away

Life’s cup before me lay

Unless thy love were mingled there,

I’d spurn the draught away

Love thee? – so well, so tenderly

Thou’rt lov’d, ador’d by me

Fame, fortune, wealthy and liberty

Are worthless without thee

The line of most interest, to this historian anyways, is the line that has been crossed out. If this line were to be identical with the similar one to follow only a few lines later, it could be attributed to a copying error: the author had written the poem elsewhere, was copying it into Isabella’s book and made the mistake of writing one line too soon.

However, it is not the same. The line is different. This would indicate that the writer was thinking of lines on the spot, that this poem was (to some extent) improvised, and they changed their mind partway through writing. This possibility, that the poem was a spur-of-the-moment invention, and indeed one without prior drafts, is altogether more impressive!

Ariana Malthaner