Caroline’s allusion to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Love Song
In her letter to Lotte Michaelis during the autumn of 1784 (letter 51), Caroline issues a rather desperate call for Lotte to comply with her requests (presumably for books, as was often the case in Clausthal):
[Requests.] If I cannot get all these things, I really will simply die. So please have pity, I am in a great hurry (you know how this passage seems to me? like the “Deer’s Love Song” of the Turks in the letters of Lady Montaigu; you can read it, Mother has a copy) . . .Farewell, thou most beautiful of angels, Do remain graciously inclined toward me — Yet not overly confident on this stem will I lean. But send whatever be requested above, and everywhere, always will your praise I sing.
Erich Schmidt, , 1:683, suggests that Caroline’s allusion is to certain Turkish verse piece that Lady Mary Wortley Montagu cited and translated in a letter from Pera to a certain Lady Rich on 16 March 1717 (Schmidt gives the date as 1718), notwithstanding that the poem has nothing to do with deer. Schmidt maintains that Caroline may be thinking of the lines “Have pity on my passion! . . . I die — come quickly.”
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, vol. 1, ed. Lord Wharncliffe (Philadelphia 1837), 301–2 (Turkish original not included).
Pera, 16 March 1717
I am extremely pleased, my dear lady, that you have at length found a commission for me that I can answer without disappointing your expectations; though I must tell you, that it is not so easy as perhaps you think it; and that if my curiosity had not been more diligent than any other stranger’s has ever yet been, I must have answered you with an excuse, as I was forced to do when you desired me to buy you a Greek slave. I have got for you, as you desire, a turkish love-letter, which I have put into a little box, and ordered the captain of the Smyrniote to deliver it to you with this letter. The translation of it is literally as follows: The first piece you should pull out of the purse is a little pearl, which is in Turkish called Ingi, and must be understood in this manner: 
Pearl, Fairest of the young. Clove, You are as slender as the clove! Your are an unknown rose! I have long loved you, and you have not known it! Jonquil, Have pity on my passion! Paper, I faint every hour! Pear, Give me some hope. Soap, I am sick with love. Coal, May I die, and all my years be yours! A rose, May you be pleased, and your sorrows mine! A straw, Suffer me to be your slave. Cloth, Your price is not to be found. Cinnamon, But my fortune is yours. A match, I burn, I burn! my flame consumes me! Gold thread, Don’t' turn away your face from me. Hair, Crown of my head. Grape, My two eyes. Gold wire, I die—come quickly. And by way of postscript: Pepper: Send me an answer.
You see this letter is all in verse, and I can assure you there is as much fancy shewn in the choice of them, as in the most studied expressions of our letters; there being, I believe, a million of verses designed for this use. There is no color, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble, or feather, that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even of news, without ever inking your fingers.
A different Turkish love song (rather than merely verses) in the same volume (ibid., 388–89) better accord with Caroline’s lament of being denied what she so ardently desires (“If I cannot get all these things, I really will simply die. So please have pity”) and does indeed mention a deer/stag. That Caroline, who did not have the book in front of her, is citing or even broadly paraphrasing from memory (if her verses indeed be meant as a citation or paraphrase rather than self-penned) might account for her deviation from the original. Lady Montagu first provides a literal translation:
Turkish Verses addressed to the Sultana,
eldest daughter of Sultan Achmete III
The nightingale now wanders in the vines: Her passion is to seek roses. I went down to admire the beauty of the vines: The sweetness of your charms has ravish'd my soul. Your eyes are black and lovely, But wild and disdainful as those of a stag.
The wish'd possession is delay'd from day to day; The cruel Sultan Achmet will not permit me To see those cheeks, more vermilion than roses. I dare not snatch one of your kisses; The sweetness of your charms has ravish'd my soul. Your eyes are black and lovely, But wild and disdainful at those of a stag.
The wretched Ibrahim sighs in these verses: One dart from your eyes has pierced thro' my heart. Ah! when will the hour of possession arrive? Must I yet wait a long time? The sweetness of your charms has ravish'd my soul. Ah! Sultana! stag-ey’d — an angel amongst angels! I desire, — and, my desire remains unsatisfied. — Can you take delight to prey upon my heart?
My cries pierce the heavens! My eyes are without sleep! Turn to me, Sultana — me gaze on thy beauty. Adieu — — I go down to the grave. If you call me — — I return. My heart is — hot as sulphur; — sigh, and it will flame. Crown of my life! fair light of my eyes! My Sultana! my princess! I rub my face against the earth; — I am drown'd in scalding tears — I rave! Have you no compassion? Will you not turn to look upon me?
Lady Montagu then provides a translation “in the style of English poetry” (ibid., 388–89):
Now Philomel renews her tender strain, Indulging all the night her pleasing pain: I sought the groves to hear the wanton sing, There saw a face more beauteous than the spring. Your large stag-eyes, where thousand glories play, As bright, as lively, but as wild as they.
In vain I'm promised such a heavenly prize; Ah! cruel sultan! who delay'st my joys! While piercing charms transfix my am’rous heart, I dare not snatch one kiss to ease the smart. Those eyes! like, &c.
Your wretched lover in these lines complains; From those dear beauties rise his killing pains. When will the hour of wish’d-for bliss arrive? Must I wait longer? — Can I wait and live? Ah! bright Sultana! maid divinely fair! Can you, unpitying, see the pains I bear?
The heavens relenting, hear my piercing cries, I loathe the light, and sleep forsakes my eyes; Turn thee, Sultana, ere thy lover dies: Sinking to earth, I sigh the last adieu; Call me, my goddess, and my life renew. My queen! my angel! my fond heart's desire! I rave — my bosom burns with heav'nly fire! Pity that passion which thy charms inspire.
Unable to satisfy her friend’s longing for a Greek slave, Lady Mary made some amends for the disappointment by executing another commission from her — sending her a Turkish love-letter in the shape of a small box containing a pearl, a clove, a jonquil a piece of paper, a pear, a cake of soap, a bit of coal, a rose, a straw, a piece of cloth, some cinnamon, a match, a gold thread, hair, a grape, a piece of gold wire, and a pod of pepper. Taken out of the box in the above order, these articles signified etc. Back.
Translation © 2014 Doug Stott