Agnete she was guileless.

She was beloved and true,

But solitude, it charm'd her,

And mirth she never knew--

She never knew--

She made the joy of all around

Yet never felt it too.



Over the dark blue waves,

Agnete, gazing, bends,

When lo! a merman rising there

From ocean's depths ascends;

Up he ascends.

Yet still, Agnete's bending form

With the soft billows blends.


His glossy hair, it seemed as spun

Out of the purest gold,

His beaming eye, it brightly glow'd

With warmest love untold--

With love untold!

And his scale-cover'd bosom held

A heart that was not cold.


The song he sang Agnete,

On love and sorrow rang;

His voice it was so melting soft,

So sadly sweet he sang--

Sadly he sang.

It seemed as if his beating heart

Upon his lips it sprang.


'And hearken, dear Agnete!

What I shall say to thee--

My heart, oh! it is breaking, sweet!

With longing after thee!

Still after thee!

Oh! wilt thou ease my sorrow, love,

Oh! wilt thou smile on me?'


Two silver buckles lay

Upon the rocky shore,

And aught more rich, or aught more bright,

No princess ever wore,

No, never wore.

'My best beloved,'--so sang he--

'Add these unto thy store!'


Then drew he from his breast

A string of pearls so rare--

None richer, no, or none more pure

Did princess ever wear--

Oh! ever wear.

'My best beloved,' so sang he,

'Accept this bracelet fair!'


Then from his finger drew he

A ring of jewels fine--

And none more brilliant, none more rich,

Midst princely gems might shine;

'Here, here from mine.

My best beloved,' so sang he,

'Oh, place this upon thine!'


Agnete, on the deep sea

Beholds the sky's soft hue,

The waves they were so crystal clear,

The ocean 'twas so blue!

Oh! so blue!

The merman smiled, and thus he sang,

As near to her he drew:--


'Ah! hearken, my Agnete,

What I to thee shall speak:

For thee my heart is burning, love,

For thee, my heart will break!

Oh! 'twill break!

Say, sweet, wilt thou be kind to me,

And grant the love I seek?'


'Dear merman! hearken thou,

Yes, I will list to thee!

If deep beneath the sparkling waves

Thou'lt downward carry me--

Take thou me!

And bear me to thine ocean bow'r

There, I will dwell with thee.'


Then stoppeth he her ears,

Her mouth then stoppeth he;

And with the lady he hath fled,

Deep, deep beneath the sea!

Beneath the sea!

There kiss'd they, and embraced they,

So fond, and safe, and free!


For full two years and more,

Agnete, she lived there,

And warm, untiring, faithful love

They to each other bear;

Such love they bear.

Within the merman's shelly bower

Are born two children fair.


Agnete--she sat tranquilly.

And to her boys she sang;

When hark! a sound of earth she hears,

How solemnly it rang!


It was the church's passing bell

In Holmé Vale that clang.


Agnete, from the cradle,

Springs suddenly away,

She hastes to seek her merman dear,

'Loved merman, say I may--

Say--Oh say,

That I, ere midnight's hour, may take

To Holmé's church my way?'


'Thou wishest ere the midnight

To Holmé church to go?

See then that thou, ere day, art back

Here, to thy boys below--


But ere the morning light return

Come to thy sons below!'


He stoppeth then her ears,

Her mouth then stoppeth he;

And upwards they together rise

Till Holmé Vale they see.

'Now part we!'

They part, and he descends again

Beneath the deep blue sea.


Straight on to the churchyard,

Agnete's footsteps hie:

She meets--O God! her mother there,

And turns again to fly.

'Why--O why?'

Her mother's voice her steps arrests

Thus speaking with a sigh:--


'Oh hearken, my Agnete,

What I shall say to thee,

Where has thy distant dwelling been

So long away from me?

Away from me!

Say, where hast thou, my child, been hid

So long and secretly?'


'O mother! I have dwelt

Beneath the boundless main,

Within a merman's coral bower,

And we have children twain,

Beneath the main.

I came to pray--and then I go

Back to the deep again!'


'But hearken thou, Agnete,

What I to thee shall say--

Here thy two little daughters weep

Because thou art away;

By night, by day,

Thy little girls bemoan and grieve;

With them thou'lt surely stay?'


'Well--let my daughters small

For me both grieve and long,

My ears are closed--I cannot hear

Their cries yon waves among!

Oh! I belong

To my dear sons, and they will die

If I my stay prolong.'


'Have pity on thy babes--

Let them not pine away!

Oh! think upon thy youngest child

Who in her cradle lay!

With them oh stay!

Forget yon elves, and with thine own,

Thy lawful children stay!'


'Nay, let them bloom or fade--

The two--as Heav'n may will!

My heart is closed--their cries no more

Can now my bosom thrill--

Oh! no more thrill!

For now my merman's sons alone

All my affections fill.'


'Alas! though thou canst thus

Thy smiling babes forget;

Yet think upon their father's faith,

Thy noble lord's regret,

The fate he met!

As soon as thou wert lost to him

His sun of joy was set.


'Long--long he search'd for thee,

He went a weary way;

At last from yonder shelving rock

He cast himself one day--

One dismal day.

His corpse upon the pebbly strand

In the dim twilight lay!


'And here--'twas not long since--

His coffin they did bring;

Ha! list, my daughter, hearest thou?

The midnight bells they ring!


Away her mother hastens then

As loud the church bells ring.


Agnete, o'er the church-door

Stepp'd softly from without,

When all the little images

They seem'd to turn about;

Round about.

Within the church, the images

They seem'd to turn about.


Agnete gazes on

The altar-piece so fair;

The altar-piece it seem'd to turn,

And the altar with it there.

All where'er

Her eye it fell within the church,

Seem'd turning, turning there!


Agnete, on the ground

She gazed in thoughtful mood,

When lo! she saw her mother's name

That on a tomb-stone stood.

There it stood!

Then, sudden from her bursting heart,

Flow'd back her chill'd life's blood.


Agnete--first she stagger'd back,

She fainted, then she fell.

Now may her children long in vain

For her they loved so well.

Oh, so well!

Now, neither sons nor daughters more

To her their wants may tell.


Ay! Let them weep, and let them long,

And seek her o'er and o'er!

Dark, dark, are now her eyes so bright,

They ne'er shall open more!

Oh, never more!

And crush'd is now that death-cold heart,

So warm with love before.