Page images

The Argument.

Phaon, a youth of exquisite beauty, was deeply enamoured of Sappho, a lady of Lesbos, from whom he met with the tenderest returns of passion; but his affection afterwards decaying, he left her, and sailed for Sicily. She, unable to bear the loss of her lover, hearkened to all the mad suggestions of despair; and seeing no other remedy for her present miseries, resolved to throw herself into the sea, from Leucate a promontory of Epirus, which was thought a cure in cases of obstinate love, and therefore had obtained the name of the Lover's Leap. But before she ventured upon this last step, entertaining still some fond hopes that she might be able to reclaim her inconstant, she wrote him this Epistle; in which she gives him a strong picture of her distress and misery, occasioned by his absence; and endea vours, by all the artfui insinuations and moving expressions she is mistress of, to sooth him to softness, and a mutual feeling.


SAY, lovely youth, that dost my heart command,
Can Phaon's eyes forget his Sappho's hand?
Must then her name the wretched writer prove,
To thy remembrance lost, as to thy love?
Ask not the cause that I new numbers chuse,
The lute neglected, and the lyric muse:
Love taught my tears in sadder notes to flow,
And tun'd my heart to elegies of woe.

EcQUID, ut inspecta est studiosæ littera dextræ,

Protinus est oculis cognita nostra tuis?
An, nisi legisses auctoris nomina Sapphus,
Hoc breve nescires unde movetur opus?
Foristan et quare mea sint alterna requiras
Carmina, cum lyricis sim magis apta modis.
Flendus amor meus est: elegeia flebile carmen;
Non facit ad lacrymas barbitos ulla meas.

[ocr errors]

I burn, I burn, as when through ripen'd corn
By driving winds the spreading flames are borne!
Phaon to Ætna's scorching fields retires,

tha's fires!

While I consume with more than
No more my soul a charm in music finds:
Music has charms alone for peaceful minds.
Soft scenes of solitude no more can please,
Love enters there, and I'm my own disease.
No more the Lesbian dames my passions move,
Once the dear objects of my guilty love;

All other loves are lost in only thine,

O youth, ungrateful to a flame like mine!




Whom would not all those blooming charms surprise, Those heav'nly looks, and dear deluding eyes?

Uror, ut, indomitis ignem exercentibus Euris,
Fertilis accensis messibus ardet ager.
Arva Phaon celebrat diversa Typhoidos Ætnæ,
Me calor Ætnæo non minor igne coquit.
Nec mihi, dispositis quæ jungam carmina nervis,
Proveniunt; vacuæ carmina mentis opus.
Nec me Pyrrhiades Methymniadesve puellæ,

Nec me Lesbiadum cætera turba juvant.
Vilis Anactorie, vilis mihi candida Cydno:
Non oculis grata est Atthis, ut ante, meis;
Atque aliæ centum, quas non sine crimine amavi:
Improbe, multarum quod fuit, unus habes,

Est in te facies, sunt apti lusibus anni,

O facies oculis insidiosa meis !

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


The harp and bow would you like Phoebus bear,
A brighter Phoebus Phaon might appear;
Would you with ivy wreath your flowing hair,
Not Bacchus' self with Phaon could compare:
Yet Phoebus lov'd, and Bacchus felt the flame,
One Daphne warm'd, and one the Cretan dame;
Nymphs that in verse no more could rival me,
Than ev'n those gods contend in charms with thee. 30
The Muses teach me all their softest lays,

And the wide world resounds with Sappho's praise.
Though great Alcæ us more sublimely sings,
And strikes with bolder rage the sounding strings,
No less renown attends the moving lyre,
Which Venus tunes, and all her loves inspire.
To me what Nature has in charms deny'd,
Is well by wit's more lasting flames supply'd:
Though short my stature, yet my name extends
To heav'n itself, and earth's remotest ends.

Sume fidem et pharetram; fies manifestus Apollo:
Accedant capiti cornua; Bacchus eris,
Et Phoebus Daphnen, et Gnosida Bacchus amavit;
Nec norat lyricos illa, vel illa modos.
At mihi Pegasides blandissima carmina dictant;
Jam canitur toto nomen in orbe meum.
Nec plus Alcæus, consors patriæque lyræque,
Laudis habet, quamvis grandius ille sonet.
Si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit ;
Ingenio formæ damna rependo meæ.

Sum brevis; at nomen, quod terras impleat omnes,
Est mihi; mensuram nominis ipsa fero,







Brown as I am, an Ethiopian dame
Inspir'd young Perseus with a gen'rous flame;
Turtles and doves of diff'rent hues unite,
And glossy jet is pair'd with shining white.
If to no charms thou wilt thy heart resign,
But such as merit, such as equal thine,
By none, alas! by none thou canst be mov'd,
Phaon alone by Phaon must be lov'd!
Yet once thy Sappho could thy cares employ,
Once in her arms you center'd all your joy ;
No time the dear remembrance can remove,
For oh! how vast a memory has love!
My music, then, you could for ever hear,
And all my words were music to your ear.



You stopp'd with kisses my enchanting tongue,
And found my kisses sweeter than my song.
In all I pleas'd, but most in what was best;
And the last joy was dearer than the rest.


Candida si non sum, placuit Cepheïa Perseo
Andromede, patriæ fusca colore suæ ;
Et variis albæ junguntur sæpe columbæ,
Et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave.

Si, nisi quæ facie poterit te digna videri,

Nulla futura tua est; nulla futura tua est.


At me cum legeres, etiam formosa videbar;
Unam jurabas usque decere loqui.

Cantabam, memini (meminerunt omnia amantes)
Oscula cantata tu mihi rapta dabas.

Hæc quoque laudabas; omnique a parte placebam,
Sed tum præcipue, cum fit amoris opus.





Then with each word, each glance, each motion fir'd,
You still enjoy'd, and yet you still desir'd,
'Till all dissolving, in the trance we lay,
And in tumultuous raptures dy'd away.
The fair Sicilians now thy soul enflame;
Why was I born, ye Gods! a Lesbian dame ?
But ah, beware, Sicilian nymphs! nor boast
That wand'ring heart which I so lately lost;
Nor be with all those tempting words abus'd,
Those tempting words were all to Sappho us'd.
And you that rule Sicilia's happy plains,
Have pity, Venus, on your poet's pains!
Shall fortune still in one sad tenor run,

And still increase the woes so soon begun ?

Tunc te plus solito lascivia nostra juvabat,
Crebraque mobilitas, aptaque verba joco;
Quique, ubi jam amborum fuerat confusa voluptas,
Plurimus in lasso corpore languor erat!
Nunc Tibi Sicelides veniunt nova præda puellæ ;
Quid mihi cum Lesbo? Sicelis esse volo.
At vos erronem tellure remittite nostrum,
Nisiades matres, Nisiadesque nurus.

Neu vos decipiant blanda mendacia linguæ:
Quæ dicit vobis, dixerat ante mihi.


[blocks in formation]


Tu quoque quæ montes celebras, Erycina, Sicanos, (Nam tua sum) vati consule, diva, tuæ!

An gravis inceptum peragit fortuna tenorem?

Et manet in cursu semper acerba suo?


« EelmineJätka »