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Department de Ville de Paris (France) (search for this): chapter 11
history. Worse, for instance, than the malice of the Greek comedians or of Ovid — since they possibly believed their own stories — was the attempt made by Voltaire to pollute, through twenty-one books of an epic poem, the stainless fame of his own virgin country-woman, Joan of Arc. In that work he revels in a series of impurities so loathsome that the worst of them are omitted from the common editions, and only lurk in appendices, here and there, as if even the shameless printing-presses of Paris were ashamed of them. Suppose, now, that the art of printing had remained undiscovered, that all contemporary memorials of this maiden had vanished, and posterity had possessed no record of her except Voltaire's Pucelle. In place of that heroic image there would have remained to us only a monster of profligacy, unless some possible Welcker had appeared, long centuries after, to right the wrong. The remarkable essay of Welcker, Sappho von einem herrschenden Vorurtheil befreit, Welcker,
Niagara County (New York, United States) (search for this): chapter 11
ough it is clear that he was not a man to drown his cares in anything larger than a punch-bowl. It is certainly hard to suppose that the most lovelorn lady, residing on an island whose every shore was a precipice, and where her lover was at hand to feel the anguish of her fate, would take ship and sail for weary days over five hundred miles of water to seek a more sensational rock. Theodor Kock, the latest German writer on Sappho, thinks it is as if a lover should travel from the Rhine to Niagara to drown himself. Are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus? More solid, negative proof is found in the fact that Ptolemy Hephestion, the author who has collected the most numerous notices of the Leucadian leap, entirely omits the conspicuous name of Sappho from his record. Even Colonel Mure, who is as anxious to prove this deed against her as if it were a violation of all the ten commandments, is staggered for a moment by this omission ; but soon recovering himself, with an ingenuity
Elton (Louisiana, United States) (search for this): chapter 11
ugh forgetfulness of those Pierian roses which are the Muses' symbol. This version retains the brevity of the original lines, and though rhymed, is literal, except that it changes the second person to the third:-- Dying she reposes; Oblivion grasps her now; Since never Pierian roses Were wreathed round her empty brow; She goeth unwept and lonely To Hades' dusky homes, And bodiless shadows only Bid her welcome as she comes. To show how differently Sappho lamented her favorites, I give Elton's version of another epitaph on a maiden, whom we may fancy lying robed for the grave, while her companions sever their tresses around her, that something of themselves may be entombed with her. This dust was Timas'; ere her bridal hour She lies in Proserpina's gloomy bower; Her virgin playmates from each lovely head Cut with sharp steel their locks, the strewments for the dead. These are only fragments; but of the single complete poem that remains to us from Sappho, I shall venture
Ovid (Michigan, United States) (search for this): chapter 11
before Pericles. Her father's name is variously given, and we can only hope, in charity, that it was not Scamandronimus. We have no better authority than that of Ovid for saying that he died when his daughter was six years old. Her mother's name was Cleis, and Sappho had a daughter of the same name. The husband of the poetess w the Christian Father, fixed her name in ecclesiastical tradition as that of an impure and love-sick woman who sings her own shame. Tatian, Adv. Grecos, c. 33. Ovid, Heroid., 15.61-70. The process has, alas! plenty of parallels in history. Worse, for instance, than the malice of the Greek comedians or of Ovid — since theOvid — since they possibly believed their own stories — was the attempt made by Voltaire to pollute, through twenty-one books of an epic poem, the stainless fame of his own virgin country-woman, Joan of Arc. In that work he revels in a series of impurities so loathsome that the worst of them are omitted from the common editions, and only lurk in <
Southampton (United Kingdom) (search for this): chapter 11
ed protector! It is safe to say that there is not a lyrical poem in Greek literature, nor in any other, which has, by its artistic structure, inspired more enthusiasm than this. Is it autobiographical? The German critics, true to their national instincts, hint that she may have written some of her verses in her character of pedagogue, as exercises in different forms of verse. It is as if Shakespeare had written his sonnet, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? only to show young Southampton where the rhymes came in. Still more difficult is it to determine the same question — autobiographical or dramatic?-in case of the fragment next in length to this poem. It has been well ingrafted into English literature through the translation of Ambrose Philips, as follows:-- To a beloved woman. Blest as the immortal gods is he, The youth who fondly sits by thee, And hears and sees thee, all the while, Softly speak and sweetly smile. 'T was that deprived my soul of rest, And raised
hrough all my vital frame; On my dim eyes a darkness hung; My ears with hollow murmurs rung. With dewy damps my limbs were chilled; My blood with gentle horrors thrilled; My feeble pulse forgot to play; I fainted, sunk, and died away. The translation would give the impression that this is a complete poem ; but it is not. A fragment of the next verse brings some revival from this desperate condition, but what exit is finally provided does not appear. The existing lines are preserved by Longinus in the eighth chapter of his famous book, On the sublime ; and his commentary is almost as impassioned as the poem. Is it not wonderful how she calls at once on soul, body, ears, tongue, eyes, color,--as on so many separate deaths,and how in self-contradiction and simultaneously she freezes, she glows, she raves, she returns to reason, she is terrified, she is at the brink of death? It is not a single passion that she exhibits, but a whole congress of passions. The poem thus described, w
Ptolemy Hephestion (search for this): chapter 11
t the most lovelorn lady, residing on an island whose every shore was a precipice, and where her lover was at hand to feel the anguish of her fate, would take ship and sail for weary days over five hundred miles of water to seek a more sensational rock. Theodor Kock, the latest German writer on Sappho, thinks it is as if a lover should travel from the Rhine to Niagara to drown himself. Are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus? More solid, negative proof is found in the fact that Ptolemy Hephestion, the author who has collected the most numerous notices of the Leucadian leap, entirely omits the conspicuous name of Sappho from his record. Even Colonel Mure, who is as anxious to prove this deed against her as if it were a violation of all the ten commandments, is staggered for a moment by this omission ; but soon recovering himself, with an ingenuity that does him credit as attorney for the prosecution, he points out that the reason Ptolemy omitted Sappho's name was undoubtedly be
ss of the world was born. Let us now turn and look upon her in her later abode of Mitylene; either in some garden of orange and myrtle, such as once skirted the city, or in that marble house which she called the dwelling of the Muses. *mousopo/lwZZZ oi)ki/an.> Let us call around her, in fancy, the maidens who have come from different parts of Greece to learn of her. Anactoria is here from Miletus, Eunica from Salamis, Gongyla from Colophon, and others from Pamphylia and the isle of Telos. Erinna and Damophyla. study together the complex Sapphic metres: Atthis learns how to strike the harp with the plectron, Sappho's invention; Mnasidica embroiders a sacred robe for the temple. The teacher meanwhile corrects the measures of one, the notes of another, the stitches of a third, then summons all from their work to rehearse together some sacred chorus or temple ritual; then stops to read a verse of her own, or-must I say it?--to denounce a rival preceptress. For if the too-fascinating
hat even the harshest voice or most awkward recital can hardly render it unpleasing to the ear. Let us hope that the Muses may extend some such grace, even to a translation. Hymn to Aphrodite. Beautiful-throned, immortal Aphrodite! Daughter of Zeus, beguiler, I implore thee, Weigh me not down with weariness and anguish, O thou most holy! Come to me now! if ever thou in kindness Hearkenedst my words,--and often hast thou hearkened, Heeding, and coming from the mansions golden Of thy great Fughts and dreams that draw round us with the shadows and vanish with the dawn. Achilles Tatius, in the fifth century, gave in prose the substance of one of Sappho's poems, not otherwise preserved. It may be called The song of the rose. If Zeus had wished to appoint a sovereign over the flowers, he would have made the rose their king. It is the ornament of the earth, the glory of plants, the eye of the flowers, the blush of the meadows, a flash of beauty. It breathes of love, welcomes
d. Anacreon was a child, or perhaps unborn, when they died; and Pindar was a pupil of women who seem to have been Sappho's imitators, Myrtis and Corinna. The Latin poets Horace and Catullus, five or six centuries after, drew avowedly from these Aeolian models, to whom nearly all their metres have been traced back. Horace wrote of Alcaeus: The Lesbian poet sang of war amid the din of arms, or when he had bound the storm-tossed ship to the moist shore, he sang of Bacchus, and the Muses, of Venus and the boy who clings forever by her side, and of Lycus, beautiful with his black hair and black eyes. Carm. 1.32.5. But the name of the Greek singer is still better preserved to Anglo-Saxons through an imitation of a single fragment by Sir William Jones,--the noble poem beginning What constitutes a state? It is worth while to remember that we owe these fine lines to the lover of Sappho. And indeed the poems of Alcaeus, so far as they remain, show much of the grace and elegance of Hora
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