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Life's idle business at one gasp be o'er,
The Muse forgot, and thou belov'd no more!
SAPPHO TO PHAON.
THE FIFTEENTH OF OVID'S EPISTLES.
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 choose,
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.
I burn, I burn, as when through ripen'd corn
By driving winds the spreading flames are borne!
Phaon to Etna's scorching fields retires,
While I consume with more than Etna's fires!
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 passion 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! [prise,
Whom would not all those blooming charms sur-
Those heavenly looks, and dear deluding eyes?
The harp and bow would you like Phœbus 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.
The Muses teach me all their softest lays,
And the wide world resounds with Sappho's praise.
Though great Alcæus 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 heaven itself, and earth's remotest ends.
Brown as I am, an Ethiopian dame
Inspir'd young Perseus with a generous flame;
Turtles and doves of different 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 centred 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 stop'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.
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 died away.
The fair Sicilians now thy soul inflame;
Why was I born, ye gods! a Lesbian dame?
But ah, beware, Sicilian nymphs! nor boast
That wandering 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?
Inur'd to sorrow from my tender years,
My parents' ashes drank my early tears:
My brother next, neglecting wealth and fame,
Ignobly burn'd in a destructive flame:
An infant daughter late my griefs increas'd,
And all a mother's cares distract my breast.
Alas! what more could fate itself impose,
But thee, the last, and greatest of my woes?
No more my robes in waving purple flow,
Nor on my hand the sparkling di'monds glow;
No more my locks in ringlets curl'd diffuse
The costly sweetness of Arabian dews,
Nor braids of gold the varied tresses bind,
That fly disorder'd with the wanton wind:
For whom should Sappho use such arts as these?
He's gone, whom only she desir'd to please!
Cupid's light darts my tender bosom move;
Still is there cause for Sappho still to love:
So from my birth the sisters fix'd my doom,
And gave to Venus all my life to come;
Or, while my Muse in melting notes complains,
My yielding heart keeps measure to my strains.
By charms like thine which all my soul have won,
Who might not-ah! who would not be undone?
For those Aurora Cephalus might scorn,
And with fresh blushes paint the conscious morn.
For those might Cynthia lengthen Phaon's sleep,
And bid Endymion nightly tend his sheep.
Venus for those had rapt thee to the skies;
But Mars on thee might look with Venus' eyes.
O scarce a youth, yet scarce a tender boy!
O useful time for lovers to employ !
Pride of thy age, and glory of thy race,
Come to these arms, and melt in this embrace!
The vows you never will return, receive;
And take, at least, the love you will not give.
See, while I write, my words are lost in tears!
The less my sense, the more my love appears.
Sure 'twas not much to bid one kind adieu,
(At least to feign was never hard to you)
Farewell, my Lesbian love,' you might have said; Or coldly thus, Farewell, O Lesbian maid!' No tear did you, no parting kiss receive, Nor knew I then how much I was to grieve. No lover's gift your Sappho could confer, And wrongs and woes were all you left with her. No charge I gave you, and no charge could give, But this, Be mindful of our loves, and live.' Now by the Nine, those powers ador'd by me, And Love, the god that ever waits on thee, When first I heard (from whom I hardly knew) That you were fled, and all my joys with you, Like some sad statue, speechless, pale, I stood, Grief chill'd my breast, and stop'd my freezing blood; No sigh to rise, no tear had pow'r to flow, Fix'd in a stupid lethargy of woe:
But when its way the' impetuous passion found,
I rend my tresses, and my breast I wound ;
I rave, then weep; I curse, and then complain;
Now swell to rage, now melt in tears again.
Not fiercer pangs distract the mournful dame,
Whose first-born infant feeds the funeral flame.
My scornful brother with a smile appears,
Insults my woes, and triumphs in my tears,
His hated image ever haunts my eyes;
And why this grief? thy daughter lives,' he cries.
Stung with my love, and furious with despair,
All torn my garments, and my bosom bare,
My woes, thy crimes, I to the world proclaim,
Such inconsistent things are love and shame!
'Tis thou art all my care and my delight,
My daily longing, and my dream by night :
O night more pleasing than the brightest day,
When fancy gives what absence takes away,
And, dress'd in all its visionary charms,
Restores my fair deserter to my arms!
Then round your neck in wanton wreaths I twine,
Then you, methinks, as fondly circle mine:
A thousand tender words I hear and speak;
A thousand melting kisses give and take:
Then fiercer joys, I blush to mention these,
Yet, while I blush, confess how much they please,
But when, with day, the sweet delusions fly,
And all things wake to life and joy but I,
As if once more forsaken, I complain,
And close my eyes to dream of you again :
Then frantic rise, and like some fury rove
Through lonely plains, and through the silent grove;
As if the silent grove, and lonely plains,
That knew my pleasures, could relieve my pains.