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Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics

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Cyprus, Paphos, or PanormusMay detain thee with their splendourOf oblations on thine altars,O imperial Aphrodite.

Yet do thou regard, with pity 5For a nameless child of passion,This small unfrequented valleyBy the sea, O sea-born mother.


What shall we do, Cytherea?Lovely Adonis is dying.  Ah, but we mourn him!

Will he return when the AutumnPurples the earth, and the sunlight 5  Sleeps in the vineyard?

Will he return when the WinterHuddles the sheep, and Orion  Goes to his hunting?

Ah, but thy beauty, Adonis, 10With the soft spring and the south wind,  Love and desire!


Power and beauty and knowledge,—Pan, Aphrodite, or Hermes,—Whom shall we life-loving mortals  Serve and be happy?

Lo now, your garlanded altars, 5Are they not goodly with flowers?Have ye not honour and pleasure  In lovely Lesbos?

Will ye not, therefore, a littleHearten, impel, and inspire 10One who adores, with a favour  Threefold in wonder?


O Pan of the evergreen forest,Protector of herds in the meadows,Helper of men at their toiling,—Tillage and harvest and herding,—How many times to frail mortals 5  Hast thou not hearkened!

Now even I come before theeWith oil and honey and wheat-bread,Praying for strength and fulfilmentOf human longing, with purpose 10Ever to keep thy great worship  Pure and undarkened.

* * * * *

O Hermes, master of knowledge,Measure and number and rhythm,Worker of wonders in metal, 15Moulder of malleable music,So often the giver of secret  Learning to mortals!

Now even I, a fond woman,Frail and of small understanding, 20Yet with unslakable yearningGreatly desiring wisdom,Come to the threshold of reason  And the bright portals.

* * * * *

And thou, sea-born Aphrodite, 25In whose beneficent keepingEarth, with her infinite beauty,Colour and fashion and fragrance,Glows like a flower with fervour  Where woods are vernal! 30

Touch with thy lips and enkindleThis moon-white delicate body,Drench with the dew of enchantmentThis mortal one, that I alsoGrow to the measure of beauty 35  Fleet yet eternal.


O Aphrodite,God-born and deathless,Break not my spiritWith bitter anguish:Thou wilful empress, 5I pray thee, hither!

As once aforetimeWell thou didst hearkenTo my voice far off,—Listen, and leaving 10Thy father's goldenHouse in yoked chariot,

Come, thy fleet sparrowsBeating the mid-airOver the dark earth. 15Suddenly near me,Smiling, immortal,Thy bright regard asked

What had befallen,—Why I had called thee,— 20What my mad heart thenMost was desiring."What fair thing wouldst thouLure now to love thee?

"Who wrongs thee, Sappho? 25If now she flies thee,Soon shall she follow;—Scorning thy gifts now,Soon be the giver;—And a loth loved one 30

"Soon be the lover."So even now, too,Come and release meFrom mordant love pain,And all my heart's will 35Help me accomplish!


Peer of the gods he seems,Who in thy presenceSits and hears close to himThy silver speech-tonesAnd lovely laughter....