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Sappho’s Ode


The gods no purer transport prove
Than he who at thy feet reclin’d,
Dares banquet on thy whisper kind,
Thy smile of love!

But when my glowing heart beats high—
I see thee, and my soul resign;
I hear thee, and no voice but thine,
While thou art by:

My falt’ring tongue forgets its art,
Quick fires thro’ ev’ry fibre dart:
Dim are my eyes—a hollow sound
I hear around—

Cold damps my pallid brow invade,
My strength recedes—my senses fade—
 . . I die. . .


Hymn Ascribed to Alceus*


To Harmodius and Aristogiton

In consecrated myrtle drest
Immortal Youths! I bear my sword,
As when ye pierc’d the Tyrant’s breast
And Athens’ sacred laws restor’d.
Harmodius, ever lov’d and blest!
Thou are not dead—in blissful tales
Thy spirit dwells, a kindred guest,
Where fleet Achilles deigns to rest,
And Diomede in triumph smiles.
In myrtle wreaths my sword I twine,
Such as their country’s champions bore,
When at Minerva’s blushing shrine
They bath’d them in a Tyrant’s gore.
For ever honour’d, ever blest!
May fame your cherish’d names record:
Ye pierc’d the Tyrant’s iron breast
And Athens’ sacred laws restor’d!

* Erat hoc Σϰολιον Athenis ita celebre, ut in omnibus conviviis cantari solitum esset. Hic fortasse ductus est mos, ut qui in convivio Σϰολιον aliquod cantaret, semper manu teneret myrti ramum, quod in hoc Σϰολιο ex se initium habuisse videtur.

 Lowth’s Praelec. Acad. 19th page.


The 19th Idyl of Theocritus*

Cupid’s Visit

Sly Cupid, the veriest robber alive,
Was stung by a bee as he plunder’d the hive;
At the ends of his fingers he felt the smart wound,
He rav’d, sprang, and shook them, and danc’d on the ground:
Then to Venus complain’d that so puny a thing,
Such wounds such inflict as the bee with his sting;
She laughingly reply’d—”are not you little too?
Yet who gives, O Cupid! wounds deeper than you?”

* In this idyll Theocritus has imitated the 40th ode of Anacreon palpably, but not ungracefully. Theocritus flourished 189 years later than Anacreon.


The 30th Idyl of Theocritus

The Death of Adonis

When hapless Cytherea view’d
Her lov’d Adonis dead,
His scatter’d locks in gore imbru’d,
His cheeks’ vermillion fled;
She bade her subject Cupids guide,
The murd’rous savage to her side.

Quick as the natives of the sky,
Her messengers of vengeance fly,
Where in the covert of the wood,
The guilty boar lamenting stood.
With many a wreath of roses twin’d,
The captive criminal they bind;
One leads him from his dark retreat,
To weeping Cytherea’s feet;
One scourges with his silver bow,
The shoulders of the yielding foe:
Soft tears bedew his amber eyes,
While trembling at her feet he lies.

Then spoke the goddess—”O disgrace,
O direst of the savage race!
Could’s thou these beauteous limbs profane?
Hast thou my lov’d Adonis slain?”
The captive boar replied—”I swear,
O Venus, by thy best belov’d,
And by the gentle chains I bear,
And by this band of hunters fair,
 That with no hostile fury mov’d,
 I view’d they husband’s beauteous form;
But as in easy slumber laid,
His waxlike image I survey’d,
 My lips with mad ambition warm,
First to his fair unguarded side,
A fond, a fatal kiss applied.”

“Take thee the forfeit, queen of love!
These teeth, these guilty teeth remove—
Ah! wherefore should I now retain,
The busy authors of my pain?
Or would’s thou ask an ampler price,
Let these enamour’d lips suffice!”
 Soft Venus heard—with smile benign
 She bade the Loves his chain unbind:
But from that hour his native plain,
He left to join her gentle train;
 And on her ever-burning shrine,
 His fond and fatal teeth resign’d.