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Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.
VIRG. Æn. 1. ver. 112. “ One here and there floats on the vast abyss.”.
Among the mutilated poets of antiquity, there is none whose fragments are so beautiful as those of Sappho. They give us a taste of her way of writing, which is perfeály conformable with that extraordinary character we find of her, in the remarks of those great critics who were conversant with her works when they were intire. One
may see by what is left of them, that The followed nature in all her thoughts, without descending to those little points, conceits, and turns of wit, with which many of our modern lyrics are so miserably infected. Her soul seems to have been made up of love and poetry : she felt the passion in all its warmtki
, and described it in all its symptoms. She is called by ancient authors the tenth muse; and by Plutarch is compared to Cacus the son of Vulcan, who breathed out nothing but fame. I do not know by the character that is given of her works, whether it is not for the benefit of mankind that they are lost. They were filled with such bewitching tenderness and rapture, that it might have been dangerous to have given them a reading.
An inconstant lover, called Phaon, occasioned great calamities to this poetical lady. She fell desperately in love with him, and took a voyage into Sicily, in' pursuit of him, he having withdrawn himself thither on purpose to avoid her. It was in that island, and on this occasion, she is supposed to have made the hymn to Venus, with a translation of which I shall present my reader. Her hymn was ineffectual for the procuring that happiness which she prayed for in it. Phaon was still obdurate, and Sappho fo transported with the violence of her pasfion, that she was resolved to get rid of it at any price.
There was a promontory in Acarnania called Leucate, on the top of which was a little temple dedicated to Apollo. In this temple it was usual for despairing lovers to make their vows in secret, and afterwards to fling themselves from the top of the precipice into the sea, where they were sometimes taken up alive. This place was therefore called “ The Lover's Leap;" and whether
or no the fright they had been in, or the resolution that could push them to so dreadful a remedy, or the bruises which they often received in their fall, banished all the tender sentiments of love, and gave their spirits another turn ; those who had taken this leap were observed never to relapse into that paffion. Sappho tried the cure, but perished in the experiment.
After having given this short account of Sappho, so far as it regards the following ode, I shall subjoin the translation of it as it was sent me by a friend, whose admirable pastorals and Winter-piece have been already so well received. The reader will find in it that pathetic fimplicity which is fo peculiar to hin, and fo suitable to the ode he has here translated. This ode in the Greek, besides those beauties observed by madam Dacier, has several harmonious turns in the words, which are not loft in the English. I must farther add, that the translation has preserved every image and sentiment of Sappho, notwithstanding it has all the ease and spirit of an original. In a word, if the ladies have a mind to know the manner of writing practised by the so much celebrated Sappho, they may here fee it in its genuine and natural beauty, without any foreign or affected ornaments.
An HYMN to VENUS.
I. “ O Venus, beauty of the skies, “ To whom a thousand temples rise,
Gaily false in gentle smiles, " Full of love-perplexing wiles ; “ O goddess ! from my heart remove “ The wasting cares and pains of love.
II. “ If ever thou hast kindly heard “ A song in soft distress preferr’d, “ Propitious to my tuneful vow, “ O gentle goddess ! hear me now. “ Defcend thou bright, immortal guest, “ In all thy radiant charms confeft.
III. “ Thou once didst leave almighty Jove, “ And all the golden roofs above : " The car thy wanton sparrows drew, “ Hov'ring in air they lightly flew; " As to my bow'r they wing'd their way, “ I saw their quiv'ring pinions play.
IV. “ The birds dismiss'd (wbile you remain) " Bore back their empty car again : “ Then you, with looks divinely mild, “ In ev'ry heav'nly feature smild, “ And ask'd what new complaints I made, “ And why I calld you to my aid ?
V. “ What frenzy in my bofom rag'd, “ And by what cure to be afswag'd ? “ What gentle youth I would allure, " Whom in my artful toils secure ? “ Who does thy tender heart subdue, “ Tell me, ny Sappho, tell nie, who?
VI. is Tho' now he shuns thy longing arms, “ He soon shall court thy fighted charms ; “ Thoʼnow thy off’rings he despise, “ He soon to thee shall facrifice ; 4. Tho' now he freeze, he soon shall burn, “ And be thy viction in his turn.
VII. “ Celestial visitant, once more « Thy needful presence I implore ! “ In pity come and ease my grief,
Bring my distemper'd soul relief, “ Favour thy suppliant's hidden fires, “ And give me all my heart desires."
Madam Dacier observes, there is something very pretty in that circumstance of this ode, wherein Venus is described as fending away her chariot upon her arrival at Sappho's lodgings, to denote that it was not a short transient visit which the intended to make her, This 'ode was preserved by an eminent Greek critic,
who inserted it intire in his works, as a pattern
perfection in the structure of it.
Longinus has quoted another ode of this great poetess, which is likewise admirable in its kind, and has been translated by the same hand with the foregoing one.
I Shall oblige my reader with it in another paper. In the mean wbile, I cannot but wonder, that these two finithed pieces have never been attempted before by any of our own countrymen. But the truth of it is, the compositions of the ancients, which have not in them any of those unnatural witticisms that are the delight of ordinary readers, are extremely difficult to render into another tongue, so as the beauties of the original may not appear weak and faded in the translation.
Friday, November 16.
- Fulgente trabit constrictos gloria curru Non minùs ignotos generofis— Hor. Sat. 6. I. 1. V. 23. -Glory's shining chariot swiftly draws
With equal whirl the noble and the base. Creech. If we look abroad upon the great multitude of mankind, and endeavour to trace out the principles of action in every individual, it will, I think, seem highly probable that ambition runs through the whole species, and that every man in proportion to the vigour of his complexion is more or less actuated by it. It is indeed no uncommon thing to meet with men, who by the natural bent of their inclinations, and without the discipline of philosophy, aspire not to the heights of power and grandeur ; who never fet their hearts upon a numerous train of clients and dependencies, nor other gay appendages of greatness ; who are contented with a competency,and will not moleft their tranquillity to gain an abundance : but it is not therefore to be concluded that such a man is not ambitious : his desires may have cut out another channel, and determined him to other pursuits'; the motive however may be still the same; and
in these cases likewise the man may be equally pushed on with the desire of distinction.
Though the pure consciousness of worthy actions, abstracted from the views of popular applause, be to a generous mind an ample reward, yet the desire of diftinction was doubtless implanted in our natures as an additional incentive to exert ourselves in virtuous excellence.
This passion indeed, like all others, is frequently perverted to evil and ignoble purposes ; so that we may account for many of the excellencies and follies of life, upon the same innate principle, to wit, the desire of being remarkable : for this, as it has been differently cultivated by education, study and converse, will bring forth suitable effects as it falls in with an ingenuous disposition, or a corrupt mind ; it does accordingly express itTelf in acts of magnanimity or selfish cunning, as it meets with a good or weak understanding. As it has been employed in embellishing the mind, or adorning the outside, it renders the man eminently praise-worthy or ridiculous. Ambition therefore is not to be confined only to one passion or pursuit ; for as the same humours, in constitutions otherwise different, affect the body after different manners, so the same aspiring principle within us sometimes breaks forth upon one object, Tometimes
It cannot be doubted, but that there is as great a defire of glory in a ring of wrestlers or cudgel players, as in any other more refined competition for fuperiority. No man that could avoid it, would ever fuffer his head to be broken but out of a principle of honour. This is the secret spring that pufhes them forward ; and the fuperiority which they gain above the undistinguished ma ny, does more than repair those wounds they have received in the combat. It is Mr. Waller's opinion, that Julius Cæsar, had he not been master of the Roman empire, would in all probability have made an excellent wrestler.
“ Great Julius, on the mountains bred,