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For other versions of this work, see Sappho (Poetic Sketches).
For works with similar titles, see Poetic Sketches (L. E. L.).
For works with similar titles, see Sappho.


Literary Gazette, 4th May, 1822, Page 282



Second Series - Sketch the First.


- - - - She was one
Whose lyre the spirit of sweet song had hung
With myrtle and with laurel; on whose head
Genius had shed his starry glories - - -
"- - - transcripts of woman's loving heart
And woman's disappointment." - - - -

She leant upon her harp, and thousands looked
On her in love and wonder—thousands knelt
And worshipp'd in her presence—burning tears,
And words that died in utterance, and a pause
Of breathless, agitated eagerness,
First gave the full heart's homage: then came forth
A shout that rose to heaven; and the hills,
The distant valleys, all rang with the name
Of the Æolian Sappho—every heart
Found in itself some echo to her song.
Low notes of love—hopes beautiful and fresh,
And some gone by for ever—glorious dreams,
High aspirations, those thrice gentle thoughts
That dwell upon the absent and the dead,
Were breathing in her music—and these are
Chords every bosom vibrates to. But she
Upon whose brow the laurel crown is placed,
Her colour's varying with deep emotion—
There is a softer blush than conscious pride
Upon her cheek, and in that tremulous smile
Is all a woman's timid tenderness:
Her eye is on a Youth, and other days
And young warm feelings have rushed on her soul
With all their former influence,—thoughts that slept
Cold, calm as death, have wakened to new life—
Whole years' existence have passed in that glance . . .
She had once loved in very early days:
That was a thing gone by: one had called forth
The music of her soul: he loved her too,
But not as she did—she was unto him
As a young bird, whose early flight he trained,
Whose first wild song were sweet, for he had taught
Those songs—but she looked up to him with all
Youth's deep and passionate idolatry:

Love was her heart's sole universe—he was
To her, Hope, Genius, Energy, the God
Her inmost spirit worshipped—in whose smile
Was all e'en minstrel pride held precious; praise
Was prized but as the echo of his own.
But other times and other feelings came:
Hope is love's element, and love with her
Sickened of its own vanity . . . . She lived
Mid bright realities and brighter dreams,
Those strange but exquisite imaginings
That tinge with such sweet colours minstrel thoughts;
And Fame, like sunlight, was upon her path;
And strangers heard her name, and eyes that never
Had looked on Sappho, yet had wept with her.
Her first love never wholly lost its power,
But, like rich incense shed, although no trace
Was of its visible presence, yet its sweetness
Mingled with every feeling, and it gave
That soft and melancholy tenderness
Which was the magic of her song . . . . That Youth
Who knelt before her was so like the shape
That haunted her spring dreams—the same dark eyes,
Whose light had once been as the light of heaven!—
Others breathed winning flatteries—she turned
A careless hearing—but when Phaon spoke,
Her heart beat quicker, and the crimson light
Upon her cheek gave a most tender answer . . . .
She loved with all the ardour of a heart
Which lives but in itself: her life had passed
Amid the great creations of the mind:
Love was to her a vision—it was now
Heightened into devotion . . . . But a soul
So gifted and so passionate as her's
Will seek companionship in vain, and find
Its feelings solitary . . . . Phaon soon
Forgot the fondness of his Lesbian maid;
And Sappho knew that genius, riches, fame,
May not soothe slighted love. - - - -
- - - There is a dark rock looks on the blue sea;
'Twas there love's last song echoed—there She sleeps,
Whose lyre was crowned with laurel, and whose name
Will be remembered long as Love or Song
Are sacred—the devoted Sappho! L. E. L.

  1. This poem appeared later in The Vow of the Peacock, and Other Poems (1835)