15 Mar 2017
LOVE PSALMS FOR INSPIRATION
Pale death shall come, and thou and thine shall be,
Then and thereafter, to all memory
Forgotten as the wind that yesterday
Blew the last lingering apple buds away;
For thou hadst never that undying rose
To grace the brow and shed immortal glows;
Pieria’s fadeless flower that few may claim
To wreathe and save thy unremembered name.
Ay! even on the fields of Dis unknown,
Obscure among the shadows and alone,
Thy flitting shade shall pass uncomforted
Of any heed from all the flitting dead.
But no one maid, I think, beneath the skies,
At any time shall live and be as wise,
In sooth, as I am; for the Muses Nine
Have made me honored and their gifts are mine;
And men, I think, will never quite forget
My songs or me; so long as stars shall set
Or sun shall rise, or hearts feel love’s desire,
My voice shall cross their dreams, a sigh of fire.
I saw a tender maiden plucking flowers
Once, long ago, in the bright morning hours;
And then from heaven I saw a sudden cloud
Fall swift and dark, and heard her cry aloud.
Again I looked, but from my open door
My anxious eyes espied the maid no more;
The cloud had vanished, bearing her away
To underlands beyond the smiling day.
Do I long for maidenhood?
Do I long for days
When upon the mountain slope
I would stand and gaze
Over the Ægean’s blue
Melting into mist,
Ere with love my virgin lips
Cercolas had kissed?
Maidenhood, O maidenhood,
Whither hast thou flown?
To a land beyond the sea
Thou hast never known.
Maidenhood, O maidenhood,
Wilt return to me?
Never will my bloom again
Give its grace to thee.
Now the autumn skies are low,
Youth and summer sped;
Shepherd hills are far away,
Cercolas is dead.
Mitylene’s marble courts
Echo with my name;—
Maidenhood, we never dreamed,
Long ago of fame.
THE BOAST OF ARES
Ares said he would drag
Hephestus by force
From Poseidon’s palace
Deep down in the sea;
Where he had fashioned
The cunning throne
With the secret chains.
He presented the throne,
Forsooth, as a gift
To the queen of heaven;
But Hera soon found
For revenge on her
Who had him cast
From the home of Gods.
For secure in its clasp
Of adamant gold
She was held imprisoned,
The prey of his guile;
And Hephestus knew
By him alone
Could the queen be freed.
But the great God of war
Made boast of his strength;
He would bring the forger
Of metals and tricks
On high to release
Hera, and end
Her enraged despair.
Ares said he would drag
Hephestus by force,
But was made to waver
And flee when assailed
With a blazing brand
By the dark God
Of the underworld.
EROTIKA DITHYRAMBS HYMN TO PAPHIA
Immortal Paphia! have I earned thy hate,
That I should burn in passion’s fatal flame?
Is not my constant service thine to claim,
My prayer’s appeal with praise of thee elate?
Has not my life been one sole hymn of thee,
One quivering chord on Love’s harp overwrought?
My soul has trembled up to thee in thought,
Probed to its depth thy every ecstasy.
Are not my countless heart-beats each a vow,
Of tribute throbs a garland? For thy gain
The Fates have drenched my soul in passion’s rain,
Pieria’s roses twined about my brow.
The virgin harvest of my heart was thine,
I shuddered in the joy that half consumed;
The votive garlands on thy altar bloomed,
My days were songs to nights of bliss divine.
Why try me, then, with torture, gracious Queen?
Why verge me on this rapture’s dread abyss,
Hold breast from breast and stay the yearning kiss?
Ah, couldst thou fashion pain that stung less keen?
The throe of Tantalus is mine to bear,
Beauty that Thetis-like eludes my clasp;
Glances that lure, that make each breath a gasp,
And then disdainful gloat at my despair.
Scornful she dwells beyond my ardor’s clutch,
Bathed in an aureole of carnal fire;—
O bind her equal slave to fond desire,
Let passion’s tingling warmth her being touch!
Come to me, Goddess, come as once of old,
Hearing my voice implore thee from afar,
I drew to earth thy dazzling avatar;
Accord the smile of piercing bliss untold.
Ask me the dear suave question phrased of yore;
“Sappho, who grieveth now thy mad fond heart?
Wouldst win her beauty, she who frowns apart?
Wild as thou lovest, she soon shall love thee more.”
O fair Olympian, answer thus, I pray!
Release me from this torment, yield my arms
The transport thirsted of her folded charms,
In glow that welds her heart to mine for aye.
Now Love shakes my soul, a mighty
Wind from the high mountain falling
Full on the oaks of the forest;
Now, limb-relaxing, it masters
My life and implacable thrills me,
Rending with anguish and rapture.
Now my heart, paining my bosom,
Pants with desire as a mænad
Mad for the orgiac revel.
Now under my skin run subtle
Arrows of flame, and my body
Quivers with surge of emotion.
Now long importunate yearnings
Vanquish with surfeit my reason;
Fainting my senses forsake me.
O Sappho, why art thou ever
Singing with praises the blessed
Queen of the heaven?
Why does the heart in thy bosom
Ever revert in its yearning
Throb to the Goddess?
Why are thy senses unsated
Ever in quest of elusive
Love that is deathless?
Ah, gracious Daughter of Cyprus,
Never can I as a mortal
Tire of thy service.
Thou art the breath of my body,
The blood in my veins, and the glowing
Pulse of my bosom.
Omnipotent, burning, resistless,
Thou art the passion that shaking
Masters me ever.
Thou art the crisis of rapture
Relaxing my limbs, and the melting
Ebb of emotion;
Bringing the tears to my lashes,
Sighs to my lips, in the swooning
Excess of passion.
O golden-crowned Aphrodite,
Grant I shall ever be grateful,
Sure of thy favor;
Worthy the lot of thy priestess,
Supreme in the song that forever
Rings with thy praises.
Upon a cushion soft
My limbs I place,
My every garment doffed
For deeper grace;
From burning doves embalmed
The scented fumes have calmed
Me like a kiss.
Beyond the phallic shrine
That tripods light,
I pledge with holy wine
An image white;
Than foam more fair,
When from the ravished sea
She rose to air.
Daughter of God, accept
These gifts of mine!
Last night my body slept
In arms divine.
These sated lips and eyes
That erstwhile sued,
Accord this sacrifice
Cold of heart and strangely
Uninclined to passion,
Wisdom’s vigil leaves thee,
Sapphics thou hast written,
Verses in my metre,
With a skill surpassing
In the melic art.
Love’s superb enchantment
Thou art fain to banish,
Like the virgin Huntress
Long by thee adored.
Molded by thy tunic,
Every arching contour
Of her chaste and noble
Form I dream to see;
Even view her stepping
From the leafy covert
Down the dawn-white valley,
Stately as a stag.
Long I sued but found thee
Deaf to all entreaty,
Till one summer twilight
Listless in the heat;
Soothed by slumber’s languor,
And my low monodic
Voice that hymned a pæan
In the praise of love;
Loth to yield yet vanquished,
As I knelt beside thee,
All thy long resistance
To my kiss succumbed.
Beloved, stand face to face,
And, lifting lids, disclose to me the grace,
The Paphic fire that lingers yet and lies
Reflected in thy eyes.
Phaon, my sole beloved,
Stand not to my mad passion all unmoved;
O let, ere thou to far Panormus sail,
One hour of love prevail.
Dear ingrate, come and let
Thy breath like odor from a cassolet,
Thy smile, the clinging touch of lips and heart
Anoint me, ere we part.
Phaon, I yearn and seek
But thee alone; and what I feel must speak
In all these fond and wilful ways of mine,
O mortal, made divine!
My girl friends now no more
Hang their sweet gifts of garlands at my door;
Dear maids, with all your vanished empery
Ye now are naught to me.
Phaon, thy galley rides
Within the harbor’s mouth and waits the tides
And favoring winds, far to the west to fly
And leave me here to die.
The brawny rowers lean
To bend long-stroking oars; and changing scene
And fairer loves than mine shall soon efface
This last divine embrace.
Phaon, the lifting breeze!
See, at thy feet I kneel and clasp thy knees!
Go not, go not! O hear my sobbing prayer,
And yield to my despair!
Dark-eyed Sleep, child of Night,
Come in thy shadow garment to my couch,
And with thy soothing touch,
Cool as the vesper breeze,
Grant that I may forget;
Bestow condign release,
A taste of rest that comes with endless sleep;
Lure off the haunting dreams,
The dire Eumenides
That torture my repose.
For I would live a space
Though Phaon has forsaken me, nor yet
Be found on shadow fields
Among the lilies tall
Of pale Persephone.