Friday, January 6, 2017

On Sappho

The Sappho of Bliss Carman

by Florence Earle Coates

The Reader, January 1904: 198-199.

"ALL art," says Schiller, "is dedicated to joy." Surely it was a gift of fortune to receive the name Bliss Carman—a name, in its melodious utterance, suggestive of song; and, through the exercise of faculties as fortunate, that name has now become familiar to all lovers of literature and art. The day has gone by when Mr. Carman's verse required an introduction; for the remnant who care for poetry (at a time when, as Mr. Stedman tells us, the Muse sits neglected in the hemicycle of the arts) care especially for his, and extend to it an appreciative welcome. They realize that the higher order of verse is written to-day—can be written—by few; and that, however careless or indifferent we may be regarding it, poetry is a necessity of our nature, "its object truth, its office to purify the passions." [read more...]


AS a wan weaver in an attic dim,
Hopeless yet patient, so he may be fed
With scanty store of sorrow-seasoned bread,
Heareth a blithe bird carol over him;
And sees no longer walls and rafters grim,
But rural lanes where little feet are led,
Through springing flowers, fields with clover spread,
Clouds, swan-like, that o'er depths of azure swim;—

So when upon our earth-dulled ear new breaks
Some fragment, Sappho, of thy skyey song,
A noble wonder in our souls awakes;

The deathless Beautiful draws strangely nigh,
And we look up, and marvel how so long
We were content to toil for sordid joys that die.
"Sappho" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in The Atlantic Monthly (February 1890), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

The Death of Sappho (ca. 1872)
by Gustave Moreau


HOW glad you must be to lie at rest,
Forgetful of him whom you loved so,
Of him who loved you not:
To leave all the watching and waiting,
The hoping and doubting, behind you—
To know no more of the longing
That burned like a fire at your heart!

How glad you must be to lose yourself—
Utterly, utterly, Sappho,
In sleep that is sleep indeed!—
To turn from the pain and the passion,
The dreams of delight that, on waking,
But mocked you and left you more lonely—
The visions that ever betrayed!

How glad, after all—oh, how glad to forget
The golden one, dread Aphrodite!—
The laughter deceitful and sweet
Wherewith from her own glowing bosom
She gave the red rose that consumed you,
Whose fire only floods all-embracing
Could cool, as they rocked you in sleep!

Hereafter for others her emblem shall bloom:
For others shall be the delusion,
The torturing doubt, the despair;
But you, cradled deep mid the waters,
Naught heeding of ebb-tide or flowing,
Your heart pulsing not with their pulsing,—
You, Sappho, untroubled shall rest.
"To Sappho Dead" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Poems (1916) Volume I.

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