Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Gwinifrid will not lofe me afterwards. Pray be speedy in your answers, for I am in crete haste, and it is my tesires to do my pusiness without loss of time. I remain with cordial affections, your ever lofing friend, DAVYTH AP SHENKYN."

"P. S. My law-suits have brought me to London, but I have lost my causes; and so have made my resolutions to go down and leap before the frosts begin; for I am apt to take colds."

Ridicule, perhaps, is a better expedient against love than sober advice, and I am of opinion that Hudibras and Don Quixote may be as effectual to cure the extravagances of this passion, as any of the old philosophers. I shall therefore pub lish, very speedily, the translation of a little Greek manuscript, which is sent me by a learned friend. It appears to have been a piece of those records which were kept in the little temple of Apollo, that stood upon the promontory of Leucate. The reader will find it to be the summary account of several persons who tried the lover's leap, and of the success they found in it. As there seem to be in it some anachronisms and deviations from the ancient orthography, I am not wholly satisfied myself that it is authentic, and not rather the production of one of those Grecian sophisters, who have imposed upon the world several spurious works of this nature. I speak this by way of precaution, because I know there are several writers of uncommon erudition, who would not fail to expose my ignorance, if they caught me tripping in a matter of so great moment.

C.

NO 229. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22.

-Spirat adhuc amor

Vivuntque commissi calores

Eoliæ fidibus puellæ.

HOR. 4 Od. ix. 10.

Sappho's charming lyre

Preserves her soft desire,

And tunes our ravish'd souls to love.

CREECH.

AMONG the many famous pieces of antiquity which are still to be seen at Rome, there is the trunk of a statue which has lost the arms, legs, and head; but discovers such an exquisite workmanship in what remains of it, that Michael Angelo declared he had learned his whole art from it. Indeed he studied it so attentively, that he made most of his statues, and even his pictures in that Gusto, to make use of the Italian phrase; for which reason this maimed statue is still called Michael Angelo's school.'

A fragment of Sappho, which I design for the subject of this paper, is in as great reputation among the poets and critics, as the mutilated figure above-mentioned is among the statuaries and painters. Several of our countrymen, and Mr. Dryden in particular, seem very often to have copied after it in their dramatic writings, and in their poems upon love.

Whatever might have been the occasion of this ode, the English reader will enter into the beauties of it, if he supposes it to have been written in the person of a lover sitting by his mistress. I shall set to view three different copies of this beautiful original; the first is a translation by Catullus, the second by Monsieur

'The Torso di Belvidere, in the square vestibule of the Vatican (Museo Clementino). It belonged to a statue of Hercules, by Apollonius, son of Nestor the Athenian, and was found in the baths of Caracalla.-G.

Boileau, and the last by a gentleman whose translation of the Hymn to Venus has been so deservedly admired.1

AD LESBIAM.

Пlle mî par esse deo videtur,
Ille si fas est, superare divos,
Qui sedens adversus identidem te,
Spectat, et audit.

Dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
Eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
Quod loquar amens.?

Lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
Flamma dimanat, sonitu suopte
Tinniunt aures, gemina teguntur
Lumina nocte.

My learned reader will know very well the reason why one of these verses is printed in italic letter; and if he compares this translation with the original, will find that the three first stanzas are rendered almost word for word, and not only with the same elegance, but with the same short turn of expression which is so remarkable in the Greek, and so peculiar to the Sapphic Ode. I cannot imagine for what reason Madam Dacier has told us, that this Ode of Sappho is preserved entire in Longinus, since it is manifest to any one who looks into that author's quotation of it, that there must at least have been another stanza, which is not transmitted to us.

1 Ambrose Philips. V. No. 223.-G.

2 It is wanting in the old copies, and has been supplied by conjecture as above. But in a curious edition of Catullus, published at Venice in 1738, said to be printed from an ancient manuscript newly discovered, this line is given thus-Voce loquendum !—C.

The editor of this 'curious' edition was Corradini de Allio, who though a learned man, stooped to play the impostor by palming off his own conjectures for the readings of a precious Roman manuscript.—G.

The second translation of this fragment, which I shall here eite, is that of Monsieur Boileau.

Heureux! qui près de toi, pour toi seule soupire:

Qui jouit du plaisir de t'entendre parler:
Qui te voit quelquefois doucement lui sourire.
Les Dieux, dans son bonheur, peuvent-ils l'égaler !

Je sens de veine en veine une subtile flamme
Courir par tout mon corps, si-tôt que je te vois :
Et dans les doux transports, où s'égare mon âme,
Je ne saurais trouver de langue, ni de voix.

Un nuage confus se répand sur ma vie,

Je n'entends plus; je tombe en de douces langueurs ;

Et pâle, sans haleine, interdite, éperdue,

Un frisson me saisit, je tremble, je me meurs.

The reader will see that this is rather an imitation than a translation. The circumstances do not lie so thick together, and follow one another with that vehemence and emotion as in the original. In short, Monsieur Boileau has given us all the poetry, but not all the passion of this famous fragment. I shall in the last place present my reader with the English tran lation.

I.

Blest as th' immortal Gods is he,

The youth who fondly sits by thee,
And hears and sees thee all the while

Softly speak and sweetly smile.

II.

"Twas this depriv'd my soul of rest,
And rais'd such tumults in my breast;

For while I gaz'd, in transport tost,
My breath was gone, my voice was lost:

III.

My bosom glow'd; the subtle flame
Ran quick through all my vital frame
O'er my dim eyes a darkness hung;
My ears with hollow murmurs rung.

JV.

In dewy damps my limbs were chill'd;
My blood with gentle horrors thrill'a;
My feeble pulse forgot to play;

I fainted, sunk, and died away.

Instead of giving any character of this last translation, I shal desire my learned reader to look into the criticisms which Lon ginus has made upon the original.' By that means he will know to which of the translations he ought to give the preference. I shall only add, that this translation is written in the very spirit of Sappho, and as near the Greek as the genius of our language will possibly suffer."

Longinus has observed, that this description of love in Sap pho is an exact copy of nature, and that all the circumstances, which follow one another in such an hurry of sentiments, notwith standing they appear repugnant to each other, are really such as happen in the frenzies of love.

I wonder that not one of the critics or editors, through whose hands this ode has passed, has taken occasion from it to mention a circumstance related by Plutarch. That author, in the famous story of Antiochus, who fell in love with Stratonice, his mother in-law, and (not daring to discover his passion) pretended to be confined to his bed by his sickness, tells us, that Erasistratus, the physician, found out the nature of his distemper by those symp toms of love which he had learnt from Sappho's writings. Stratonice was in the room of the love-sick prince, when these symp toms discovered themselves to his physician; and it is probable that they were not very different from those which Sappho here

'V. Longinus, ch. viii.-G.

2 As the Italian scholar may wish to compare Foscc o's translation of this fragment, I have given it, together with the tex: in the Appendix.

[blocks in formation]
« ПредишнаНапред »