Page images
PDF
EPUB

estate. And if a man would thoroughly consider how much worse than banishment it must be to his child, to ride by the estate which should have been his, had it not been for his father's injustice to him, he would be smitten with the reflection more deeply than can be understood by any but one who is a father. Sure there can be nothing more afflicting, than to think it had been happier for his son to have been born of

any

other man living than himself.

It is perhaps not much thought of, but it is certainly a very important lesson, to learn how to enjoy ordinary life, and to be able to relish your being, without the transport of some passion, or gratification of some appetite. For want of this capacity, the world is filled with whetters, tipplers, cutters, sippers, and all the numerous train of those who, for want of thinking, are forced to be ever exercising their feeling or tasting. It would be hard on this occasion to mention the harmless smokers of tobacco and takers of snuff. The lower part of mankind, whom

my correspondent wonders should get estates, are ihe more immediately formed for that pursuit. They can expect distant things without impatience, because they are not carried out of their

way

either by violent passions or keen appetite to any thing. To men addicted to delights, business is an interruption; to such as are cold to delights, business is an entertainment. For which reason it was said to one who commended a dull man for his application, . No thanks to him; if he had no business, he would have nothing to do.' STEELE.

T.

No. 223. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15.

O suavis anima! qualem te dicam bonam

Antehac fuisse, tales cùm sint reliquiæ!* PHÆDR. O sweet soul! how good must you have been heretofore,

when your remains are so delicious?

WHEN I reflect upon the various fate of those multitudes of ancient writers who flourished in Greece and Italy, I consider time as an immense ocean, in which many noble authors are entirely swallowed up, many very much shattered and damaged, some quite disjointed and broken into pieces, while some have wholly escaped the common wreck; but the number of the last is

very small.

Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto. VIRG.
One here and there floats on the yast 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 perfectly 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 entire. One may see, by what is left of them, that she follow

* “In applying to the poetical remains of Sappho the two lines of Phædras contained in this motto, Mr. Addison has hit upon one of the most elegant and happy applications that perhaps ever was made from any classic author.” Ess. on the Genius of Pope.

ed 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 warmth, 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 flame. 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 are filled with such bewitching tenderness and rapture, that it might have been dangerous to have given them a reading.

An inconstant lover, called Phæon, 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 procuring that happiness which she prayed for in it. Phaon was still obdurate, and Sappho so transported with the violence of her passion, 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 there

fore 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 passion. 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 winterpiece have been already so well received. The reader will find in it that pathetic simplicity which is so peculiar to him, and so 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 lost 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 see it in its genuine and natural beauty, without any foreign or affected ornaments.

* Ambrose Philips.—The author of the “Essay on the writings of Pope," thinks both this and Philips's translation in No. 229 were revised and altered by Addison himself.The winter piece may be seen in Tatler, Vol. I, No. 12, and see Spectator, No. 336.

A 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, Descend, thou bright, immortal guest, In all thy radiant charms confest.

III. “Thou once didst leave almighty Jove, And all the golden roofs above: The car thy wanton sparrows drew, Hovering in air they lightly flew; As to my bower they wing’d their way, I saw their quiv'ring pinions play

IV. "The birds dismiss'd (while you remain) Bore back their empty car again: Then you with looks divinely mild, In every heavenly feature smil'd, And ask'd what new complaints I made, And why I call’d you to my

aid?

V.
“What frenzy in my bosom rag'd,
And by what cure to be assuag'd?
What gentle youth I would allure,
Whom in my artful toils secure?
Who does thy tender heart subdue,
Tell me, my Sappho, tell me who?

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »