Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE IMPROVISATRICE: SAPPHO'S SONG, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE IMPROVISATRICE: SAPPHO'S SONG, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Farewell, my lute! - and would that I
Last Line: Vibrate the chord whereon it sleeps!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Farewell; Lutes; Sappho (610-580 B.c.); Parting


FAREWELL, my lute! -- and would that I
Had never waked thy burning chords!
Poison has been upon thy sigh,
And fever has breathed in thy words.

Yet wherefore, wherefore should I blame
Thy power, thy spell, my gentlest lute?
I should have been the wretch I am,
Had every chord of thine been mute.

It was my evil star above,
Not my sweet lute, that wrought me wrong;
It was not song that taught me love,
But it was love that taught me song.

If song be passed, and hope undone,
And pulse, and head, and heart, are flame;
It is thy work, thou faithless one!
But, no! -- I will not name thy name;

Sun-god! lute, wreath are vowed to thee!
Long be their light upon my grave --
My glorious grave -- you deep blue sea:
I shall sleep calm beneath its wave!

FLORENCE! with what idolatry
I've lingered in thy radiant halls,
Worshipping, till my dizzie eye
Grew dim with gazing on those walls,
Where Time had spared each glorious gift
By Genius unto memory left!
And when seen by the pale moonlight,
More pure, more perfect, though less bright,
What dreams of song flashed on my brain
Till each shade seemed to live again;
And then the beautiful, the grand,
The glorious of my native land,
In every flower that threw its veil
Aside, when wooed by the spring gale;
In every vineyard, where the sun,
His task of summer ripening done,
Shone on their clusters, and a song
Came lightly from the peasant throng; --
In the dim loveliness of night,
In fountains with their diamond light,
In aged temple, ruined shrine,
And its green wreath of ivy twine; --
In every change of earth and sky,
Breathed the deep soul of poesy.

As yet I loved not; -- but each wild,
High thought I nourished raised a pyre
For love to light; and lighted once
By love, it would be like the fire
The burning lava floods that dwell
In Etna's cave unquenchable.
One evening in the lovely June,
Over the Arno's waters gliding,
I had been watching the fair moon
Amid her court of white clouds riding:
I had been listening to the gale,
Which wafted music from around,
(For scarce a lover, at that hour,
But waked his mandolin's light sound.) --
And odour was upon the breeze,
Sweet thefts from rose and lemon trees.

They stole me from my lulling dream,
And said they knew that such an hour
Had ever influence on my soul,
And raised my sweetest minstrel power.
I took my lute, -- my eye had been
Wandering round the lovely scene,
Filled with those melancholy tears,
Which come when all most bright appears,
And hold their strange and secret power,
Even on pleasure's golden hour.
I had been looking on the river,
Half-marvelling to think that ever
Wind, wave, or sky, could darken where
All seemed so gentle and so fair:
And mingled with these thoughts there came
A tale, just one that Memory keeps --
Forgotten music, till some chance
Vibrate the chord whereon it sleeps!





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