Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SAPPHO; A MONODRAMA, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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SAPPHO; A MONODRAMA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: This is the spot: -- 'tis here tradition says
Last Line: [she throws herself from the precipice.
Subject(s): Lesbos (island), Greece; Mythology - Classical; Sappho (610-580 B.c.); Suicide


Scene—the Promontory of Leucadia.

THIS is the spot:—'Tis here tradition says
That hopeless love from this high towering rock
Leaps headlong to oblivion or to death.
Oh, 'tis a giddy height! my dizzy head
Swims at the precipice—'tis death to fall!

Lie still, thou coward heart! this is no time
To shake with thy strong throbs the frame convulsed.
To die,—to be at rest,—oh, pleasant thought!
Perchance to leap and live; the soul all still,
And the wild tempest of the passions husht
In one deep calm; the heart, no more diseased
By the quick ague fits of hope and fear,
Quietly cold;
Presiding powers, look down!
In vain to you I poured my earnest prayers,
In vain I sung your praises: chiefly thou,
Venus, ungrateful goddess, whom my lyre
Hymned with such full devotion! Lesbian groves,
Witness how often, at the languid hour
Of summer twilight, to the melting song
Ye gave your choral echoes. Grecian maids,
Who hear with downcast look and flushing cheek
That lay of love, bear witness! and ye youths,
Who hang enraptured on the empassioned strain,
Gazing with eloquent eye, even till the heart
Sinks in the deep delirium! and ye, too,
Ages unborn, bear witness ye, how hard
Her fate who hymn'd the votive hymn in vain!
Ungrateful goddess! I have hung my lute
In yonder holy pile: my hand no more
Shall wake the melodies that failed to move
The heart of Phaon—yet when rumour tells
How from Leucadia Sappho hurled her down
A self-devoted victim,—he may melt
Too late in pity, obstinate to love.

O haunt his midnight dreams, black Nemesis!
Whom, self-conceiving in the inmost depths
Of chaos, blackest night long-labouring bore,
When the stern destinies, her elder brood,
And shapeless death, from that more monstrous birth
Leapt shuddering? haunt his slumbers, Nemesis!
Scorch with the fires of Phlegethon his heart,
Till helpless, hopeless, heaven-abandoned wretch,
He, too, shall seek beneath the unfathomed deep
To hide him from thy fury.
How the sea
Far distant glitters as the sun-beams smile
And gaily wanton o'er its heaving breast!
Phœbus shines forth, nor wears one cloud to mourn
His votary's sorrows. God of day, shine on;—
By men despised, forsaken by the Gods,
I supplicate no more.
How many a day,
O pleasant Lesbos! in thy secret streams
Delighted have I plunged, from the hot sun
Screened by the o'er-arching grove's delightful shade,
And pillowed on the waters! Now the waves
Shall chill me to repose.
Tremendous height!
Scarce to the brink will these rebellious limbs
Support me. Hark! how the rude deep below
Roars round the rugged base, as if it called
Its long-reluctant victim! I will come.
One leap, and all is over! The deep rest
Of death, or tranquil apathy's dead calm,
Welcome alike to me. Away, vain fears!
Phaon is cold, and why should Sappho live?
Phaon is cold, or with some fairer one—
Thought worse than death!

[She throws herself from the precipice.





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