Henry Wharton

This is a painting of Aphrodite (Venus), surrounded by cherubs. The reason I chose this painting as the heading for Wharton's poetry is because many of Sappho's poems are about Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the Goddess of Love and the poems represented on this page are about Sappho's love, reinterpreted and translated by Wharton.

As I stated in my history paper, there were many poets in the eighteenth and nineteenth century who imitated Sappho's lyrics and worked it into their own poetry. With these imitations, these poets interpreted Sappho's lyric in a heterosexual context, many times leaving out the female pronouns and replacing them with male pronouns. In the following section, I will show the reader many versions of the same poems that were translated by Wharton into English to further illustrate my thesis.

Note: The following poems are eighteenth century poets portraying Sappho's Fragment 38, which is found on the Mary Bernard page within this website. The female pronouns have been replaced by male pronouns, making the poem about heterosexual love.

Though now he shuns thy longing arms,
He soon shall court thy slighted charms;
Though now thy offerings he despise,
He soon to thee shall sacrifice;
Though now he freeze, he soon shall burn,
And be thy victim in his turn.

Celestial visitant, once more
Thy needful presence I implore.
In pity come, and easy my grief,
Bring my distempered soul relief,
Favour thy suppliant's hidden fires,
And give me all my heart desires.
Ambrose Philips, 1711.

This is the earliest portrait of Sappho, in a drawing that improves slightly on the original vase painting.  This picture can be found in Sappho's Immortal Daughters.

To The Goddess Of Love
O Venus, daughter of the mighty Jove,
Most knowing in the mystery of love,
Help me, oh help me, quickly send relief,
And sugger not my heart to break with grief.

If ever thou didst hear me when I prayed,
Come now,my goddess, to thy Sappho's aid.
Orisons used, such favour hast thou shewn,
From heaven's golden mansions called thee down.

See, see, she comes in her cerulean car,
Passing the middle regions of the air.
Mark how her nimble sparrows stretch the wing,
And with uncommon speed their Mistress bring.

Arrived, and sparrows loosed, hasten to me;
Then smiling asks, What is it troubles thee?
Why am I called? Tell me what Sappho wants.
Oh, know you not the cause of all my plaints?

I love, I burn, and only love require;
And nothing less can quench the raging fire.
What youth, what raving lover shall I gain?
Where is the captive that should wear my chain?

Alas, poor Sappho, who is this ingrate
Provokes thee so, for love returning hate?
Does he now fly thee? He shall soon return;
Pursue theee, and with euwal ardour burn.

Would he no presents at thy hands recieve?
He will repent it, and more largely give.
The force of love no longer can withstand;
He must be fond, wholly at they command.

When wilt thou work this change? Now, Venus, free,
Now ease my mind of so much misery:
In this amour my powerful aider be;
Make Phaon love, but let him love me.
Herbert, 1714.

A symposium: the reclining man plays the pipes as the boy dances, a lyre hanging above them. This illustrates how men taught boys, which is the same way that Sappho taught her girls.  This picture can be found in Sappho's Immortal Daughters.

Hymn to Venus
Immortal Venus, throned above
In radiant beauty, child of Jove,
O skilled in every art of love
And artful snare;
Dread power, to whom I bend the knee,
Release my soul and set it free
From bonds of piercing agony
And gloomy care.
Yet come thyself, if e'er, benign,
Thy listening ears thou didst incline
To my rude lay, the starry shine
Of Jove's court leaving,
In chariot yoked with coursers fair,
Thine own immortal birds that bear
Thee swift to earth, the middle air
With bright wings cleaving.
Soon they were sped -- and thou, most blest,
In thine own smiles ambrosial dressed,
Didst ask what griefs my mind oppressed --
What meant my song --
What end my frenzied thoughts pursue --
For what love youth I spread anew
My amorous nets -- "Who, Sappho, who
"Hath done thee wrong?
"What though he fly, he'll soon return --
"Still press thy gifts, though now he spurn;
"Heed not his coldness -- soon he'll burn,
"E'en though thou chide."
-- And saidst though thus, dread goddess? Oh,
Come then once more to ease my woe;
Grant all, and thy great self bestow,
My shield and guide!
John Herman Merivale, 1833.

Beautiful-throned, immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, beguiler, I implore thee,
Weigh me not down with weariness and anguish,
Oh thou most holy!

Come to me now, if ever thou in kindness
Hearkenedst my words, -- and often hast thou hearkened --
Heeding, and coming from the mansions golden
Of thy Father,

Yoking thy chariot, borne by thy most lovely
Consecrated birds, with dusky-tinted pinions,
Waving swift wings from utmost heights of heaven
Through the mid-ether;

Swiftly they vanish, leaving thee, O goddess,
Smiling, with face immortal in its beauty,
Asking why I grieved, and why in utter longing
I dared call thee;

Asking what I sought, thus hopeless in desiring,
Wildered in brain, and spreading nets of passion --
Alas, for whom? and saidst though, "Who has harmed thee?
"O my poor Sappho!

"Though now he flies, erelong he shall pursue thee;
"Fearing thy gifts, he too in turn shall bring them;
"Loveless to-day, to-morrow he shall woo thee,
"Though thou shouldst spurn him."

Thus seek me now, O holy Aphrodite!
Save me from anguish; give me all I ask for,
Gifts at thy hand; and thine shall be the glory,
Sacred protector!
T. W. Higginson, 1871.

This is yet another depiction of Sappho with her lyre, also found in Sappho's Immortal Daughters.

Note: The following poems are interpretations of Sappho's Fragment 39, which can also be found on the Mary Bernard section of this website. The female presence in the poem has been cut out, causing ambiguity and the mistaken assumption that Sappho is speaking about a man.

That man seems to me peer of gods, who sits in thy presence,
and hears close to him thy sweet speech and lovely laughter;
that indeed makes my heart flutter in my bosom. For when
I see thee but a little, I have no utterance left, my tongue is
broken down, and straightway a subtle fire has run under my
skin, with my eyes I have no sight, my ears ring, sweat
bathes me, and a trembling seizes all my body; I am paler
than grass, and seem in my madness little better than one
dead. But I must dare all, since one so poor...

Ode By Catullus
Him rival to the gods I place,
Him loftier yet, if loftier be,
Who, Lesbia, sits before thy face,
Who listens and who looks on thee;

Thee smiling soft. Yet this delight
Doth all my sense consign to death;
For when thou dawnest on my sight,
Ah, wretched! flits my labouring breath.

My tongue is palsied. Subtly hid
Fire creeps me through from limb to limb:
My loud ears tingle all unbid:
Twin clouds of night mine eyes debim.

Blest as the immortal gods is he,
The youth who fondly sits by thee,
And hears and sees thee all the while
Softly speak and sweetly smile.

'Twas this deprived my soul of rest,
And raised such tumults in my breast;
For while I gazed, in transport tost,
My breath was gone, my voice was lost:

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

In dewy damps my limbs were chilled;
My blood with gentle horror thrilled;
My feeble pulse forgot to play;
I fainted, sank, and died away.
Amrose Phillips, 1711.

This is a piece of a vase with Sappho's face on it.

I watched thy grace; and in its place
My heart a charmed slumber keeps,
while I muse upon thy face;
And languid fire creeps
Through my veins to all my frame,
Dissolvingly and slowly: soon
From thy rose-red lips my name
Floweth; and then, as in a swoon,
With dinning sound my ears are rife,
My tremulous tongue faltereth,
I lose my colour, I lose my breath,
I drink the cup of costly death
Brimmed with delicious draughts of warmest life.
I die with my delight, before
I hear what I would hear from thee.
Lord Tennyson, Eleanore, 1832.

Note: The following poem is a rendition of Ovid's Heroid Epistle, XV. translated by Pope Alexander in 1707. He wrote about Sappho's love for Phaon, which gives the impression that Sappho was heterosexual.

This is Moreau's depiction of Sappho after having flung herself from the Lucidian Cliffs, as implied in the following poem.

Sappho To Phaon
SAY, lovely youth that dost my heart command,
Can Phaon's eyes forget his Sappho's hand?
Must then her name the wretched writer prove,
To thy remembrance lost as to thy love?

Ask not the cause that I new numbers choose,
The lute neglected and the lyric Muse:
Love taught my tears in sadder notes to flow,
And tuned my heart to elegies of woe.
I burn, I burn, as when through ripened corn
By driving winds the spreading flames are borne.
Phaon to Aetna's scorching fields retires,
While I consume with more than Aetna's fires.
No more my soul a charm in music finds;
Music has charms alone for peaceful minds:
Soft scenes of solitude no more can please;
Love enters there, and I'm my own disease.
No more the Lesbian dames my passion move,
Once the dear objects of my guilty love:
All other loves are lost in only thine,
Ah, youth ungrateful to a flame like mine!
Whom would not all those blooming charms surprise,
Those heavenly looks and dear deluding eyes?
The harp and bow would you like Phoebus bear,
A brighter Phoebus Phaon might appear:
Would you with ivy wreathe your flowing hair,
Not Bacchus' self with Phaon could compare:
Yet Phoebus loved, and Bacchus felt the flame;
One Daphne warmed and one the Cretan dame;
Nymphs that in verse no more could rival me
Than e'en those gods contend in charms with thee.
The Muses teach me all their softest lays,
And the wide world resounds with Sappho's praise.
Though great Alcaeus more sublimely sings,
And strikes with bolder rage the sounding strings,
No less renown attends the moving lyre
Which Venus tunes and all her Loves inspire.
To me what Nature has in charms denied
Is well by wit's more lasting flames supplied.
Though short my stature, yet my name extends
To heaven itself and earth's remotest ends:
Brown as I am, an Aethiopian dame
Inspired young Perseus with a generous flame:
Turtles and doves of different hue unite,
And glossy jet is paired with shining white.
If to no charms thou wilt thy heart resign
But such as merit, such as equal thine,
By none, alas, by none thou canst be moved;
Phaon alone by Phaon must be loved.
Yet once thy Sappho could thy cares employ;
Once in her arms you centred all your joy:
No time the dear remembrance can remove,
For oh how vast a memory has love!
My music then you could for ever hear,
And all my words were music to your ear:
You stopt with kisses my enchanting tongue,
And found my kisses sweeter than my song.
In all I pleased, but most in what was best;
And the last joy was dearer than the rest:
Then with each word, each glance, each motion fired,
You still enjoyed, and yet you still desired,
Till all dissolving in the trance we lay,
And in tumultuous raptures died away.
The fair Sicilians now thy soul inflame

Sappho is depicted in profile here. This image appears in the collection of Sappho's poetry which features
Why was I born, ye gods, a Lesbian dame?
But ah, beware, Sicilian nymphs, nor boast
That wandering heart which I so lately lost;
Nor be with all those tempting words abused:
Those tempting words were all to Sappho used.
And you that rule Sicilia's happy plains,
Have pity, Venus, on your poet's pains.

Shall fortune still in one sad tenor run
And still increase the woes so soon begun?
Inured to sorrow from my tender years,
My parent's ashes drank my early tears
My brother next, neglecting wealth and fame,
Ignobly burned in a destructive flame:
An infant daughter late my griefs increased,
And all a mother's cares distract my breast.
Alas, what more could Fate itself impose,
But thee, the last and greatest of my woes?
No more my robes in waving purple flow,
Nor on my hand the sparkling diamonds glow;
No more my locks in ringlets curled diffuse
The costly sweetness of Arabian dews;
Nor braids of gold the varied tresses bind
That fly disordered with the wanton wind.
For whom should Sappho use such arts as these?
He's gone whom only she desired to please!
Cupid's light darts my tender bosom move;
Still is there cause for Sappho still to love;
So from my birth the Sisters fixed my doom,
And gave to Venus all my life to come:
Or, while my Muse in melting notes complains,
My yielding heart keeps measure to my strains.
By charms like thine, which all my soul have won,
Who might not-ah, who would not be undone?
For those, Aurora Cephalus might scorn,
And with fresh blushes paint the conscious morn:
For those, might Cynthia lengthen Phaon's sleep,
And bid Endymion nightly tend his sheep:
Venus for those had rapt thee to the skies,
But Mars on thee might look with Venus' eyes.
O scarce a youth, yet scarce a tender boy!
O useful time for lovers to employ!
Pride of thy age, and glory of thy race,
Come to these arms and melt in this embrace!
The vows you never will return, receive;
And take at least the love you will not give.
See, while I write, my words are lost in tears
The less my sense, the more my love appears.

Sure 'twas not much to bid one kind adieu:
At least, to feign was never hard to you.
'Farewell, my Lesbian love,' you might have said ;
Or coldly thus, 'Farewell, 0 Lesbian maid.'
No tear did you, no parting kiss receive,
Nor knew I then how much I was to grieve.
No lover's gift your Sappho could confer;
And wrongs and woes were all you left with her.
No charge I gave you, and no charge could give
But this- 'Be mindful of our loves, and live.'
Now by the Nine, those powers adored by me,
And Love, the god that ever waits on thee;
When first I heard (from whom I hardly knew)
That you were fled and all my joys with you,
Like some sad statue, speechless, pale I stood;
Grief chilled my breast and stopt my freezing blood;
No sigh to rise, no tear had power to flow,
Fixed in a stupid lethargy of woe.
But when its way the impetuous passion found,
I rend my tresses and my breasts I wound;
I rave, then weep; I curse, and then complain;
Now swell to rage, now melt in tears again.
Not fiercer pangs distract the mournful dame
Whose first-born infant feeds the funeral flame.
My scornful brother with a smile appears,
Insults my woes, and triumphs in my tears;
His hated image ever haunts my eyes;
'And why this grief? thy daughter lives,' he cries.
Stung with my love and furious with despair,
All torn my garments and my bosom bare,
My woes, thy crimes, I to the world proclaim;
Such inconsistent things are love and shame.
'Tis thou art all my care and my delight,
My daily longing and my dream by night.-
O night, more pleasing than the brightest day,
When fancy gives what absence takes away,
And, dressed in all its visionary charms,
Restores my fair deserter to my arms!
Then round your neck in wanton wreath I twine;
Then you, methinks, as fondly circle mine:
A thousand tender words I hear and speak;
A thousand melting kisses give and take:
Then fiercer joys; I blush to mention these,
Yet, while I blush, confess how much they please.
But when with day the sweet delusions fly;
And all things wake to life and joy, but I;
As if once more forsaken, I complain,
And close my eyes to dream of you again
Then frantic rise; and, like some fury, rove
Through lonely plains, and through the silent grove,
As if the silent grove and lonely plains,
That knew my pleasures, could relieve my pains.
I view the grotto, once the scene of love,
The rocks around, the hanging roofs above,
That charmed me more, with native moss o'ergrown,
Than Phrygian marble or the Parian stone:
I find the shades that veiled our joys before;
But, Phaon gone, those shades delight no more.
Here the pressed herbs with bending tops betray
Where oft entwined in amorous folds we lay;
I kiss that earth which once was pressed by you,
And all with tears the withering herbs bedew.
For thee the fading trees appear to mourn,
And birds defer their song till thy return:
Night shades the groves; and all in silence lie,
All but the mournful Philomel and I:
With mournful Philomel I join my strain;
Of Tereus she, of Phaon I complain.

A spring there is whose silver waters show,
Clear as a glass, the shining sands below:
A flowery lotus spreads its arms above,
Shades all the banks and seems itself a grove;
Eternal greens the mossy margin grace,
Watched by the sylvan genius of the place:
Here as I lay, and swelled with tears the flood
Before my sight a watery virgin stood:
She stood and cried,- 'O you that love in vain,
Fly hence and seek the fair Leucadian main:
There stands a rock from whose impending steep
Apollo's fane surveys the rolling deep;
There injured lovers, leaping from above,
Their flames extinguish and forget to love.
Deucalion once with hopeless fury burned;
In vain he loved, relentless Pyrrha scorned.
But when from hence he plunged into the main,
Deucalion scorned, and Pyrrha loved in vain.
Haste, Sappho, haste, from high Leucadia throw
Thy wretched weight, nor dread the deeps below.'
She spoke, and vanished with the voice: I rise,
And silent tears fall trickling from my eyes.
I go, ye nymphs, those rocks and seas to prove:
How much I fear, but ah, how much I love!
I go, ye nymphs, where furious love inspires;
Let female fears submit to female fires:
To rocks and seas I fly from Phaon's hate,
And hope from seas and rocks a milder fate.
Ye gentle gales, beneath my body blow,
And softly lay me on the waves below.
And thou, kind Love, my sinking limbs sustain,
Spread thy soft wings and waft me o'er the main,
Nor let a lover's death the guiltless flood profane.
On Phoebus' shrine my harp I'll then bestow,
And this inscription shall be placed below:-
'Here she who sung, to him that did inspire,
Sappho to Phoebus consecrates her lyre:
What suits with Sappho, Phoebus, suits with thee;
The gift, the giver, and the god agree.'

But why, alas, relentless youth, ah, why
To distant seas must tender Sappho fly?
Thy charms than those may far more powerful be,
And Phoebus' self is less a god to me.
Ah, canst thou doom me to the rocks and sea,
O far more faithless and more hard than they?
Ah, canst thou rather see this tender breast
Dashed on these rocks that to thy bosom pressed?
This breast, which once, in vain! you liked so well;
Where the Loves played, and where the Muses dwell.
Alas, the Muses now no more inspire:
Untuned my lute, and silent is my lyre:
My languid numbers have forgot to flow,
And fancy sinks beneath the weight of woe.

Ye Lesbian virgins and ye Lesbian dames,
Themes of my verse and objects of my flames,
No more your groves with my glad songs shall ring;
No more these hands shall touch the trembling string:
My Phaon's fled, and I those arts resign
(Wretch that I am, to call that Phaon mine!)
Return, fair youth, return, and bring along
Joy to my soul and vigour to my song.
Absent from thee, the poet's flame expires;
But ah, how fiercely burn the lover's fires!
Gods, can no prayers, no sighs, no numbers move
One savage heart, or teach it how to love?
The winds my prayers, my sighs, my numbers bear;
The flying winds have lost them all in air.
Or when, alas, shall more auspicious gales
To these fond eyes restore thy welcome sails?
If you return, ah, why these long delays?
Poor Sappho dies while careless Phaon stays.
O launch the bark, nor fear the watery plain:
Venus for thee shall smooth her native main.
O launch thy bark, secure of prosperous gales:
Cupid for thee shall spread the swelling sails.
If you will fly- (yet ah, what cause can be,
Too cruel youth, that you should fly from me?)
If not from Phaon I must hope for ease,
Ah, let me seek it from the raging seas
To raging seas unpitied I'll remove;
And either cease to live or cease to love.

Henry Wharton