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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 were filled with such bewitching tenderness and rapture, that it might have been dangerous to have given them a reading.
An inconstant lover, called Phaon, 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 She fell desperately in love with him, and took a voyage into Sicily, in pursuit of him, he having withdrawn himself thither on purpose to avoid her.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 the 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. alive. This place was therefore 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 winter-piece 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 further 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.
The birds dismist (while you remain),
What phrenzy in my bosom rag'd,
Tho' now he shuns thy longing arms,
He soon to thee shall sacrifice;
Tho' now he freeze, he soon shall burn,
Celestial visitant, once more
Madam Dacier observes there is something very pretty in that circumstance of this ode, wherein Venus is described as sending away her chariot upon her arrival at Sappho's lodgings, to denote that it was not a short transient visit which she intended to make her. This ode was preserved by an eminent Greek critic, who inserted it intire in his works, as a pattern of perfection in the structure of it.
Longinus has quoted another ode of this great poetess, which is likewise admirable in its kind, and has been translated by the same hand with the foregoing one. I shall oblige my reader with it in another paper. In the mean while, I cannot but wonder, that these two finished pieces have never been attempted before by any of our countrymen. But
the truth of it is, the compositions of the ancients, which have not in them any of those unnatural witticisms that are the delight of ordinary readers, are extremely difficult to render into another tongue, so as the beauties of the original may not appear weak and faded in the translation.
No. 225. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17.
Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia
I HAVE often thought if the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference be tween that of the wise man and that of the fool. There are infinite reveries, numberless extravagancies, and a perpetual train of vanities, which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This sort of discretion, however, has no place in private conversation between intimate friends. Ön such occasions the wisest men very often talk like the weakest; for indeed the talking with a friend is nothing else but thinking aloud.
Tully has therefore very justly exposed a precept delivered by some ancient writers, that a man should live with his enemy in such a manner, as might leave him room to become his friend and with his friend in such a manner, that if he became his enemy, it should not be in his power to hurt him. The first part of this rule, which regards our behaviour towards an enemy, is indeed very reasonable, as well as very prudential; but the latter part of it, which regards. our behaviour towards a friend, savors more of cunning than of
discretion, and would cut a man off from the greatest pleasures of life, which are the freedoms of conver sation with a bosom friend. Besides that, when a friend is turned into an enemy, and (as the son of Sirach calls him) a bewrayer of secrets, the world is just enough to accuse the perfidiousness of the friend, rather than the indiscretion of the person who confided in him.
Discretion does not only shew itself in words, but in all the circumstances of action; and is like an under-agent of Providence, to guide and direct us in the ordinary concerns of life.
There are many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion; it is this indeed which gives a value to all the rest, which sets them at work in their proper times and places, and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry; and wit, impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness; the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice.
Nor does discretion only make a man the master of his own parts, but of other mens. The discreet man finds out the talents of those he converses with, and knows how to apply them to proper uses. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divisions of men, we observe that it is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives measures to the society. A man with great talents, but void of discretion, is like Polyphemus in the fable, strong and.blind, endued with an irresistible force, which for want of sight is of no use to him.
Though a man has all other perfections, and wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world but if he has this single talent in perfection, and buta common share of others,.. he may do what he pleases in his station of life.