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ticular note, which I call a hush-note; and this is to be made use of against a long story, swearing, obsceneness, and the like."
No. 229. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1711.
- Spirat adhuc amor, Vivuntque commissi calores Eolice fidibus puellæ.
HOR. CAR. iv. 9. 10.
Nor Sappho's amorous flames decay;
AMONG the many famous pieces of antiquity which are still to be seen at Rome, there is the trunk of a statue which has lost the arms, legs, and head; but discovers such an exquisite workmanship in what remains of it, that Michael Angelo declared he had learned his whole art from it. Indeed he studied it so attentively, that he made most of his statues, and even his pictures, in that gusto, to make use of the Italian phrase; for which reason this maimed statue is still called Michael Angelo's School.
A fragment of Sappho, which I design for the subject of this paper, is in as great reputation among the poets and critics, as the mutilated figure abovementioned is among the statuaries and painters. Several of our countrymen, and Mr. Dryden in particular, seem very often to have copied after it in their dramatic writings, and in their poems upon love.
Whatever might have been the occasion of this ode, the English reader will enter into the beauties
of it, if he supposes it to have been written in the person of a lover sitting by his mistress. I shall set to view three different copies of this beautiful original; the first is a translation by Catullus, the second by Monsieur Boileau, and the last by a gentleman whose translation of the Hymn to Venus has been so deservedly admired*.
Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
Dulce ridentem; misero quod omnis
Lingua sed torpet, tenues sub artus
My learned reader will know very well the reason why one of these verses is printed in Roman letter t; and if he compares this translation with the original, will find that the three first stanzas are rendered almost word for word, and not only with the same elegance, but with the same short turn of expression which is so remarkable in the Greek, and so peculiar to the Sapphic ode. I cannot imagine for what reason Madam Dacier has told us, that this ode of Sappho is preserved entire in Longinus, since it is manifest to any one who looks into that author's quotation of it, that there must at least
It is wanting in the old copies, and has been supplied by conecture as above. But in a curious edition of Catullus, published at Venice in 1738, said to be printed from an ancient MS. newly discovered, this line is given thus: Voce loquendum.'
have been another stanza, which is not transmitted
The second translation of this fragment which I shall here cite, is that of Monsieur Boileau.
Heureux! qui prés de toi, pour toi seule soûpire;
Je sens de veine en veine une subtile flamme
Un nuage confus se répand sur ma vuë,
Je n'entens plus, je tombe en de douces langueurs ;
Un frisson me saisit, je tremble, je me meurs.
The reader will see that this is rather an imitation than a translation. The circumstances do not lie so thick together, and follow one another with that vehemence and emotion as in the original. In short, Monsieur Boileau has given us all the poetry, but not all the passion, of this famous fragment. I shall, in the last place, present my reader with the English translation.
Instead of giving any character of this last translation, I shall desire my learned reader to look into the criticisms which Longinus has made upon the original. By that means he will know to which of the translations he ought to give the preference.. I shall only add, that this translation is written in the very spirit of Sappho, and as near the Greek as the genius of our language will possibly suffer.
Longinus has observed, that this description of love in Sappho is an exact copy of nature, and that all the circumstances, which follow one another in such a hurry of sentiments, notwithstanding they appear repugnant to each other, are really such as happen in the frenzies of love.
I wonder, that not one of the critics or editors, through whose hands this ode has passed, has taken occasion from it to mention a circumstance related by Plutarch. That author, in the famous story of Antiochus, who fell in love with Stratonice, his mother-in-law, and, not daring to discover his passion, pretended to be confined to his bed by sickness, tells us, that Erasistratus, the physician, found out the nature of his distemper by those symptoms of love which he had learnt from Sappho's writings. Stratonice was in the room of the love-sick prince, when these symptoms discovered themselves to his physician; and it is probable, that they were not very different from those which Sappho here describes in a lover sitting by his mistress. The story of Antiochus is so well known, that I need not add the sequel of it, which has no relation to my present Sect.
No. 230. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1711.
Homines ad deos nullâ re propiùs accedunt, quàm salutem hominibus dando.
Men resemble the gods in nothing so much, as in doing good to their fellow-creatures.
HUMAN nature appears a very deformed, or a very beautiful object, according to the different lights in which it is viewed. When we see men of inflamed passions, or of wicked designs, tearing one another to pieces by open violence, or undermining each other by secret treachery; when we observe base and narrow ends pursued by ignominious and dishonest means; when we behold men mixed in society, as if it were for the destruction of it; we are even ashamed of our species, and out of humour with our own being. But in another light, when we behold them mild, good, and benevolent, full of a generous regard for the public prosperity, compassionating each other's distresses, and relieving each other's wants, we can hardly believe they are creatures of the same kind. In this view they appear gods to each other, in the exercise of the noblest power, that of doing good; and the greatest compliIment we have ever been able to make to our own being, has been by calling this disposition of mind humanity. We cannot but observe a pleasure arising in our own breast, upon the seeing or hearing of a generous action, even when we are wholly disinterested in it. I cannot give a more proper instance, of this, than by a letter from Pliny, in which he recommends a friend in the most handsome manner, and methinks it would be a great pleasure to know the success of this epistle, though each party concerned in it has been so many hundred years in his