Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics

by Bliss Carman


 

LXXXV


 

HAVE you heard the news of Sappho’s garden,
And the Golden Rose of Mitylene,
Which the bending brown-armed rowers lately
Brought from over sea, from lonely Pontus?

In a meadow by the river Halys, 

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Where some wood-god hath the world in keeping,
On a burning summer noon they found her,
Lovely as a Dryad, and more tender.

Her these eyes have seen, and not another
Shall behold, till time takes all things goodly,

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So surpassing fair and fond and wondrous,—
Such a slave as, worth a great king’s ransom,

No man yet of all the sons of mortals
But would lose his soul for and regret not;
So hath Beauty compassed all her children

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With the cords of longing and desire.

Only Hermes, master of word music,
Ever yet in glory of gold language
Could ensphere the magical remembrance
Of her melting, half sad, wayward beauty,

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Or devise the silver phrase to frame her,
The inevitable name to call her,
Half a sigh and half a kiss when whispered,
Like pure air that feeds a forge’s hunger.

Not a painter in the Isles of Hellas 

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Could portray her, mix the golden tawny
With bright stain of poppies, or ensanguine
Like the life her darling mouth’s vermilion,

So that, in the ages long hereafter,
When we shall be dust of perished summers,

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Any man could say who found that likeness,
Smiling gently on it, "This was Gorgo!"