The Picture Of Sappho

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THOU! whose impassion'd face
The Painter loves to trace,
Theme of the Sculptor's art and Poet's story--
How many a wand'ring thought
Thy loveliness hath brought,
Warming the heart with its imagined glory!

Yet, was it History's truth,
That tale of wasted youth,
Of endless grief, and Love forsaken pining?
What wert thou, thou whose woe
The old traditions show
With Fame's cold light around thee vainly shining?

Didst thou indeed sit there
In languid lone despair--
Thy harp neglected by thee idly lying--
Thy soft and earnest gaze
Watching the lingering rays
In the far west, where summer-day was dying--

While with low rustling wings,
Among the quivering strings
The murmuring breeze faint melody was making,
As though it wooed thy hand
To strike with new command,
Or mourn'd with thee because thy heart was breaking?

Didst thou, as day by day
Roll'd heavily away,
And left thee anxious, nerveless, and dejected,
Wandering thro' bowers beloved--
Roving where he had roved--
Yearn for his presence, as for one expected?

Didst thou, with fond wild eyes
Fix'd on the starry skies,
Wait feverishly for each new day to waken--
Trusting some glorious morn
Might witness his return,
Unwilling to believe thyself forsaken?

And when conviction came,
Chilling that heart of flame,
Didst thou, O saddest of earth's grieving daughters !
From the Leucadian steep
Dash, with a desperate leap,
And hide thyself within the whelming waters?

Yea, in their hollow breast
Thy heart at length found rest!
The ever-moving waves above thee closing--
The winds, whose ruffling sigh
Swept the blue waters by,
Disturb'd thee not!--thou wert in peace reposing!

Such is the tale they tell!
Vain was thy beauty's spell--
Vain all the praise thy song could still inspire--
Though many a happy band
Rung with less skilful hand
The borrowed love-notes of thy echoing lyre.

FAME, to thy breaking heart
No comfort could impart,
In vain thy brow the laurel wreath was wearing;
One grief and one alone
Could bow thy bright head down--
Thou wert a WOMAN, and wert left despairing!

© Caroline Norton