No. 229. Thursday, Nov. 22, 1711. Addison.

--Spirat adhuc amor, Vivuntque commissi calores Æoliæ fidibus puellæ.

Among the many famous Pieces of Antiquity which are still to be seen at Rome, there is the Trunk of a Statue [1] 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, [2] is in as great Reputation among the Poets and Criticks, as the mutilated Figure above-mentioned 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 Dramatick 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 mî par esse deo videtur, Ille, si fas est, superare divos, Qui sedens adversus identidem te, Spectat, et audit.

Dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis Eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te, Lesbia, adspexi, nihil est super mî_ Quod loquar amens.

Lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus Flamnia dimanat, sonitu suopte Tinniunt aures, gemina teguntur Lumina nocte.

My learned Reader will know very well the Reason why one of these Verses is printed in Roman Letter; [3] and if he compares this Translation with the Original, will find that the three first Stanzas are rendred 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 Sapphick 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 Authors Quotation of it, that there must at least have been another Stanza, which is not transmitted to us.

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: Qui jouït du plaisir de tentendre parler: Qui te voit quelquefois doucement lui soûrire. Les Dieux, dans son bonheur, peuvent-ils légaler?

Je sens de veine en veine une subtile flamme Courir par tout mon corps, si-tost que je te vois: Et dans les doux transports, où segare mon ame, Je ne sçaurois trouver de langue, ni de voix.

Un nuage confus se répand sùr ma vuë, Je nentens plus, je tombe en de douces langueurs; Et pâle, sans haleine, interdite, esperduë, 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.

I. Blest as th'immortal Gods is he, The Youth who fondly sits by thee, And hears and sees thee all the while Softly speak and sweetly smile.

II. Twas this deprived my Soul of Rest, And raised such Tumults in my Breast; For while I gaz'd, in Transport tost, My Breath was gone, my Voice was lost:

III. 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.

IV. In dewy Damps my Limbs were child; My Blood with gentle Horrors thrill'd; My feeble Pulse forgot to play; I fainted, sunk, and dy'd away.

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 an Hurry of Sentiments, notwithstanding they appear repugnant to each other, are really such as happen in the Phrenzies of Love.

I wonder, that not one of the Criticks 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. [4] 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. This Story of Antiochus is so well known, that I need not add the Sequel of it, which has no Relation to my present Subject.


[Footnote 1: The Belvidere Torso.]

[Footnote 2: The other translation by Ambrose Philips. See note to No. 223.]

[Footnote 3: Wanting in copies then known, it is here supplied by conjecture.]

[Footnote 4: In Plutarch's Life of Demetrius.

When others entered Antiochus was entirely unaffected. But when Stratonice came in, as she often did, he shewed all the symptoms described by Sappho, the faltering voice, the burning blush, the languid eye, the sudden sweat, the tumultuous pulse; and at length, the passion overcoming his spirits, a swoon and mortal paleness.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. 4 Od. ix. 4.
'Nor Sappho's amorous flames decay;
Her living songs preserve their charming art,
Her verse still breathes the passions of her heart.'