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escaped the common wreck; but the number of the last is very small.
Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.
Virg. Æn. i. 122.
• One here and there floats on the vast abyss.'
Among the mutilated poets of antiquity there is none whose fragments are so beautiful as those of Sappho. They give us a taste of her way of writing, which is perfectly conformable with that extraordinary character we find of her in the remarks of those great critics who were conversant with her works when they were entire.
One may see by what is left of them, that she followed nature in all her thoughts, without descending to those little points, conceits, and turns of wit with which many of our modern lyrics are so miserably infected. Her soul seems to have been made up of love and poetry. She felt the passion in all its warmth, and described it in all its symptoms. She is called by antient 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 are 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 She fell desperately in love with him, and took a voyage into Sicily in pursuit of him, he having withdrawn himself thither on purpose to avoid her.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 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. 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.
A HYMN TO VENUS.
'O Venus, beauty of the skies,
Tho' now he shuns thy longing arms, He soon shall court thy slighted charms ; Tho' now thy offerings he despise,
He soon to thee shall sacrifice;
Tho' now he freeze, he soon shall burn,
Celestial visitant, once more
And give me all my heart desires."
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 entire in his works, as a pattern of perfection in the structure of it.
LETTERS ON THE LOVER'S LEAP.
In my last Thursday's paper, I made mention of a IN place called The Lover's Leap, which I find has raised a great curiosity among several of my correspondents. I there told them that this leap was used to be taken from a promontory of Leucas. This Leucas was formerly a part of Acarnania, being joined to it by a narrow neck of land, which the sea has by length of time overflowed and washed away; so that at present Leucas is divided from the continent, and is a little island in the Ionian sea. The promontory of this island, from whence the lover took his leap, was formerly called Leucate. If the reader has a mind to know both the
island and the promontory by their modern titles, he will find in his map the antient island of Leucas under the name of St. Mauro, and the antient promontory of Leucate under the name of The Cape of St. Mauro. After this short preface, I shall present my reader with some letters which I have received upon this subject.
6 Mr. Spectator,
I am a young woman crossed in love. My story is very long and melancholy. To give you the heads of it. A young gentleman, after having made his applications to me for three years together, and filled my head with a thousand dreams of happiness, some few days since married another. Pray tell me in what part of the world your promontory lies, which you call The Lover's Leap, and whether one may go to it by land? But, alas! I am afraid it has lost its virtue, and that a woman of our times would find no more relief in taking such a leap, than in singing a hymn to Venus. So that I must cry out with Dido in Dryden's Virgil:
Ah! cruel heaven, that made no cure for love!
• Mister Spictatur,
Your disconsolate servant,
'My heart is so full of lofes and passions for Mrs. Gwinifrid, and she is so pettish and over-run with cholers against me, that if I had the good happiness to have my dwelling (which is placed by my creat-cranfather upon the pottom of a hill) no further distance but twenty mile from the Lofer's Leap, I would indeed indeafour to preak my neck upon it on purpose, Now,