Ode to Sappho

Radclyffe Hall

If not from Phaon I must hope for ease,

Ah ! let me seek it from the raging seas :

To raging seas unpitied I'll remove;

And either cease to live or cease to love.

Ovid's Heroic Epistle, XV.

Immortal Lesbian! canst thou still behold

From some far sphere wherein thy soul doth sing

This earth, that once was thine, while glimmered gold

The joyous beams of youth's forgotten spring?

Can thine unfathomed eyes embrace this sea,

Whose ebb and flow once echoed in thy brain ?

Whose tides bear record of thine ecstasy

And thy despair, that in its arms hath lain?

Those love-burnt lips! Can death have quenched their fire?

Whose words oft stir our senses to unrest?

Whose eager ardour caught and held desire,

A searing flame against thy living breast?

Passion-wan Lesbian, in that awful place

Where spirits wander lost without a name

Thou still art Sappho, and thine ardent face

Lights up the gloom with love's enduring flame.

Oh! Goddess, woman, lover, all divine

And yet divinely mortal, where thou art

Comes not as cadence from some song of thine

Each throbbing beat that stirs the human heart ?

Canst thou forget us who are still thy friends,

Thy lovers, o'er the cloudy gulf of years?

Who live, and love, and dying make amends

For life's short pleasures thro' death's endless fears ?

Once thou didst seek the solace of thy kind,

The madness of a kiss was more to thee

Than Heaven or Hell, the greatness of thy mind

Could not conceive more potent ecstasy !

Life was thy slave, and gave thee of her store

Rich gifts and many, yet with all the pain

Of hopeless longing made thy spirit sore,

E'en thou didst yearn, and couldest not attain.

Oh ! Sappho, sister, by that agony

Of soul and body hast thou gained a place

Within each age that shines majestie'ly

Across the world from out the dusk of space.

Not thy deep pleasures, nor thy swiftest joys,

Have made thee thus, immortal and yet dear

To mortal hearts, but that which naught destroys,

The sacred image of thy falling tear.

Beloved Lesbian ! we would dare to claim

By that same tear fond union with thy lot;

Yet 'tis enough, if when we breathe thy name

Thy soul but listens, and forgets us not.


Title of volume of first printing
A Sheaf of Verses
G. Golscheider