Page:Cox - Sappho and the Sapphic Metre in English, 1916.djvu/10

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Sappho and the Sapphic Metre in English

ALTHOUGH some of the fragmentary writings of Sappho were known in Europe for centuries in the original, the study of Greek in England was not sufficiently advanced to induce anyone capable of doing it to attempt, until comparatively late, the translation into our language of the very scanty remains of her poetical productions which have been transmitted to us in the form of inadequate and tantalizing quotations, scattered through the works of later writers. To Dionysius of Halicarnassus, our gratitude is due for the transmission to posterity of the marvellous Hymn to Aphrodite, for it is only in his writings that this has been handed down in its entirety. His comment is sufficiently appreciative to cause us astonishment and regret that he did not think it worth while to preserve something else for us, and by so doing to magnify our indebtedness to him. Time, neglect, and insensate ignorance have combined completely to annihilate the nine books of lyrics known to have been in existence at one period, except for the series of fragments of the works of the poetess, most recently edited and collated by Wharton, her most thorough editor. This series begins with the great hymn in its complete perfection, and ends with fragments consisting often of single words quoted by some prolix grammarian to illustrate a point of syntax or a dialectic