Page:Sappho and the Vigil of Venus (1920).djvu/15

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INTRODUCTION.

woman been known who could in the least degree be compared to her for poetic genius."

It seems almost superfluous to quote the opinions of modern poets and critics, who possess but a few gems out of a vast treasure-hoard. How great it was we may infer from the record that nine books of her lyric odes were known to the ancients, that she was the chief acknowledged writer of Epithalamia, or Marriage Songs, that her Hymns of Invocation to various deities are mentioned with special praise, and that she wrote many epigrams and elegies.

The manuscript in which the recently discovered ode "To Anactoria" (the last in this collection) was found bears the tantalizing title "The First Book of the Lyrics of Sappho, 1,332 lines"—of which but fragments remain! Yet from the long roll of great names we will venture to quote three of our writers who have testified to her glory. Addison wrote: "Her soul seems to have been made up of love and poetry . . . her works are filled with bewitching tenderness and rapture." J. Addington Symonds says: "The world has suffered no greater literary loss than the loss of Sappho's poems. So perfect are the smallest fragments preserved that we muse in a sad rapture of astonishment to think what the complete poems must have been. Of all the poets of the world, of all the illustrious artists of all literature, Sappho is the one whose every word has a peculiar and unmistakable perfume, a seal of absolute perfection and illimitable grace." Swinburne confessed that he despaired of adequately translating