Page:Sappho and the Vigil of Venus (1920).djvu/16

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her. Of his attempt at an expanded paraphrase (in "Anactoria") of some fragments of her poems, he exclaimed "No one can feel more deeply than I do the inadequacy of my work. It is as near as I can come; and no man can come close to her . . . her verses seem akin to fire and air, being themselves 'air and fire'; other element there is none in them."

Sappho was a native of the island of Lesbos: she lived towards the close of the seventh and early part of the sixth centuries B.C. She was contemporaneous with, in Hebrew history, the days just preceding the Babylonian Captivity; in Greek history, the time of Solon; in Roman history, the first of the Tarquins. Her father died when she was a child; her mother, whose name was Kleïs, may have survived to the days of her fame. She had two brothers, of whom Larichus was public cupbearer of the city of Mitylene, and, as this office could only be held by high-born youths, it follows that Sappho's family belonged to the aristocracy. Her second brother, Charaxus, has a romantic history. He sailed to Egypt, his merchandise being the celebrated Lesbian wine, and there saw a girl of surpassing loveliness, who, having been probably kidnapped by pirates, had been sold into slavery. He ransomed her at a heavy price, and made her, the world-famed Rhodopis (or Doriche, as Sappho names her in a poem), his wife, though afterwards it was said that she made merchandise of her beauty, and became very wealthy. Some Greek writers asserted that it was she who built one of the pyramids, herein confusing her with