Page:Sappho and the Vigil of Venus (1920).djvu/17

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INTRODUCTION.

another Rhodopis, a name given to the Egyptian queen Nitocris, of whom the "golden slipper" story was told, which has survived in our nursery-legend of Cinderella. Unhappily, the poetess excited her brother's resentment by her objection to his connection with this frail beauty, and found it no easy task to appease him.[1]

If we are to conclude that all her poems in which she speaks in the first person express her own personal experience—a theory which would land us in some queer conclusions if we applied it, say, to Burns—not only was Sappho's mother living in the days of her fame, but she had a daughter named after her mother, Kleïs, a very fair, sweet and dear maiden.

The beauty of the women of Lesbos was early sung by Homer, and Sappho was dowered with no small share of it. A poet in the Greek Anthology sings how her starry eyes reflected her genius, and compares the beauty of her face to that of Aphrodite.

As to Alcaeus the poet's love for her, and her love for Phaon, and her despairing leap from the Leucadian Rock to a death in the sea, because that love was unrequited—these stories are rejected by the learned as the inventions of later romancers.

The Aeolian ladies of Lesbos were like those of the court of our Queen Elizabeth, intellectual and cultured. They formed clubs among themselves for the cultivation of poetry and music; and the most famous of these aesthetic coteries gathered round Sappho.

  1. Among recent discoveries in Egypt is a fragment containing one of her attempts at reconciliation.