Sappho

(c. 600 BCE / Greece)

An Epithalamium


Fragments 91, 92, 99, 106, 104, 103, 100, 105, 101, 102, 96, 109, 93, 94, 97, 95, and 133 combined.

Raise high the beams of the raftered hall,
(Sing the Hymen-refrain!)
Ye builders, of the bridal-dwelling!
(Sing the Hymen-refrain!)
Lo, the bridegroom comes, as the War-god tall —
(Sing the Hymen-refrain!)
Now nay — yet our tallest in stature excelling;
(Sing the Hymen-refrain!)
For stately he towers above all the throng
As the Lesbian singer towers among
All alien poets, a prince of song.

O happy bridegroom! it cometh to-day,
The bridal thine heart hith longed for aye!
At last shall she be thine own, the maid
For whom thou hast sighed, for whom thou hast prayed.
For none other maiden beneath the skies,
O bridegroom, was like unto her in thine eyes.
Whereunto may I liken thee, bridegroom dear?
To a green vine-shoot in the spring of the year.
Now, now let the bridegroom rejoice, for the bride
Into the hall cometh joyful-eyed.
Ethereal-pale is her lovely face.
Hail, bridegroom! Hail, bride, queenly in grace!
How goodly to see thy lord stands there!
And his goodness will keep him for thee ever fair.
Ah, doth she, ah doth she regretfully brood? —
Does her heart still yearn after maidenhood?
Nay, not in this hour she cries:
'Maidenhood, maidenhood, whither away
Forsaking me?'
While maidenhood replies:
'Not again unto thee shall I come for aye,
Not again unto thee!'
No more, no more doth she chant
Proud young virginity's vaunt:
'As the sweet-apple flames on the tip of a spray against the sky,
At its uttermost point, which the gleaners forgat, and passed it by —
O nay, they forgat it not, but they could not attain so high.'
But she thinks of the fate, an evil thing,
That the years fast-fleeting to fair maids bring.
When the roses are faded, the gold turns grey.
And the smoothness is furrowed, as singeth the lay —
'As the hyacinth-flower on the mountain-side that the shepherds tread
Underfoot, and low on the earth its bloom dark-splendid is shed.'
Lo, her hand into thine hath her father given.
And thou leadest her home 'neath the Star of Even;
To thy portal the bridal-train draws near.
And the Chant Processional rings out clear:
'Hail, Hesper, who bringest home all
That radiant Dawn scattered wide,
Bringest back unto fold and stall
The sheep and the goat, and thy call
Brings the child to the mother's side.
Let the rose-ringed Star of the Evenfall
Usher thee on, love's willing thrall,
Bride, garden of loves like roses blowing.
Bride, loveliest image of Paphos' Queen!
So pass to the bride-bower, pass within
To the nuptial couch, for the sweet bestowing
On the bridegroom, whose measure is overflowing.
Of the bliss, wherein honoured is Hera: 'tis owned
Of the Marriage-goddess, the silver-throned.'

Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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