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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sappho and Phaon
By Franz Grillparzer (1791–1872)
 
From ‘Sappho’

Phaon lies slumbering on the grassy bank

SAPPHO  [entering from grotto]—’Tis all in vain! Rebellious to my will,
Thought wanders and returns, void of all sense;
Whilst ever and anon, whate’er I do,
Before me stands that horrid, hated sight
I fain would flee from, e’en beyond this earth.        5
How he upheld her! How she clasped his arm!
Till, gently yielding to its soft embrace,
She on his lips— Away! away the thought!
For in that thought are deaths innumerable.
 
But why torment myself, and thus complain        10
Of what perhaps is after all a dream?
Who knows what transient feeling, soon forgot,
What momentary impulse, led him on,
Which quickly passed, e’en as it quickly came,—
Unheeded, undeserving of reproach?        15
Who bade me seek the measure of his love
Within my own impassioned, aching breast?
 
Ye who have studied life with earnest care,
By man’s affection judge not woman’s heart.
 
A restless thing is his impetuous soul—        20
The slave of change, and changing with each change.
Boldly man enters on the path of life,
Illumined by the morning ray of hope;
Begirt with sword and shield, courage and faith,
Impatient to commence a glorious strife.        25
Too narrow seems to him domestic joy;
His wild ambition overleaps repose,
And hurries madly on through endless space;
And if upon his wayward path he meets
The humble, beauteous flower called love,        30
And should he stoop to raise it from the earth,
He coldly places it upon his helm.
 
He knoweth not what holy, ardent flame
It doth awaken in a woman’s heart;
How all her being—every thought—each wish—        35
Revolves forever on this single point.
Like to the young bird, round its mother’s nest
While fluttering, doth her anxious boding care
Watch o’er her love; her cradle and her grave,
Her whole of life—a jewel of rich price—        40
She hangs upon the bosom of her faith.
 
Man loves, ’tis true; but his capacious heart
Finds room for other feelings than his love,
And much that woman’s purity condemns
He deems amusement or an idle jest.        45
A kiss from other lips he takes at will.
Alas that this is so! yet so it is.  [Turns and sees Phaon sleeping.]
Ha, see! Beneath the shadow of yon rose
The faithless dear one slumbers. Ay, he sleeps,
And quiet rest hath settled on his brow.        50
Thus only slumbers gentle innocence;
Alone thus gently breathes th’ unburdened breast.
Yes, dearest! I will trust thy peaceful sleep,
Whate’er thy waking painful may disclose.
Forgive me, then, if I have injured thee        55
By unjust doubt; or if I dared to think
That falsehood could approach a shrine so pure.
 
A smile plays o’er his mouth! His lips divide!
A name is hovering in his burning breath!
Awake, and call thy Sappho! She is near!        60
Her arms are clasped about thee!
[She kisses his brow.  Phaon awakes, and with half-opened eyes exclaims:]
                            Melitta!
  Sappho  [starting back]—                        Ha!
  Phaon—Who hath disturbed me? What envious hand
Hath driven from my soul the happy dream?  [Recollecting himself.]
Thou! Sappho! Welcome! Well I knew, indeed,
That something beauteous must be near my side,        65
To lend such glowing colors to my dream.
But why so sad? I am quite happy now.
The anxious care that lay upon my breast
Hath disappeared, and I am glad again.
Like to some wretch who hath been headlong plunged        70
Into some deep abyss, where all was dark,
When lifted upward by a friendly arm,
So that once more he breathes the air of heaven,
And in the golden sunlight bathes again,
He heareth happy voices sounding near:        75
Thus in the wild excitement of my heart
I feel it overflow with happiness,
And wish, half sinking ’neath the weight of joy,
For keener senses, or for less of bliss.
  Sappho  [lost in thought]—Melitta!
  Phaon—            Be gay and happy, dear one.
        80
All round us here is beautiful and fair.
On weary wings the summer evening sinks
In placid rest upon the quiet earth;
The sea heaves timidly her billowy breast,
The bride expectant of the Lord of Day,        85
Whose fiery steeds have almost reached the west;
The gentle breeze sighs through the poplar boughs,
And far and near all nature whispers love.
Is there no echo in our hearts—we love?
  Sappho  [aside]—Oh, I could trust again this faithless one.        90
But no! too deeply have I read his heart.
  Phaon—The feverish spell that pressed upon my brain
Hath vanished quite; and ah, believe me, dear
Sappho! I ne’er have loved thee till this hour.
Let us be happy—But tell me, loved one,        95
What faith hast thou in dreams?
  Sappho—                            They always lie,
And I hate liars.
  Phaon—                For as I slept just now,
I had a heavenly dream. I thought myself
Again—again—upon Olympia’s height,
As when I saw thee first, the queen of song.        100
Amid the voices of the noisy crowd,
The clang of chariot wheels, and warrior shouts,
A strain of music stole upon mine ear.
’Twas thou! again thou sweetly sang’st of love,
And deep within my soul I felt its power.        105
I rushed impetuous toward thee, when behold!
It seemed at once as though I knew thee not!
And yet the Tyrian mantle clasped thy form;
The lyre still lay upon thy snow-white arm:
Thy face alone was changed. Like as a cloud        110
Obscures the brightness of a summer sky,
The laurel wreath had vanished from thy brow;
Upon thy lips, from which immortal sounds
Had scarcely died away, sat naught but smiles;
And in the profile of proud Pallas’s face        115
I traced the features of a lovely child.
It was thyself—and yet ’twas not—it was—
  Sappho  [almost shrieking]—Melitta!
  Phaon  [starting]—    Thou hadst well-nigh frightened me.
Who said that it was she? I knew it not!
O Sappho! I have grieved thee!  [Sappho motions him to leave.]  Ah! what now?        120
Thou wish’st me to be gone? Let me first say—  [She again motions him to leave.]
Must I indeed then go? Then fare thee well.  [Exit Phaon.]
  Sappho  [after a pause]—The bow hath sprung—  [Pressing her hands to her breast.]  The arrow rankles here.
’Twere vain to doubt! It is, it must be so:
’Tis she that dwells within his perjured heart;        125
Her image ever floats before his eyes;
His very dreams enshrine that one loved form.
 
 
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