cation of the Greeks was such, as inspired them with an unprejudiced enthusiasm for the works of genius: and that when they paid adoration to Sappho, they idolized the muse, and not the woman.
I shall conclude this account with an extract from the works of the learned and enlightened Abbé Barthelemi, at once the vindication and eulogy of the Grecian Poetess.
Sappho undertook to inspire the Lesbian women with a taste for literature; many of them received instructions from her, and foreign women increased the number of her disciples. She loved them to excess, because it was impossible for her to love otherwise; and she expressed her tenderness in all the violence of passion: your surprise at this will cease, when you are acquainted with the extreme sensibility of the Greeks; and discover, that amongst them the most innocent connections often borrow the impassioned language of love.
A certain facility of manners, she possessed; and the warmth of her expressions were but too well calculated to expose her to the hatred of some women of distinction, humbled by her superiority; and the jealousy of some of her disciples, who happened not to be the objects of her preference. To this hatred she replied by truths and irony, which completely exasperated her enemies. She repaired to Sicily, where a statue was erected to her; it was sculptured by Silanion, one of the most celebrated staturists of his time. The sensibility of Sappho was extreme! she loved Phaon, who forsook her; after various efforts to bring him back, she took the leap of Leucata, 3 and perished in the waves!
Death has not obliterated the stain imprinted on her character; for Envy, which fastens on illustrious names, does not expire; but bequeaths her aspersions to that calumny which never dies.
Several Grecian women have cultivated Poetry, with success, but none have hitherto attained to the excellence of Sappho. And among other poets, there are few, indeed, who have surpassed her.
The little poems which are here called Sonnets, have, I believe, no very just claim to that title: but they consist of fourteen lines, and appear to me no improper vehicle for a single sentiment. I am told, and I read it as the opinion of very good judges, that the legitimate sonnet is ill calculated for our language. The specimens Mr. Hayley has given, though they form a strong exception, prove no more, than that the difficulties of the attempt vanish before uncommon powers.
—Mrs. C. Smith's Preface to her Elegiac Sonnets
Likewise in the preface to a volume of very charming poems, (among which are many legitimate sonnets) by Mr. William Kendall, of Exeter, the following opinion is given of the Italian rhythm, which constitutes the legitimate sonnet: he describes it as—
A chaste and elegant model, which the most enlightened poet of our country disdained not to contemplate. Amidst the degeneracy of modern taste, if the studies
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival 1750-1850. Contributors: Paula R. Feldman - Editor, Daniel Robinson - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 239.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.