Πλήρης μὲν ἐφαίνετ’ ἀ σελάννα,
αἰ δ’ ὡς περὶ βῶμον ἐστάθησαν·
Α. Παρθενία, παρθενία, ποῖ με λίποισ’ σἴχῃ;
Β. Οὐκέτι ἥξω πρὸς σέ, οὐκέτι ἥξω·
THE moon rose full: the women stood
As though within a sacred wood
Around an altar—thus with awe
The perfect, virgin orb they saw
Supreme above them ; and its light
Fell on their limbs and garments white.
Then with pale, lifted brows they stirred
Their fearful steps at Sappho's word,
And in a circle moved around,
Responsive to her music's sound,
That through the silent air stole on,
Until their breathless dread was gone,
And they could dance with lightsome feet,
And lift the song with voices sweet.
Then once again the silence came :
Their lips were blanched as if with shame
That they in maidenhood were bold
Its sacred worship to unfold ;
And Sappho touched the lyre alone,
Until she made the bright strings moan.
She called to Artemis aloud—
Alas, the moon was wrapt in cloud !—
" Oh, whither art thou gone from me ?
Come back again, virginity !
For maidenhood still do I long,
The freedom and the joyance strong
Of that most blessed, secret state
That makes the tenderest maiden great.
O moon, be fair to me as these,
And my regretful passion ease ;
Restore to me my only good,
My maidenhood, my maidenhood !"
She sang : and through the clouded night
An answer came of cruel might —
" To thee I never come again."
O Sappho, bitter was thy pain !
Then did thy heavy steps retire,
And leave, moon-bathed, the virgin quire.