The moon rose full: the women stood


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.