The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Monday


Sappho
By Algernon Charles Swinburne


Love's priestess, mad with pain and joy of song,
Song’s priestess, mad with joy and pain of love,
Name above all names that are lights above,
We have lov’d, prais’d, pitied, crown’d, and done thee wrong,
O thou past praise and pity; thou the sole
Utterly deathless, perfect only and whole
Immortal, body and soul.
For over all whom time hath overpast
The shadow of sleep inexorable is cast,
The implacable sweet shadow of perfect sleep
That gives not back what life gives death to keep;
Yea, all that liv’d and lov’d and sang and sinn’d
Are all borne down death’s cold, sweet, soundless wind
That blows all night and knows not whom its breath,
Darkling, may touch to death:
But one that wind hath touch’d and changed not,—one
Whose body and soul are parcel of the sun;
One that earth’s fire could burn not, nor the sea
Quench; nor might human doom take hold on thee;
All praise, all pity, all dreams have done thee wrong,
All love, with eyes love-blinded from above;
Song’s priestess, mad with joy and pain of love,
Love’s priestess, mad with pain and joy of song.

Hast thou none other answer then for me
Than the air may have of thee,
Or the earth’s warm woodlands girdling with green girth
Thy secret, sleepless, burning life on earth,
Or even the sea that once, being woman crown’d
And girt with fire and glory of anguish round,
Thou wert so fain to seek to, fain to crave
If she would hear thee and save
And give thee comfort of thy great green grave?
Because I have known thee always who thou art,
Thou knowest, have known thee to thy heart’s own heart,
Nor ever have given light ear to storied song
That did thy sweet name sweet unwitting wrong,
Nor ever have call’d thee nor would call for shame,
Thou knowest, but inly by thine only name,
Sappho—because I have known thee and lov’d, hast thou
None other answer now?
As brother and sister were we, child and bird,
Since thy first Lesbian word
Flam’d on me, and I knew not whence I knew,
This was the song that struck my whole soul through,
Pierced my keen spirit of sense with edge more keen,
Even when I knew not,—even ere sooth was seen,—
When thou wast but the tawny sweet wing’d thing
Whose cry was but of spring.

--------

I know, I know, Swinburne and his lesbian fetish, but after posting Sappho yesterday I was in the mood for it. Anything that got lesbian poetry into the English literary canon has to be considered a good thing, anyway.

I had a very lovely, busy Sunday -- kids had Hebrew school in the morning, then I went to an Ostara celebration at beeej's house with vertigo66 where there was much discussion of Ishtar, pondering the cycle of death and rebirth, and eating of chocolate. I always walk out of the pagan group (where I know very few people well) feeling calm, energized and centered -- why have I never been to a Jewish ritual that made me feel that way? I know they must exist. I read Tel Shemesh and say, yes, that is the kind of Judaism I want to practice. I find it ironic that I can practice it with a group that calls itself the First Pagan Church but not in any organized Jewish group -- or even disorganized Jewish group -- I've ever been involved with off the internet. Even though I barely know most of these people I am really comfortable talking about very personal things like my belief system, which I have never had in a synagogue where I feel alienated from the very thing I'm supposed to be doing.

Then I came home, grabbed my family and went downtown to have dinner with heidi8 and her family and many of her friends, including wordplay and I can't remember everyone else's LJ names so if you remembered mine and are reading this, please say hello! Amusingly, my friend Ruth from college and grad school (in Philadelphia and Chicago respectively) had written me last week to tell me she would be in town for a wedding in a couple of months and would like to get our families together, and it turns out that the couple who are getting married were at dinner tonight -- the groom is a friend of heidi8's husband and the bride lived in apaulled's dormitory, plus we worked on The Daily Pennsylvanian together though not on the same areas of the paper. Small world! Excellent Thai food, and then we came home for The West Wing, though we missed the first two minutes or so -- what happened to Vinick's hand?

I thought it was a great episode, definitely one of Smits, Alda and Silver's best, and I LOVE that evil Republican strategist woman whose name I cannot remember; that is, I loathe her, but she is very well played and has very interesting chemistry with both Vinick and Bruno. I am wondering why I always wanted to hit Amy with a brick for being shrill about things I basically believe in whereas when this woman is shrill, I find it an interesting commentary on the material she's tossing out there. I think they need to have her to be the mouthpiece of the ACTUAL Republican party as opposed to the ideal Republican party that Vinick represents (Federal government should have nothing to do with marriage law and Republicans running for office should not exploit right wing fanatical sentiment on this issue!) They could have Toby being the voice of practicality instead of idealism for once (man, he and Josh rock together) because the actual people running for office are talking principles.

Speaking of principles, I hate that Bruno can align himself with people who would get elected using homophobia as a platform point even if Vinick says no, and can use personal dirt to try to exploit Santos. "I can make you president." Who's not going to think about that, even if it's followed by "I work for you, I won't do anything you don't want, just think about what other secrets this guy might have." I love Vinick saying that finding out a candidate he believed in had an illegitimate child wouldn't affect his voting...if only Al Gore had thought like that, he'd have had a different campaign and we'd have had a different past five years. What's most interesting, though, is that I am not sure I believe Santos. I mean, on the one hand it would be like responsible Matt to do the right thing when his brother shirked it, but on the other hand, it's a perfect political excuse. I am sure the series isn't going to do anything with it because there's no time, but the possibilities certainly are interesting.


Remains of the Patowmack Canal between the ruins of Matildaville and the Potomac River gorge.


Great Falls high water marker. My younger son was born in mid-1996. The snow that shut down DC and resulted in the runoff that reached this height is the reason his year is so populous in the public schools. *g*


A close up of one of the little waterfalls that makes up the great falls, with very faint rainbow in the foreground.


And while you're back here, gacked from seleneheart:



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Must get up outrageously early as we want older son to have a cell phone, after his bus broke down twice last week, which requires a 7:30 a.m. parent meeting with his principal to assure her that he won't use it to sell drugs or anything. More tomorrow!
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