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T. R. Smith, comp. Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse. 1921–22.

A Little Maid of Sappho

By George Sylvester Viereck (1884–1962)
(From The Candle and the Flame, 1912)

O LITTLE siren of the rose-white skin,
Reared to strange music and to stranger sin,
With scornful lips that move to no man’s plea—
O little Maid of Sappho, come to me!
Beneath long lashes downcast eyes and coy,        5
Yet uninitiate to no secret joy!
O bud burst open ere her day begun,
The virgin and the strumpet blent in one!
Come close to me! Lay your small hand in mine,
And drink the music of my words like wine.        10
And let me touch your little breasts that swell
With joy remembered where her kisses fell …
Ah! she whose wise caressive fingers strike
Your heart-strings and the cithara alike!
By what love-potion is your passion fanned,        15
What is the magic of that wary hand?
What is the secret of her strange caress,
Fierce, tortured kisses, or the tenderness
That woman gives to woman—flame or snow?
I, too, can kiss or bruise you. You shall know        20
That love like mine is delicate as hers,
Or madder still, to madder passion stirs,
That shall consume you like some fiery sea—
O little Maid of Sappho, come to me!
Or is it song that sets your blood on fire?        25
Behold in me no novice to the lyre.
Who is this woman Sappho? I can sing
Like her of Eros. Yea, each voiceless thing,
The very rocks of Mytilene’s strand
Shall be made vocal at your sweet command.        30
Hers but the cooing of the Lesbian lutes,
Mine every passion in the heart that roots.
Albeit your sweetness lives in Sappho’s song,
Her love is barren … and the years are long.
And how she sang, and how she loved and erred,        35
Only by moonsick women will be heard.
The lyric thunder that my hand has hurled
Shall ring with resonant music through the world,
Quickening the blood in every lover’s breast,
And then your beauty on my glory’s crest        40
Shall ride, a goddess to eternity—
O little Maid of Sappho, come to me!
Unscathed in Love’s dominion I have been,
And still a sceptic kissed the mouth of Sin.
Love seemed the dreariest of all things on earth        45
Until my passion filled your heart with mirth!
Like frightened bird my cynic wisdom flies
Before the cruel candour of your eyes.
As for sweet rain a valley sick with drouth,
Thus thirsts my love for your indifferent mouth!        50
And still your thoughts are wandering to the dell
Where Sappho walks and where her minions dwell …
Be then, of maidens most corrupt, most chaste,
The one delight that I shall never taste!
And through the dreary æons yet unborn        55
The love of you shall rankle like a thorn!
Leave one last thrill for my sad heart to crave
In the ennui of heaven or the grave!…
Incite my passion, my embraces flee—
And never, never, never come to me!        60
O listen, listen to my heart-beat’s call!
Aught else I say, it is not true at all.
She has her maidens whom her soft ways woo,
And they to her are no less dear than you.
For your dear sake I gladly fling aside        65
Laurels and loves! A beggar stripped of pride,
I only know I need you more than she—
O little Maid of Sappho, come to me!