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Three versions of Sappho’s Poem of Jealousy

My muse, what ails this ardour?
Mine eys be dym, my lymbs shake,
My voice is hoarse, my throte scorcht,
My tong to this roofe cleaves,
My fancy amazde, my thoughtes dull’d,
My head doth ake, my life faints
My sowle begins to take leave,
So greate a passion all feele,
To think a soare so deadly
I should so rashly ripp up.

Sir Phillip Sidney (1554-1586)

That man is peer of the gods, who
face to face sits listening
to your sweet speech and lovely
laughter.

It is this that rouses a tumult
in my breast. At mere sight of you
my voice falters, my tongue
is broken.

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
my limbs; my eyes
are blinded and my ears
thunder.

Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
me down. I grow
paler than grass and lack little
of dying.

William Carlos Williams (1958)

I set that man above the gods and heroes —
all day, he sits before you face to face,
like a cardplayer. Your elbow brushes his elbow —
if you should speak, he hears.

The touched heart madly stirs,
your laughter is water hurrying over pebbles —
every gesture is a proclamation,
every sound is speech . . .

Refining fire purifies my flesh!
I hear you: a hollowness in my ears
thunders and stuns me. I cannot speak.
I cannot see.

I shiver. A dead whiteness spreads over
my body, trickling pinpricks of sweat.
I am greener than the greenest green grass —
I die!

Robert Lowell (1962)

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