once upon a bed
Of roses laid his weary head;
Luckless urchin! not to see
Within the leaves a slumbering bee.
The bee awak’d—with anger wild
The bee awak’d, and stung the child.
Loud and piteous are his cries;
To Venus quick he runs, he flies;
“Oh mother! I am wounded through—
“I die with pain—in sooth I do!
“Stung by some little angry thing.
“Some serpent on a tiny wing,
“A bee it was—for once, I know,
“I heard a rustic call it so.”
“Isn’t that a very pretty song?” asked the laughing girl. “How stupid of little Eros to mistake a bee for a winged snake! Grandmother says that the great poet Anacreon wrote another verse to this song, but she will not teach it me. Tell me, Melitta, what can there be in that verse? There, you are smiling; dear, darling Melitta, do sing me that one verse. Perhaps though, you don’t know it yourself? No? then certainly you can’t teach it me.”
“That is a new song,” answered the old woman, evading her darling’s question, “I only know the songs of the good old times. But hark! did not you hear a knock at the gate?”
[The last lines which contain the point of this song are:
he spoke, and she, the while,
Heard him with a soothing smile;
Then said, “My infant, if so much
“Thou feel the little wild bee’s touch,
“How must the heart, ah! Cupid be,
“The hapless heart that’s stung by thee?”
—Translation from one of Anacreon’s songs]
“Yes, of course I did, and I think the sound of horses’ hoofs too. Go and see who seeks admission so early. Perhaps, after all, our kind Phanes did not go away yesterday, and has come to bid us farewell once more.”
“Phanes is gone,” said Melitta, becoming serious, “and Rhodopis has ordered me to send you in when visitors arrive. Go child, that I may open the gate. There, they have knocked again.”
Sappho pretended to run in, but instead of obeying her nurse’s orders, stopped and hid herself behind a rose-bush, hoping to catch sight of these early guests. In the fear of needlessly distressing her, she had not been told of the events of the previous evening, and at this early hour could only expect to see some very intimate friend of her grandmother’s.
Melitta opened the gate and admitted a youth splendidly apparelled, and with fair curling hair.
It was Bartja, and Sappho was so lost in wonder at his beauty, and the Persian dress, to her so strange, that she remained motionless in her hiding-place, her eyes fixed on his face. Just so she had pictured to herself Apollo with the beautiful locks, guiding the sun-chariot.
As Melitta and the stranger came nearer she thrust her little head through the roses to hear what the handsome youth was saying so kindly in his broken Greek.