The Sappho-An

c.1735 or 1749

NOTES:The author of The Sappho-An is unknown. The date does not appear on the title page, but the copy in the University of Kansas library has the inscription “Toms Coffee House, April 10 1749”; however, some scholars have assigned a publication date as early as c. 1735. It may be related to an attack by William King on the alleged same-sex activities of the Countess of Newburgh, Lady Frances Brudenell in the 1730s, comparing her to Sappho, who taught “How to pair the Female Doves, / How to practise Lesbian Loves.” In King’s The Toast, 1732, the Duchess is attacked under the name “Myra”, and since one of the Lesbian dames in the Sappho-An is given the name “Mira”, it is possible that William King was also the author of The Sappho-An and that it was written in the early 1730s. The suffix “-An” in the title just means “circle of” or “group of”, i.e. members of the club of Sappho. This is the first publication of the full transcription of the poem. Although it covers the subject of sex between women – "Inverting nature in an horrid way" – and is explicit about themes of cunnilingus, fellatio, rubbing, fingering, masturbation, sodomy (heterosexual and homosexual), and the many uses of the dildo, it is not exactly an example of lesbian erotica, because it is obviously written to titillate male readers. — Rictor Norton

An Heroic Poem, Of Three Cantos.
In the Ovidian Stile,
Describing the PLEASURES which the FAIR SEX
Enjoy with Each Other.
According to the Modern and most Polite Taste.
Found amongst the Papers of a Lady of Quality, a great Promoter of JACONITISM.

Nec me Pyrrbiades Methemniadesve puellae,
Nec me Lesbiadum cætera turba juvant.
Vilis Anactorie, vilis mihi candida Cydno:
Non oculis grata est Attihis, ut ante, meis.
Atque aliae centum, quas non fine crimine amavi.

                                        Ovid. Epist.


SWAINS of Britannia’s happy, gladsome isle,
Who wait submissive on the fair-one’s smile;
And all the soothing arts of lovers try
In hopes to make the cruel Nymph comply;
Know, whilst you idle thus away your time,
Women in secret joys consume their prime;
Some fav’rite maid, or handy young coquette,
Steals the rich prize you vainly strive to get;
Of them be cautious; but the artful prude
Watch most, for she will thoughtless girls delude;
At break of Day when you have often mourn’d
Your tender billet-doux, unread, return’d,
And thought some happier rival in the place
When you expected the long-wish’d embrace;
Your lovely nymph, in private, quench’d her flame
With some experienc’d, well-known, crafty dame,
Who knew the softest way to reach her heart,
And proudly vy’d with nature in her art.

          FORGIVE, ye girls, ye tender, youthful fair,
Who make the joys of love your chiefest care;
Forgive the muse, that in her censure bold,
The private prostitutes wou’d quite unfold;
Scorns their endearments, and their artful wiles,
Their feign’d affections, and convulsive smiles:
Nature she close pursues, the first great cause,
Where love predominant gives nature laws;
Not the low lust that will corrode the breast,
And turn the noblest passion to a jest;
On such if satire lights, all sure will join
Who wou’d not baulk the institute divine;
Tender to you who clasp the vig’rous youth,
And meet him full of ardour, love and truth;
Whose veins with transport glow, whose beaming eyes
Dart love in ev’ry ray, and fond surprize
To that fair shrine, the greatest blessing giv’n,
The sum of all, the miniature of heav’n;
What man but bows not witih obedient grace,
Drawn by th’alluring portal of the face?
There point your charms, there study to engage,
Nor Amazonian warfare vainly wage,
If too severe on those who run astray,
Inverting nature in an horrid way,
Warm with the wrongs which all the world must feel,
Blame not the sat’rist, but the fraud reveal.

          OF hidden secrets, but to few reveal’d,
Most careful by the female sex conceal’d,
We sing: O let the nicely shading lawn
On woman’s errors be officious drawn!
Yet as thro’ that their lovely breasts appear,
So, make some of their choicest follies clear.

THOU goddess, to the Roman ladies known!
Thou Bona Dea! once of high renown;
Whose sacred rites all vulgar eyes seclude,
Restor’d by Livia, the Augustan prude;
’Till Clodius interpos’d, and by a cheat
In woman’s dress, discover’d the deceit:
Do thou with gentle beams inspire my verse,
The progress of thy vot’ries to rehearse,
When in soft dalliance they waste the night,
To form some new invention of delight:
Oh paint the blissful scene, the soft distress,
Which only gentle murmurs can express!
Think, on the couch you see the lovely maid
Extended, and her limbs for pleasure spread;
To her own sex a treasure she resigns,
A treasure richer than Peruvian mines.

          CONGENIAL Love first with the world began;
It smil’d in woman, and it rag’d in man:
But in the tend’rest forms its impulse reign’d,
And modesty felt stings when most restrain’d;
The diff’rent sexes rush’d to the embrace,
And man with woman push’d the genial chace;
Till brutal Lust broke in on love’s frontier,
And sullied that fair stream that once ran clear;
The muddy channel, thus disturb’d and hurt,
Grew quite impure, and seem’d a flood of dirt.
No longer Heaven in its fair bosom shews,
But poisons all the country where it flows:
Like the Asphaltine lake where, once, ’tis said,
The hateful Sodom rear’d her horrid head,
None of the feather’d race can wing the air,
The fruit yields death that grows around, tho fair.

          THIS emblem of false love let all observe,
Who from the dictates of true nature swerve,
The female birds will all their feathers lose,
Nor woman will a wither’d apple chuse.

          FEARFUL of shame, they try’d a curious art,
And saw the Doves their cooing joys impart;
From thence they learn’d, that even suction eas’d,
And by partition both were highly pleas’d:
In antient Greece the ladies knew full well
Who best in these Olimpics cou’d excel;
There, as from dews the Bees their honey sip,
The dames wou’d dwell upon the ruby lip;
’Till, by their joys excited, they rise high’r,
And dart the tongue to raise the glowing fire;
Nor stopt they there, but full fruition sought,
The finger was an useful, charming thought.
Blush not if I relate the tender joys,
Which dames of old receiv’d from growing boys:
E’er puberty appear’d, they chose the child,
Of sanguine colour, and affections mild;
Whose rose hue denoted chearful thought,
Whose azure veins with blood were richly fraught;
Better if from his head the ringlets flow,
Of auborn hair, and wanton to and fro’;
That boy, as form’d for love, the nymphs esteem,
And kindly condescend to toy with him;
Hugg’d on the lap, they’d listen to his chat,
Give the fond kiss, or kind approving pat;
With tender hand his supple limbs explore,
And revel all his hidden beauties o’er;
Presaging from the view of nature’s plan,
What joys may be expected from the man.

          SOMETIMES, more bold, to wanton acts they’d move;
And teach the little lad small feats of love;
The ladies knew not then the higher taste,
Which modern nymphs have since with glee embrac’d’
But fed their appetite at any rate,
Where nture bloom’d, tho’ in an humble state;
’Till Paris came to quench her am’rous rage,
The beauteous Helen kept herself a page;
This custom to bold fiction soon gave rise,
And poets form’d the fable in a trice;
Venus, the queen of love, that all inspires
With glowing heat, and gentle lambent fires,
Which as they mount, the genial juices swell,
And make the gloating eye their wishes tell;
She, when her lover, bold, intrepid Mars,
Was forc’d to quit endearments for fierce wars,
With little Cupid toy’d an hour away,
And with his dart in mimickry wou’d play.
So fond she was, then hence the scandal run,
The little hero was indeed her son.
But ask the Paphian nymphs, or Gnidos’ dames,
They’ll tell ye, he oft quench’d the Goddess’ flames.
This sport long time the gayer nymphs of old,
Did in the highest veneration hold.

          HOWEVER sage Mythologists contend,
Yet with religion lust they needs must blend:
There’s not a God but had his fille-de-joye,
And some perhaps besides their fav’rite boy;
Even old Saturn, quite unfit for sport,
Yet now and then wou’d to some nymph make court:
Jove, as the head, was greatest on this score,
For at his heart, all know, Jove lov’d a wh—e [whore].
Juno, who was indeed a very wife,
Knew all his haunts, and rais’d perpetual strife;
For tho’ well pleas’d herself, she cou’d not bear
That any other shou’d her portion share;
Quick thro’ her veins the darting venom run,
She vow’d revenge shou’d smart their godships soon:
Thus jealousy, the bane of life to prove,
First introduc’d foul passions into love;
Those with propriety you may call lust,
Where all is horrid, shocking, and unjust;
But cease, ye graver dons, who loudly rail
“Gainst the for’d pair, where tender joys prevail;
Form’d for each other, both the Sexes start,
Pant to the goal, and throb the gladning heart:
This is true love, by any means attain’d,
By heav’n itself for highest bliss ordain’d;
This well the goddess knew, who oft had felt
The soft sensation that had made her melt;
The oftner the full banquet met her taste,
The more she grudg’d the loss of each repast.

          REVOLVING in her mind the horrid slight,
She means to make her husband feel her spight;
That for his sake the world shou’d feel a curse,
And women grasp all lust without remorse;
Her husband’s lightning flashing from her eyes,
She swears revenge shall give what love denies.

“Shall I, says she, my couch bedew with tears,
“While Jove, that retrograde, his trophies rears
“O’er e’ery damsel’s spoils that lies supine,
“Pierc’d by the jav’lin that shou’d be but mine,
“His thunderbolt that strikes mankind with dread,
“Only thrills warmth into the yielding maid;
“That bolt, which I in play have often hurld,
“And given terror to th’ affrighted world,
“Who thought it thunder’d, whilst our eager joys
“And murm’ring transports caus’d the pleasing noise,
“Shall mortal wenches share cœlestial bliss,
“And goddesses not even gain a kiss?

          “Nor mine alone is this disgrace; look round
“Th’ Olympian court, no god is honest found:
“For not the female bed alone they court,
“But ruddy boys afford them filthy sport,
“There sticks the rancour, venom there corrodes,
“That poisons even the divine abodes.
“If their sex thus can find their own delight,
“Sure we some way each other may invite!
“Here then my fury rests, I’ll strait convene
“The jealous goddesses t’attend their queen.”

          SHE sends for Maia’s son [i.e. Hermes/Mercury], the nimble post,
On all occasions to the Olimpic host:
Her cards were ready wrote, (that custom’s old,
Tho’ moderns claim th’ invention; vain and bold)
She gives the gentle missives to his hands,
And bids him execute her strict commands.

          THE feather’d thief most swiftly cuts the air,
And doth to every diff’rent court repair;
Her high behests he’s proud thus to perform,
And help the gath’ring of the coming storm.

          WITH one consent the summons they obey,
To Juno’s privy-chamber shape their way,
Where nectar flows in rosy-circled bowls,
T’ invigorate their bloods, and fire their souls;
Nectar, poetic lofty Name, perchance
“Tis what we mortals here below call Nantz [French wine];
After the due libations were pour’d out,
They at the portal plac’d a faithful scout.

          SO where Enthusiasm rears her head,
And blind fold sisters holy alleys tread,
To their new Eden, by their W—st—y [Winstanley] lead,
When she expounds, confesses or exhorts,
To heaving sighs, or sins, or private sports,
Some trusty matron keeps the awful door,
Nor takes her turn ’till all the form is o’er.

                              End of the First Canto.


          SOON as the feather’d messenger of Jove
Had done what all the goddesses approve;
Wisely reflecting on the ills to come,
And dreading to mankind some fatal doom,
He wisely ruminates within his breast
What scheme to form, how to detect ’em best,
“For sure, quoth Hermes, well I know the sex,
“And such a congress must e’en Jove perplex;
“Two women seldom meet but ills ensue,
“From Twelve we must expect some plague that’s new.”

          AWAY he flies to where the Gods in bow’rs
Quaff and repose themselves on beds of flow’rs:
With each his Catamite – O! frothy joy,
Which in the action doth it self destroy.

          WHEN Hermes thus: ’Immortals rouse, attend,
“Or let your empire o’er the females end,
“No more at your command stretch’d out they’ll lie,
“Heave the fond sigh, and roll the wanton eye;
“What is the main design I’m yet to know,
“But pleasure is the plan on which they go;
“O think betimes, that whilst ye’re toying here,
“With boys, o’erthrowing love in its career,
“O! my prophetic soul! they may invent
“Some secret way to give themselves content.”

          HIS message plays unheeded round their ears,
Dissolv’d in luxury, they laugh at fears;
And vainly fancy they shall still retain
The privilege, both ports at will to gain.

          Hermes disgusted, in a rage withdrew,
And to the conclave door in silence flew;
Amaz’d he stood, firm as his statue fix’d,
To see with Goddesses plain mortals mix’d’
But ’twas deceit, a cunning quaint disguise,
To screen their persons from discerning eyes,
Cœlestial dazzling brightness laid aside,
They came in loose array and human pride,
From British beauties that enchant the soul,
The grace, the stature, shape, and form they stole.

          Juno herself, with features stern and strong,
High nose, thin lips, and chin acute and long,
Whilst spread about some bristly hairs apper,
Such as when yonkers their first Off’rings shear;
Her dress was female, but her manly step
Seem’d as she’d wrestle, throw the bar, or leap;
From C—rt—r these she borrow’d, lusty maid,
Who makes the H-ckn-y [Hackney] husbands all afraid,
For neither science comes to her amiss,
The spouse she’ll bully, and the wife she’ll kiss.

          FAIR Cytherea next advancing slow,
To the assembly makes a graceful bow;
Her braided locks with ribbands interwove,
To wanton in the breezes vainly strove;
A thin transparent mantle lightly prest
With purple hue her gently rising breast;
Her azure zone so carelessly was ty’d,
As if it courted what it once deny’d;
And wishing to be loose, wou’d fain reveal
The font of love, which shades embrown’d conceal;
But to delude the eye with fond surprize;
The waving robe just shews her iv’ry thighs;
Thus in a dishabille, best choice of dress,
All in the Goddess lady M—— confess;
Alike prepar’d when pleasure beams the eye,
Rapture to give, or in high joy to die;
Ripe with her wrongs, an injur’d husbands brow
Mark’d for revenge her votive tablets shew.

          FROM sylvan scenes of hawthorn glens and trees,
The huntress nymph appears bare to the Knees,
Her manlike sinews, harden’d by the chace,
Strain, stretch, and crack at thoughts of the embrace;
Yet man she scorns, and whilst she inward burns,
Nature’s strong current on itself returns.
Diana thus bold Philony appears,
Whose loud ton’d pack the Hampshire forests fears,
From them retreating to the inmost shade,
Where no bold eyes their privacy invade;
She with her nymphs their lovely limbs unbind
To be all o’er kiss’d by the baudy wind.
Or, laving in the stream, to water give
Th’ embraces man most gladly wou’d receive;
In vain they beat the wave, the wave supplies
Fresh warmth, from whence more wanton they arise;
Then stretch’d on verdant banks in pairs they lye,
And to posteriors friendly Birch apply;
The gentle titillation swells the veins
’Till oozing Ichor leaves some faintish stains:
Imperfect bliss! mere miniature of joy!
Form’d to raise longings and high lust destroy.

          From noisy cities where the busy throng,
Impetuous roll their loaded carts along
See Vesta turret-crown’d, experienc’d dame,
Who knew in private to conceal her shame
Prim and demure as any quaking saint,
Who wears no lace nor patch, and rails at paint.
With plain stuff-gown, pinch’d coif and slender waist
She seems like B--m--d’s daughter blushing chaste.

          To her succeeds the goddess of the fields,
Bright Ceres who her bolden harvests hields;
She like a country dame in russet clad
With jocund air that speaks the heart full glad,
In lusty strides the private conclave seeks
And quite abrupt to the assembly breaks.

          Her daughter Proserpine behind her creeps,
With skin all ting’d by the infernal deeps,
In a Creolian form; her large black eyes
Indicate, nothing can her lust suffice;
The flame that in her vitals burns has drain’d
The balm of nature, and her visage stain’d;
Her lips, quite parch’d, demand the juicy kiss,
And ev’ry thirsty charm gaps wide for bliss;
As the faint earth cracks out, scorch’d and dry,
Begging the moisture of the giving sky:
In this disguise appear’d old Pluto’s bride,
That if by mortal eyes the goddess had been spy’d;
None cou’d the true minute resemblance catch,
But take her for the lady of the Watch.

          Mark you fell dame who, tott’ring in her gait,
Steps solemn on fond to presrve her state,
Cybele hight, the mother of the gods
Who long has reveal’d in their dark abodes,
A matron’s image shrouds her shrivel’d skin,
With furrow’d brows and features lank and thin;
Yet still her palsied hand wou’d grasp the Chief
That floods her veins and renovates her life;
But long debarr’d from that to art she flies,
Whose rising sap with genial juices crown’d,
Make her faint spirits from their dotage bound;
Her arid limbs entwin’d, close suction ply,
And drein the melting porous nymph quite dry;
Who yields her vigour to relieve the crone,
And whilst she gives her vigour taints her own;
So tea and spices tho’ they’re closely pent
Receive the neighb’ring filth’s obnoxious s[c]ent.

          Behind her Hebe comes in bloom of youth
Form’d for congenial love, soft joys and truth;
Blushing and radiant as the rosy morn,
When heav’nly smiles doth nature’s face adorn,
Array’d in ev’ry grace to charm mankind,
To clasp the youth in am’rous folds inclin’d:
But, ah! too soon those beauties all will fade:
And lust perfidious fully the bright maid
No jocund bridegroom leaps into her arms,
But the old doatard rifles all her charms,
“Till like a dying flow’r she pines and droops,
And in mid-age with impotence she stoops;
From her sunk cheeks declines the lively dye,
And faintly rolls the heavy languid eye.

          With lustful shell-fish crown’d, from th green deep
The sea-born Naiads climb the azure steep,
From various quarters a strange group appears,
Some warm in youth, some trembling with their years,
All rush like nature to the common flame;
All prone to venery, defying shame.

          To close the scene, quite ripe for am’rous sport
The Lesbian, tho’ no goddess, fills the court:
Man’s solid bliss she to the full had try’d,
Nor to the other sex her aid denied;
Awful she rushes in and claims a part
To add new vigour to the blunted dart;
Amaz’d the conclave sate, her threatning front
Carry’d dismay and isolence upon’t:
For Phaon still she sigh’d, a tender boy,
Who spurn’d her hostile love and warrior joy;
For nature in exuberance of lust,
Her parts had form’d adapt to either gust:
The wide receiver, most capacious space!
With ease the largest Chieftan cou’d embrace,
And when the trembling damsel lay supine
To seeming virile force she cou’d incline,
Nature benevolent thrust forth elate
The part that forms to bliss, or goads to hate.
Hence ev’ry Hero, on her bosom fell
And how she tickled girls they best can tell.
“Forgive this rude intrusion now she cries,
“Ripe to redress our sexes wrongs I rise:
“A nobler way remains in nature’s womb
“To fix our joys eternally to come.”
Attend whilst I relate the diff’rent ways,
That each to ease her stinging pains essays:
For not a Hippomania can more fierce,
Than woman’s wants the very vitals pierce.

          How some with animals their lusts retain,
Whose supple tongues the saline juices drein:
Hence mark the shock whose ears the carpet sweep
On couch or velvet cushion wont to sleep;
Whose gloatng eyes the females all survey,
Prompt on their beds or in their laps to play;
As most the nimble feet he strains his throat:
And wantons underneath the petticoat.
Or if the hand he licks ’tis proof most strong,
Each morn a nobler office claims his tongue:
Others like fair Bodena, when the down,
Of love adorns the nether copple crown,
To view the image that affords delight;
Steals from her father’s lodge conceal’d by night,
“And gives the son of Mars a pilfer’d crown,
To have the Chief, erect, in triumph shewn;
Or mounting on the leads beneath surveys,
Where silver Thames in soft meanders strays,
And there with eager eyes she courses o’er,
The bathing youths that wanton near the shore;
Fondly she sees the bold Priapus lave,
Untam’d by rigour of the rolling wave;
The lofty ensign fans her glowing fires,
And lustful pug must quence her lewd desires.
          Or need I tell when May’s sweet breath invites,
To early pleasures, rural calm delights
How the bright nymphs more blooming than the day
Mounts her fleet steed in virid [?vivid] loose array,
The happy pummels wantonly arise,
And by the motion triturate [grind] her T-----s [thighs],
The gentle Friction mimic joys produce,
And softly oozes the superfluous juice.”
          “’Twoud tire the muse to mention all the toys,
“With which they imitate substantial joys,
“In Britain’s isle a queen most highly fam’d.
“Contriv’d an easy chair where in full pride,
“She’d mount aloft and quite triumphant ride:
“Secret she kept it long, but prying eyes,
“Of priesthood soon the mimic cheat descries,
“From Italy the pois’nous drug they chuse,
“And o’er the arms its baneful drops infuse,
          “The chandler’s art oft feeds a double flame,
“First light to bed and then her lust doth tame,
“Warm’d by the prurient hot corroding place,
“The frequent motion working on apace;
“Soon as the coming joy with her is felt,
“The giving candle condescends to melt.
          “From these mean arts afford them some relief
“Oh mitigate their pain and hush their grief;
“A train of girls your nod all suppliant wait,
“Expecting you to fix their future Fate;
“And humbly beg some method you’d invent
“To wound their foes and give themselves content.
“My poor endeavours shall support the claim,
“Love is my life, and love is all my aim;
“Man’s rough, ingrateful sex henceforth I scorn,
“May all, like me, their cold embraces spurn;
“Woman to woman’s breast can best supply
“The stream of love, when once the pulse beats high.
“Come then, ye virgins of the tender make,
“Of unfelt joys and circling bliss partake.

          THUS Sappho spoke, and at the grateful close,
A pleasing murmur thro’ th’ assembly rose,
Mild as when o’er the rill, or thro’ the trees,
In whispers gently swells the vernal breeze,
They smil’d assent, and from her starry throne,
Great Juno thus her sentiments made known:
“Cœlestial sisters! arbiters of fate!
“Know from my soul sincerely man I hate;
“No more the scrubbing of a rustic kiss
“Shall rough my face, rude antidote to bliss.
“Freedom to all is given; your schemes propose;
“At liberty your secret thoughts disclose;
“Say, who the noblest science can improve,
“With arts unknown to dull, mechanic love;
“Let homely wives plod on in one slow track,
“And take what nature gives, upon their back;
“Unpractis’d in the skill to vary joy,
“By one continual tenderness they cloy;
“Be’t yours to bound, to leap, your limbs to spread,
“And wanton lewdly on the genial bed;
“Satiate with man all nature’s stock explore,
“And pluck assistance from her endless store,.
“Begin; who first our infant hopes can rear,
“Shall in a full assembly transport share.

          WHEN Ceres thus: “’Tis mine to till the ground,
“Where vegetables of all sorts abound,
“Nor think alone by food they man sustain,
“The food of man shall ease the females pain:
“For this the carrot rears its verdant head,
“Hiding its sandy root in Tellus’s bed;
“Thence too, close clinging to its native earth,
“The friendly parsnip is dug up to birth;
“These when some tender hand has wash’d them clean,
“Ye all are well acquainted what they mean;
“What need we more? If man will poorly swerve
“From nature’s rules, for us let carrots serve.

          WITH indignation fir’d and red’ning eye,
The Goddess Queen this practice doth defy:
“Born of the earth, she cries, from dirt you seek
“Feeble employment, and a tool most weak.
“Let country dames void of politer taste,
“On roots, or any thing thus break their fast;
“We study to improve the active sport,
“And find diversion for the Belles at C--rt [Court];
“Man we despise – but in our better Plan
“Let us in miniature out-ape the man.

          “SEE from the bath the supple eunuch rise,
“The loss of substance better sound supplies;
“Depriv’d of balmy juice in virile pride,
“He fears not the most tempting to bestride;
“All night he labours at the luscious joy,
“Nor can the coming morn his bliss destroy;
“Better with him luxuriant give the flow,
“Than water plants inanimate to grow.
“If that you seek, young Ganimede attends,
“Whence comes no danger, for no show’r descends;
“One Road he keeps, one constant track pursues,
“To him no pleasure, you, no pain accrues.

          MODEST in decent pride young Hebe rose,
And thus: “A virgin may her thoughts disclose;
“Oft with the tempting boy I’ve loosely play’d,
“And o’er his limbs my wanton hands have stray’d,
“Whilst he in free indulgence hath confest,
Jove in another mode hath love exprest.
“Beware then, ladies, how ye here engage,
“Nor trust the Ganimedes of this vile age;
“Who trust the men their secrets to explore,
“Will yours disclose when once the conflict’s o’er.

The maiden’s caution gladly all approve,
And join to form some other shape of love;
Italian mimickry they all despise,
Some new invention must bear off the prize.

End of the Second Canto.


STILL on, Pierian nuymph, the theme pursue,
Undraw the veil and bring it all to view,
Fly round the toilette and the couch display;
Illicit love the darling theft betray:
Nor longer nice the sportive girl disguise,
When she in secret the gay engine tries.

          WHEN Hebe ceas’d, alert, with manly air,
Sappho arose from off her iv’ry chair,
Beneath her robe the sacred prize she held,
Whose large protub’rance was but ill conceal’d.

“CEASE, cease she cries, your needless search suspend,
“Well vers’d in love, let me the conflict end;
“A curious artist that thro’ nature pry’d,
“Has ev’ry wish our hearts could form supply’d;
“He gives us man without the plague of males,
“Which will untired remain when nature fails;
“The conscious blush must rise whene’er I think
“What arts we use when drooping standards sink;
“In vain the lily hand with genial fire
“Strives with fresh heat the mortals to inspire;
“When round their limbs robust we gently twine,
“And fondly hope to make the centers join;
“Repugnant to our joys, the Ruler, dead,
“Hangs like a fading flow’r its livid head;
“Nor can our heaving breasts new strength excite,
“The darting tongue no longer can invite;
“When we to rushing joy go boldly on,
“Supine and indolent they tumble down;
“Baulk’d in our bliss, we to reproaches fly,
“And noise and tumult for kind signs supply;
“No more we clasp him in our tender arms,
“No more his colder breast our bosom warms;
“Who then such frail felicity wou’d trust,
“Or value those imperfect efforts most;
“When solid joys are always at command,
“And court the pressure of your eager hand?
“For this the burnish’d iv’ry rears its head,
“Waiting for coral of a lovely red;
“Or if too rude the polish’d engine seems,
“The velvet cov’ring keeps it from extremes;
“Its shape compleat, nor can ye aught despise,
“For to your choice they shall adapt the size.

          SHE said, and with a more majestic Mien
Produc’d at once the wonderful Machine.
Not more the Greeks rejoic’d when Ilium’s Fate,
Which on its stol’n Palladium did await,
The sly Ulysses cautiously drew out
And charm’d the wond’ring chiefs and vulgar rout.

          WITH rapture all beheld it, and applause
In Io’s loud, the silent image draws.
Immediate trial is the next demand,
The trial claims a gently trembling hand;
Kind Sappho soon administers her aid,
And drives the dart into the yielding maid.
Fond of the scheme they strive t’improve its use,
And each will the most pleasing method chuse.

          FOND to expose her leg the huntress-queen
Close to her buskin fixes the machine;
With limbs expanded moves the nimble heel,
And feeds the part which most she should conceal.

          OF this ye nymp[h]s beware, for thus you shew
A secret none but true adepts should know:
A solid matron once in art well vers’d,
Who to her pupils all the modes rehears’d;
And when they purchas’d these relieving charms,
Taught them their tactics, and to use their arms,
In this encounter was by fraud betray’d,
And to a man the dang’rous rite display’d.
Young Clody with a tender, beardless chin,
Prompt to discover all the paths of sin,
Vow’d he their secret myst’ries wou’d unfold,
And sate revenge upon a prude grown cold.
So lucky was he in the am’rous chace,
The nymphs all yielded to his warm embrace;
’Till saint-like Mira, most affected proud,
Virtue and hate of man proclaim’d aloud.
The youth well knew that virtue was a name,
A fantom form’d by female dread of shame;
And that some stronger pow’r must there resort,
Or nature quickly wou’d give up the fort;
Oft had he seen her fly in haste from home,
In dishabille, and trac’d her to the dome,
Where, afterwards, the found the craving lass,
Might suit her wants with heroes of each class.

          READY invention fires his glowing thought,
With lust and indignation fully fraught.
Soon he resolves the doubtful scene to try,
And by disguise deceive the matron’s eye;
The plaited cap adorns his blushing face,
And gives his features ev’re female grace;
The handkerchief conceals his flatten’d breast,
And a large robe de chambre hides the rest;
He seems a nymph compleat, and by address,
Finds out the means his passion to express.

          Sybilla, unsuspecting the deceit,
Gladly embraces the dissembling cheat;
Exhibits to his view the gaudy store,
And gives him all instructions in her power;
Shews him how for the use ’tis made most fit,
When to withdraw, and when the mark to hit.
Pleas’d with the luscious scene, joy turn’d to pain,
Nor cou’d he bounded nature’s force restrain;
Better to rein the steed in mid career
Than stop those swelling signs that will appear,
Bursting from close confinement, rousing up,
Th’ imprison’d hero breaks the button’d shop:
On one side gapes Avernus with a fringe,
Which Cerberus on t’other stands to singe:
Weary of art, when nature thus invites,
Who can withstand the force of stol’n delights?
To quit the conflict, he accosts the dame,
And quences in her slough the red-hot flame;
Conquer’d, by double joys tir’d and o’ercome,
She lies a victim to the tartar’s doom,
Obedient to his will, complies with all,
In the same garb to lust must Mira fall;
Th’ effect at full quite answer’d the design,
And the coy girl her virtue did resign:
Quite harmless frisk’d she, not of man afraid,
Thinking she with another woman play’d.

          BE heedful then; in private hide your joys,
Nor be the sport of gadding beardless boys:
Search well the sex, the stature and the age,
Be sure before you venture to engage.

          SOON as the Lesbian had, with triumph crown’d,
And nimble fingers serv’d th’ assembly round,
Each gave her sentiments, and firmly strove
The young advent’rer in each shape t’improve.

          LOVE’s Goddess from her taper waist alone,
Bestows the beauty-giving azure zone;
Whilst round the female hips that gift is felt,
At distance falls the new-invented belt,
Proud of its better place, the hero struts,
And on the rolling air of manhood puts;
Now strikes the iv’ry belly with its head,
And now bent down upon the thigh is spread:
But when to action call’d, fierce in the front
He points his mark prepar’d to face the brunt.

          STILL there remains another nice affray,
Moisture alone can flaming fire allay;
And what the turgid veins with rapture fills,
Is love descending in soft trickling rills;
When every pore its genial balm collects,
And thro’ one pipe the flowing stream ejects.
To gain this point their skill is at a stand,
Then engine drops and shrinks the tender hand,
Till fair Minerva, patroness of arts,
The best improvements to the fair imparts,
A spring she adds, whose property is such,
That the middle finger’s single touch,
Thro’ a small tube is instantly convey’d,
Warm nature to the essence-yielding maid,
Which drawn from dugs distended kindly gives
Lacteal juice to widows, girls or wives.

          THUS finish’d and complete, it long had serv’d,
Cœlestial nymphs, and chastity preserv’d.
In time our earthly ladies found its use,
Unwilling the least moment’s prime to lose.
In China first the supple thing took birth,
And after tea, afforded them new mirth;
Confucious there philosophy first taught,
And thence this cargo was to Europe brought,
Fathers of all may well their annals boast,
The seasons and inventions we have lost;
Lust to supply, and luxury to add,
These are thy great advantages, O! trade!

          SOON Spaniards and Italians make it known,
And privately adopt it as their own.
The French, that ever am’rous, dancing crew,
With vigour to its cold embraces flew,
And claim’d their darling of its succour vain,
’Till Britain felt a Stuart’s happy reign;
Returning Charles this blessing brought and more,
To fill the magazine of lech’ry’s store.
These all the ladies of his court enjoy’d,
Tho’ for disguise a hogshead were destroy’d;
Of this facetious Butler loudly sings,
Best poet to the baudiest of k—gs [kings].

          OH! could I trace the dear succession down,
How it the country rais’d, and spread the town,
As outside nervous should my verses prove,
Yet softer than the milk-distilling love.

          LIKE sects, oppos’d, the stronger root it took,
And soon the chief of women men forsook;
They change their habits, alter ev’ry air,
And see in Josephs puny miss appear;
The bold virago mankind seems to ape,
And for that purpose varies ev’ry shape;
The hielding girl to gentler postures turns,
And gives to woman what to man she scorns.

          THE diff’rent symptoms take: the female rake,
The cock of hat and furzy wig bespeak;
She rides her trotting nag aside ’tis true;
But ye pale-looking nymphs how rides she you?
Full flush’d, and of the Amazonian kind,
She dreads no storms, nor fears the rougher wind;
All morn most brisklky she pursues the chace,
Then on your couch imprints the lewd embrace.

          WITH languid eyes, and feeble, trembling pulse,
That baffles all the skill of Sl—ne or H—se,
For ever lazy, and for ever dull,
Craving eternally, yet never full;
Stretch’d on a couch, or lolling in a chair,
The indigent receiver doth appear.
The sport a-while may sick’ning life sustain,
But soon ’tis o’er, and endless is the pain.

          WOU’D ye, young girls, who glow with health and love,
The blissful minutes of your lives improve,
Ne’er throw the balm of luscious love away,
And voluntary dwindle to decay;
New bathe a stupid tool, when the same joys,
May bring ye pretty girls and chatt’ring boys;
Rather avow your love, confess your flame,
And nature boldly own, devoid of shame.
Let he mean herd, the shaggy, pallid crew,
Their forc’d, their made-up bliss at home pursue;
Woman was made for man, so nature meant,
And ev’ry fibre answers the intent;
Who sins against its the creation wrong,
Must rank with beasts, nor to mankind belongs.

          BY sad experience taught, I dying speak,
If my former wicked vows should break,
Forgive me, saints of H—ckney [Hackney], with regret
I think of the false transports I have met;
O! let the fair who thus have lost their bloom,
May yet have years of pregnancy to come,
Some nobler method seek; see where the sacred fane
Stands wide their private births to entertain;
Better to fix the growing substance there,
Than let their children all expand in air:
Tho’ prudes will censure and old maidens talk,
Ne’er screen your bliss, nor flowing transports baulk,
Spite of all shame, stile one Young Cupid’s Grove,
And this dull practice, the Dark Grave of Love.

F I N I S.


BOTH PORTS: both the vagina and the anus, i.e. both women and boys.

BUTLER: Samuel Butler (1612–80), who whose poem Dildoides. A Burlesque Poem was published in 1706, but related to an incident in 1672 when a large cask of dildoes was burned as part of Parliament’s prohibition on French goods. Butler’s more famous satirical poem was Hudibras.

CLODIUS: Publius Clodius Pulcher, a Roman politician and Tribune, who secretly joined the rites of Bona Dea by disguising himself as a woman, in an attempt to seduce Pompeia, wife of Caesar, resulting in a great scandal.

C—rt—r: This might be the name of a notorious female aristocrat, or it might just be “Courtier”.

ENTHUSIASM: Quakers, Methodists, Anabaptists and other Christian dissenters were characterised as religious fanatics.

GNIDOS: Greek city with a famous status of Venus.

HACKNEY: A Hackney coach is a coach for hire, hence “commonplace”; but it might refer to the actual district of London, Hackney, which was notorious for common prostitutes.

HER PARTS: The suggestion is that Sappho had an enlarged clitoris which she used as a penis, and she was therefore in some sense a hermaphrodite – this is part of the characterisation of lesbians as “tribades”.

HIPPOMANIA: A passion for horses.

ICHOR: Ethereal fluid that flows in the veins of the gods.

JACONITISM: Presumably a misprint for Jacobitism, the political movement to restore the deposed Stuart king James II/VII to the throne. The Jacobite rebellion was crushed at the Battle Culloden in April 1746.

LADY M——: Perhaps Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762), noted for her exotic travels, and sometimes rumoured to be a lesbian. She separated from her husband in 1739.

LIVIA: Wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus.

MIRA: This is almost certainly the same person attacked as “Myra” in William King’s The Toast, i.e. the Countess of Newburgh (Lady Frances Brudenell).

OVID translation: “Neither Pyrrhian nor Methymnian maidens nor the rest of the throng of Lesbian girls delight me; naught is Anactoria, naught is the dazzling Cydro to me; Atthis is not pleasing to mine eyes as ere; nor the other hundred, whom I loved not without reproach” (Ovid, Epistlae, xv. 15–19; Sappho speaking to Phaon).

PAPHIAN: The city of Paphos in Cyprus was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love.

PERUVIAN MINES Gold and silver were mined in Peru, land of the fabled city of El Dorado.

Sl—ne or H—se Sir Hans Sloane, physician to the court of queen Anne, George I and George II; Sir Edward Hulse, well known London physician.

WINSTANLEY: Gerard Winstanley, late seventeenth-century visionary religious reformer and founder of the Diggers, agrarian communists.

YONKERS: Youths, whose first facial hair has just appeared.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Sappho-An, c.1735 or 1749," Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. 26 August 2017 <>.

Return to Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England