Joseph Warton, who signs himself "Monitorius", summons Sappho to warn Semanthe that youth is fleeting and that her time would be better spent improving her mind. He alludes to Pope's Rape of the Lock ("Sir Plume") and borrows names from the sonnets of Spenser and Sidney: "When Amoret no more can shine; | And Stella owns she's not divine, | Then sense and merit shall supply | The blushing cheek, the sparkling eye."
This very early poem may be regarded as the opening round in the younger Wartons' critique of Pope, in which Greek poetry and Renaissance English poetry would come to play a large part. Thomas Warton would follow up in his Pleasures of Melancholy (published 1747) in an allusion that elevates Spenser's Una over Pope's Belinda. Sappho's Advice was sent to the Gentleman's Magazine along with copies of verses by two other Winchester scholars, Richard Tomkins ("Beauty and Innocence") and William Collins ("Sonnet").
J. M.: "The poetry commences at an early period of his existence, and in many instances bears the marks of juvenile effusions; but of these, even the earliest, Sappho's Advice, written by him when at Winchester School, has evident traces of Genius" European Magazine 51 (January 1807) 127.
Samuel Egerton Brydges: "It is worth noting how many first productions of persons of genius this Magazine has ushered into the world. In the same month appears Akenside's 'Hymn to Science,' dated from 'Newcastle upon Tyne,' 1739; in the next page appears a juvenile sonnet by Collins, signed 'Delicatulus'; and in the next month, p. 599, is inserted Mrs. Carter's beautiful Ode to Melancholy" Censura LIteraria 3 (1807) 186n.
W. J. Courthope: "The protagonists of the new lyrical movement were Joseph and Thomas Warton, the sons of Thomas Warton, Professor of Poetry at Oxford during the years 1728-38, and Vicar of Basingstoke, himself a writer of verse, which here and there foreshadows the romantic tendencies of the family in the next generation. Joseph was born at Dunsfold, Surrey, in 1722. He was educated first at the Basingstoke Grammar School, from which in 1735 he was elected scholar at Winchester, proceeding thence on the 16th of January 1739-40 to Oriel College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. on the 13th of March 1743-44, and became curate to his father at Basingstoke in 1746" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 5:379.
Tir'd with the visits of the day,
Semanthe on a sofa lay;
And leaning on her elbow, thought
Which was the loveliest silks she bought;
How by Sir Plume she was gallented,
How at the park and opera flaunted!
What silly hearts she had subdu'd,
And how she best might play the prude!
Till sleep his heavy poppies spread,
Adown she drops her drowsy head!
Sudden a female phantom rose,
Her cheek with healthy roses glows,
Her lively eyes are fill'd with fire,
Yet modesty forbid desire:
Her ebon curls hang loose behind,
And laurel-wreaths her temples bind:
A snowy robe her limbs array'd,
While thus the virgin, Sappho, said.
—It grieves me much, alas! to find
The fair neglect t' improve her mind!
The toys that your attention claim,
A Grecian maid would blush to name:
While you're adjusting your commode,
Lesbia, or I, could make an ode!
No gaudy ribbons deck'd her head,
A trembling light no diamond shed;
In white and innocency drest,
The plainest beauties were the best:
A pen I handled for a fan,
And learnt not how to dance by scan:
Those pretty eyes! — how soon they close!
Those cheeks — how fades the blushing rose!
When age has wean'd your love for dress,
And akes and beaus your years confess,
When Amoret no more can shine;
And Stella owns she's not divine,
Then sense and merit shall supply
The blushing cheek, the sparkling eye:
For nymphs, regardless of their faces,
Should add Minerva to the Graces.