Most of the guests arrived late. There was a mistake in the directions given with the invitations.

"Someone said turn right, instead of left!" shouted an incredulous voice bringing laughter to the group of about 125 human rights supporters gathered in a Bethesda home last night. It was a reception given by the International League for Human Rights.

"Russia's the only place left where poets are taken seriously," journalist I.F. Stone told the group.

"Here they have a problem getting published," Stone said, "but in the Soviet Union they're sent to jail."

Physicist Andrei Sakharov, hospitalized this week because he went on a protest hunger strike, and the Reagan administration's human rights policies were the main topics between the bites of melted brie, ham slices and salmon at the celebration marking the 33rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Sakharov stands for all the people in the Soviet Union whose names nobody knows," said Patricia Derian, former assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Carter administration.

"I don't see a cheerful note. I don't see a ray of sunshine," Derian said before making an early exit. "This administration has learned very little about human rights."

As ice cubes clinked in the half-filled highballs of both government and private activists, an undercurrent of sobriety tugged at conversations dominated by world human rights problems from Korea to Argentina in the split-level Bethesda home.

"In the past we've been working in collaboration with the administration, now we're in an adversarial role," said Rep. Don Bonker (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations.

"Bipartisan support remains intact," Bonker said, "but we've found a rather disturbing trend to ignore human rights."

But talk of Sakharov captured most of the remarks.

"Sakharov is a prophet," Stone said. "He has spunk enough for everybody. We should do all we can to make life miserable for the Soviet diplomatic corps here and everywhere. Sakharov represents peace."