Sappho (Attic Greek: Σαπφώ; Aeolic Greek: Ψάπφα, Ψάπφω) (born c. 630/612 BC; died c. 570 BC - 581 BC) Greek poet; A prolific and much acclaimed writer, she is credited with either seven or nine long books of poetry, but over a thousand years of neglect and hostility destroyed most of her work. She is preserved in fragments, in citations in the works of classical authors, and on strips of papyrus found in Egypt. Many translators have attempted to fill in the gaps with their own interpretation of Sappho's style, thus a definitive collection is not possible.
The Willis Barnstone translationsEdit
O dream on your black wings
you come when I am sleeping.
Sweet is the god but still I am
in agony and far from my strength.
for I had hope (none now) to share
something of the blessed gods,
nor was I so foolish
as to scorn pleasant toys.
Now may I have
all these things.
- Fragment 63 Voigt
Exhortation to LearningEdit
A handsome man guards his image a while;
a good man will one day take on beauty.
- Fragment 50 Voigt
Virginity, virginity, when you leave me, where do you go?
I am gone and never come back to you.
I never return.
- Fragment 114 Voigt
Of course I am downcast and tremble
with pity for my state
when old age and wrinkles cover me,
when Eros flies about
and I pursue the glorious young.
Pick up your lyre
and sing to us of her who wears
violets on her breasts. Sing especially
of her who is wandering.
- Fragment 58 Voigt
Supreme Sight on the Black EarthEdit
Some say cavalry and others claim
infantry or a fleet of long oars
is the supreme sight on the black earth.
I say it is
the one you love. And easily proved.
Didn't Helen, who far surpassed all
mortals in beauty, desert the best
of men, her king,
and sail off to Troy and forget
her daughter and her dear parents? Merely
Aphrodite's gaze made her readily bend
and led her far
from her path. These tales remind me now
of Anaktoria who isn't here,
would rather see her warm supple step
and the sparkle in her face than watch all
the chariots in Lydia and foot soldiers armored
in glittering bronze.
- Fragment 16 Voigt
To a Handsome ManEdit
If you are my friend, stand up before me
and scatter the grace that's in your eyes.
- Fragment 138 Voigt
Suzy Q. Groden translationsEdit
- From The Poems of Sappho (1966)
To have beauty is to have only that,
but to have goodness
is to be beautiful
When wrath runs rampage
in your heart
you must hold still
that rambunctious tongue!
Stanley Lombardo translationsEdit
- Sappho, Poems and Fragments, trans. Stanley Lombardo (Hackett Publishing, 2002), ISBN 978-0872205918
child of Zeus, weaver of wiles,
I beg you,
do not crush my spirit with anguish, Lady,
but come to me now...
- Truly, I wish I were dead.
She was weeping when she left me,
and said many things to me, and said this:
"How much we have suffered, Sappho.
Truly, I don't want to leave you."
- Look at him, just like a god,
that man sitting across from you,
whoever he is,
listening to your
close, sweet voice,
your irresistible laughter
And O yes,
it sets my heart racing—
one glance at you
and I can't get any words out,
my voice cracks,
a thin flame runs under my skin,
my eyes go blind,
my ears ring,
a cold sweat pours down my body,
I tremble all over,
turn paler than grass.
- Eros has shaken my mind,
wind sweeping down the mountain on oaks
- Like the sweet apple reddening on the topmost branch,
the topmost apple on the tip of the branch,
and the pickers forgot it,
well, no, they didn't forget, they just couldn't reach it.
- The moon has set,
And the Pleiades.
The hour has gone by.
I sleep alone.
Quotes about SapphoEdit
- Among the mutilated poets of antiquity, there is none whose fragments are so beautiful as those of Sappho. They give us a taste of her way of writing, which is perfectly conformable with that extraordinary character we find of her in the remarks of those great critics who were conversant with her works when they were entire. One may see, by what is left of them, that she followed nature in all her thoughts, without descending to those little points, conceits, and turns of wit, with which many of our modem lyrics are so miserably infected. Her soul seems to have been made up of love and poetry: she felt the passion in all its warmth, and described it in all its symptoms. She is called by ancient authors the tenth muse; and by Plutarch is compared to Cacus, the son of Vulcan, who breathed out nothing but flame. I do not know, by the character that is given of her works, whether it is not for the benefit of mankind that they are lost. They were filled with such bewitching tenderness and rapture, that it might have been dangerous to have given them a reading.
- Mascula Sappho.
- Masculine Sappho.
- Horace, Epistle I, xix, 28
- The flowers of Sappho few, but roses.
- Meleager's Garland, in Lyra Graeca (tr. J. M. Edmonds), p. 165
- Sappho is a great poet because she is a lesbian, which gives her erotic access to the Muse. Sappho and the homosexual-tending Emily Dickinson stand alone above women poets, because poetry's mystical energies are ruled by a hierach requiring the sexual subordination of her petitioners. Women have achieved more as novelists than as poets because the social novel operates outside the ancient marriage of myth and eroticism.
- Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae (1990), p. 672
- Sappho speaks words mingled truly with fire; through her song she communicates the heat of her heart.
- Plutarch, Moralia, Vol. IX, Dialogue on Love (Loeb translation)
- Living unloved, to die unknown,
Unwept, untended and alone.
- Christina Rossetti, Sappho (1846)