The Poetry of Sappho
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Today, thousands of years after her birth, in lands remote from her native island of Lesbos and in languages that did not exist when she wrote her poetry in Aeolic Greek, Sappho remains an important name among lovers of poetry and poets alike,. Celebrated throughout antiquity as the supreme Greek poet of love and of the personal lyric, noted especially for her limpid fusion of formal poise, lucid insight, and incandescent passion, today her poetry is also prized for its uniquely vivid participation in a living paganism. Collected in an edition of nine scrolls by scholars in the second century BC, Sappho's poetry largely disappeared when the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204. All that remained was one poem and a handful of quoted passages . A century ago papyrus fragments recovered in Egypt added a half dozen important texts to Sappho's surviving works. In 2004 a new complete poem was deciphered and published. By far the most significant discovery in a hundred years, it offers a new and tellingly different example of Sappho's poetic art and reveals another side of the poet, thinking about aging and about the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. Jim Powell's translations represent a unique combination of poetic mastery in English verse and a deep schlolarly engagement with Sappho's ancient Greek. They are incomparably faithful to the literal sense of the Greek poems and, simultaneously, to their forms, preserving the original meters and stanzas while exactly replicating the dramatic action of their sequences of disclosure and the passionate momentum of their sentences. Powell's translations have often been anthologized and selected for use in textbooks, winning recognition among discerning readers as by far the best versions in English.
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rosy arms carried Tithonos aboard her golden bowl to the world’s end when young and handsome, but all the same in time gray age caught up with him, although his wife was an immortal goddess. [LP 58 new ed. West] But delicacy, that’s what I love, and this love has made of the sun’s brightness and beauty my fortune. [LP 58.25–26] O Dream on your dark wings you come circling whenever sleep descends on me, sweet god, and by your power keep off the cruel memory of pain. Then hope gets hold of me
6 4 2 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper Contents Translator’s Note The Poetry of Sappho vii 1 Sappho of Lesbos 43 The Text of Sappho’s Poems 45 Abbreviations and Bibliography 49 Textual Notes 51 This page intentionally left blank TRANSLATOR’S NOTE T o facilitate reference the poems and fragments are arranged in the order of the standard edition of Lobel & Page. Each is preceded by an ornament and followed by its number in this edition in square brackets
fresh garlands of flowers in bloom, and more recently there were headbands decorated in Sardis, elaborately embroidered [ ] Ionian cities [ [ But for you, dearest Kleïs, I have no intricate headband and nowhere that I can get one: the Mytilénean ] 25 the poetry of sappho 26 [ [ [ these memorials of the exile of the children of Kléanax ] horribly wasted [ [LP 98] “Sweet mother, I can’t weave my web overcome with longing for a boy because of slender Aphrodite.” [LP 102] Most beautiful of
daughter the swallow wake me? [LP 135] 33 34 the poetry of sappho spring’s messenger, the lovelyvoiced nightingale [LP 136] In Answer To Alcaeus [ ] “I want to tell you something, and yet my shame prevents me ...” [ [ ] But if you wanted good things or lovely ones and if your tongue weren’t stirring up something bad to say then shame would never hide your eyes: you would state your case [ [LP 137] But stand before me, if you are my friend, and spread the grace that’s in your eyes. [LP