12. Poems and Fragments, by Sappho, c. 600 BC

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Plot : The few remnants of Sappho’s poetry are largely love poems to young women of her society, with some bridal choruses, and mythological retellings. Of around one hundred examples, many fragments are only a few words long. Sizable sections have only survived from two or three poems.
My thoughts : The first named female author, Sappho of Lesbos gave her name to ‘lesbian’, but her poems are about desire and sadness in rejection as much as returned affection. My copy was the recent Cambridge University Press edition translated by Rayor and Lardinois (9781107023598)
Favourite lines/passages :
Fragment 31
To me it seems that man has the fortune
of gods, whoever sits beside you
and close, who listens to you
sweetly speaking

and laughing temptingly. My heart
flutters in my breast whenever
I quickly glance at you –
I can say nothing.

My tongue is broken. A delicate fire
runs under my skin, my eyes
see nothing, my ears roar,
cold sweat

rushes down me, trembling seizes me ,
I am greener than grass.
To myself I seem
needing but little to die.

Yet all must be endured, since …

Fragment 52
I don’t expect to touch heaven …
Personal rating 5/10, which might have been higher if more writings had existed to enjoy

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