Poems by Sappho

I have not had one word from her 

I have not had one word from her 

Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left she wept 

a great deal; she said to me This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly.  

I said Go, and be happy
but remember (you know 
well) whom you leave shackled by love 

If you forget me think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared 

all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck 

myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them 

while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song...  

--Translated by Mary Barnard 


Come back to me Gongyla here tonight
You my rose with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
A beauty desired. 

Even your garment plunders my eyes.
I am enchanted: I who once
Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess
Whom I now beseech 

Never to let this lose me grace
But rather bring you back to me:
Amongst all mortal women the one
I most wish to see. 

--Translated by Paul Roche 

On the throne of many hues Immortal Aphrodite

On the throne of many hues Immortal Aphrodite
child of Zeus weaving wiles--I beg you
not to subdue my spirit Queen
with pain or sorrow 

but come--if ever before 
having heard my voice from far away
you listened and leaving your father's 
golden home you came 

in your chariot yoked with swift lovely
sparrows bringing you over the dark earth
thick-feathered wings swirling down
from the sky through mid-air 

arriving quickly--you Blessed One
with a smile on your unaging face
asking again what have I suffered
and why am I calling again 

and in my wild heart what did I most wish
to happen to me: "Again whom must I persuade
back into the harness of your love?
Sappho who wrongs you? 

For if she flees soon she'll pursue
she doesn't accept gifts but she'll give
if not now loving soon she'll love
even against her will." 

Come to me now again release me from
this pain everything my spirit longs 
to have fulfilled fulfill and you
be my ally 

--Translated by Diane Rayor 

To Andromeda 

That country girl has witched your wishes
all dressed up in her country clothes
and she hasn't got the sense
to hitch her rags above her ankles. 

--Translated by Jim Powell 

Some an army of horsemen some an army on foot

Some an army of horsemen some an army on foot
and some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest sight
on this dark earth; but I say it is what-
ever you desire: 

and it it possible to make this perfectly clear
to all; for the woman who far surpassed all others 
in her beauty Helen left her husband --
the best of all men -- 

behind and sailed far away to Troy; she did not spare
a single thought for her child nor for her dear parents
but [the goddess of love] led her astray
[to desire...] 

reminds me now of Anactoria
although far away  

--Translated by Josephine Balmer 

To Atthis 

Though in Sardis now
she things of us constantly 

and of the life we shared.
She saw you as a goddess
and above all your dancing gave her deep joy. 

Now she shines among Lydian women like 
the rose-fingered moon
rising after sundown erasing all 

stars around her and pouring light equally
across the salt sea
and over densely flowered fields 

lucent under dew. Her light spreads
on roses and tender thyme
and the blooming honey-lotus. 

Often while she wanders she remem-
bers you gentle Atthis
and desire eats away at her heart 

for us to come. 

--Translated by Willis Barnstone 

Many many scholars have studied the life and works of Sappho; this list presents only a sample of recent work. 

Sappho biography and translated fragments 
Sappho short biography and several fragments 
Sappho Sappho translated by Mary Barnard (Berkeley: University of California Press 1958) 
Sappho The Love Songs of Sappho translated by Paul Roche (New York: Penguin Books 1966 1991) 
Eva Cantarella Pandora's Daughters: The Role and Status of Women in Green and Roman Antiquity (Baltimore: John Hopkins 1987) 
Judy Grahn The Highest Apple: Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition (San Francisco: Spinsters Ink 1985) 
Edith Mora excerpt from Sappho -- The Story of a Poet (Flammarion 1966) 
Diane Rayor Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece translated by Diane Rayor (Berkeley: University of California Press 1991) 
Leah Rissman Love as War: Homeric Allusion in the Poetry of Sappho (Konigstein: Verlag Anton Hain 1983) 
David M. Robinson Sappho and Her Influence (Boston: Marshall Jones 1924) 
Jane McIntosh Snyder The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press 1989)

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