Poems and Fragments
Sappho is the first great lyric poet. She showed that poetry was
capable not only of grand effects of epic proportion, but also could
achieve a rare intimacy of personal expression. Before Sappho,
poetry celebrated the tribe, the nation, or the gods, but rarely the
poet, the personal or the psychological. If today, we see poetry as
primarily an outpouring of the individual consciousness, we can
trace back this to Sappho. But for all her influence, Sappho remains
very much a mystery. Her biography is mostly a compilation of
anecdotal and sometimes conflicting accounts -- one source offers
no fewer than eight different candidates for her father; and even
her writing comes down to us in fragmentary form. We would give
much to have access to the famous missing sources: Chamaeleon’s
lost study of Sappho, the equally enigmatic and absent commentary
by Callias of Mytilene, or Dracon of Stratonicea's supposed study of
her metrical devices. But even the small amount of Sappho's
writings that we possess are sufficient to fire our imagination, and
establish her importance in the shaping of not just Western letters,
but even more, the shaping of the Western mind.
Here is a good reproduction of Gustave Moreau's painting Sappho
on the Cliff.
A on-line translation of Sappho, with accompanying Greek
transliteration, is available at this site.
Here you can find H.T. Wharton's life of Sappho.
You asked for it, no you've got it . . . Sappho for kids!
Don't just read it, live it . . . . Sappho Travel will book your trip to
the island of Lesbos. Women only holiday trips are available.
TIPS FOR READERS
For my research into
the history of love
lyrics, I went through
the various modern
poetic renderings of
Sappho. But I was
dismayed with the
license taken in
fragmentary texts. In
frustration, I finally
chose the stodgy
Loeb edition as the
most reliable source.
I suggest you do the