14 April 2013

April is NPM: Sappho

Sappho was a Greek poet born on the island of Lesbos.  Very little is known about her and much of her poetry was lost to time.  Although Lesbos has now lent its name as the root of the word "lesbian", it is likely that Sappho had much the same relationship to women as Socrates did to his students.

I've chosen "Hymn to Aphrodite" for poetry month.  This is a Victorian translation - to contrast read Elizabeth Vandiver's translation made in the 1980s.

Hymn to Aphrodite

THRONED in splendor, immortal Aphrodite!
Child of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee
Slay me not in this distress and anguish,
Lady of beauty.
Hither come as once before thou camest,
When from afar thou heard'st my voice lamenting,
Heard'st and camest, leaving thy glorious father's Palace golden,
Yoking thy chariot. Fair the doves that bore thee;
Swift to the darksome earth their course directing,
Waving their thick wings from the highest heaven
Down through the ether.
Quickly they came. Then thou, O blessed goddess,
All in smiling wreathed thy face immortal,
Bade me tell thee the cause of all my suffering,
Why now I called thee;
What for my maddened heart I most was longing.
"Whom," thou criest, "dost wish that sweet Persuasion
Now win over and lead to thy love, my Sappho?
Who is it wrongs thee?
"For, though now he flies, he soon shall follow,
Soon shall be giving gifts who now rejects them.
Even though now he love not, soon shall he love thee
Even though thou wouldst not."
Come then now, dear goddess, and release me
From my anguish. All my heart's desiring
Grant thou now. Now too again as aforetime,
Be thou my ally.   

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