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The Poems of Sappho, Part III


Ge'llws paidofilwte'ra.

More fond of children than Gello.

Zenobius, about A.D. 130, quotes this as a proverb. The ghost of Gello was said by the Lesbians to pursue and carry off young children.


Ma'la dh` kekorhme'nas Go'rgws.

Very weary of Gorgo.

Quoted by Choeroboscus about A.D. 600 to show the Aeolic genitive with -ws. Gorgo is mentioned by Maximus Tyrius with Andromeda as being friends of Sappho.


E?'gw d? e?pi` malða'kan tu'lan spole'w me'lea.

But upon a soft cushion I dispose my limbs

From Herodian.

This is a good example of the choice of words which combine meaning and sound poetically.


Kh^ d? a?mbrosi'as me`n kra'thr e?ke'krato,
?Erma^s d? e?'len o?'lpin ðe'ois oi?noxo'hsai.
kh^noi d? a?'pa pa'ntes karxh'sia t? h?^xon
ka'leibon a?ra'santo de` pa'mpan e?'sla
twj ga'mbrwj.

And there the bowl of ambrosia was mixed and Hermes took the ladle to pour out for the gods; and then all held goblets and made libation, and wished good fortune to the bridegroom.

Athenaeus quotes this fragment in two portions in different places. Lachmann first joined the two parts. The poem was evidently one of the Epithalamia.


De'duke men a? sela'nna
kai` Plhï'ades, me'sai de`
nu'ktes pa'ra d? e?'rxet? w?'ra,
e?'gw de` mo'na kateu'dw.

The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the time is going by and I recline alone.

The sinking moon has left the sky,
The Pleiades have also gone.
Midnight comes--and goes, the hours fly
And solitary still, I lie.
The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads' light;
     It is midnight,
     And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie.
             J. A. Symonds, 1883.

This singularly beautiful fragment is quoted by Hephaestion as an example of metre. With the "Hymn to Aphrodite" it was the first portion of the Poems of Sappho to be printed in 1554.


Plh'rhs me`n e?fai'net? a? sela'nna
ai? d? w?s peri` Bw^mon e?staðhsan.

The moon rose full, and as around an altar, stood the women.

Now rose the moon, full and argentine,
While round stood the maidens, as at a shrine.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of the metre known as the Ionic a majore trimeter brachycatalectic. Poetically the figure is a fine one, and shows Sappho's wonderful power of visualizing a scene in a few unerringly chosen words. The moon and its light had a great attraction for her, as a number of fragments shows.


Krh'ssai nu' pot? w?^d? e?mmele'ws po'dessin
w?rxeu^nt? a?pa'lois a?mf? epo'enta Bw^mon
po'as te'pen a?'nðos ma'lakon ma'teisai.

Thus sometimes, the Cretan women, tender footed, dance in measure round the fair altar, crushing the fine bloom of the grass.

From Hephaestion as an example of metre. Blass thinks that this and the preceeding framgment belong together. The whole is another example of the delicate imagery of Sappho.


A?'bra dhu?^te paxh'aj spo'laj a?llo'man.

Then lightly, in an enfolding garment I sprang.

From Herodian as a specimen of metre. It may not be by Sappho.


Fai^si dh` pota Lh'dan u?akinði'nwn
[u?p? a?nðe'wn] pepukadme'non
eu?'rhn w?'ion.

They say that Leda once found an egg under the hyacinths.

From the "Etymologicum Magnum." It is uncertain what flower the Greeks described by the word "hyacinth." In this case the iris may be meant.


O?fða'lmois de` me'lais nu'ktos a?'wros.

And dark-eyed Sleep, child of Night.

From the "Etymologicum Magnum."


Xrusofa'h ðera'painan 'Afrodi'tas.

The handmaiden of Aphrodite, shining like gold.

In a manuscript of Philodemas about 60 B.C., found at Herculaneum, in which it is said that Sappho thus addresses Peiðw'. There is some doubt about this as the manuscript is defective.


E?'xei me`n Androme'da ka'lan a?moi'ban.

Andromeda has a fair reward.


Psa'pfoi ti' ta`n polu'olbon A?fro'ditan;

Sappho, why [celebrate or worship] most happy Aphrodite?

Both of these are quoted by Hephaestion.


Deu^te' nun a?'brai Xa'rites, kalli'komoi' te Moi^sai.

Come now gentle Graces, and fair-haired Muses.

Quoted by Hepaestion, Attilius Fortunatianus, and Servius as an example of the choriambic tetrameter used by Sappho.


Pa'rðenon a?du'fwnon.

A sweet-voiced maiden.

Quoted by Attilius, about the fifth century A.D.


Katðna'skei Kuðe'rh?, a?'bros A?'dwnis, ti' ke ðei^men,
Kattu'ptesðe ko'rai kai` katerei'kesðe xi'twnas.

Gentle Adonis is dying, O Cythera, what shall we do?
Beat your breasts, O maidens, and rend your garments.

Gentle Adonis wounded lies, dying, dying.
What message, O Cythera, dost thou send?
Beat, beat your white breasts, O ye weeping maidens,
And in wild grief your mourning garments rend.

Quoted by Hephaestion and presumed to be written by Sappho from a passage in Pausanias.

The reverbrating beat of the repetitions of the letter k is very remarkable.


O?' to`n A?'dwnin.

O for Adonis.

Quoted by Marius Plotinus about A.D. 600. It appears to be the refrain of an ode.


E?'lðont? e?ks o?ra'nw porfuri'an [e?'xonta]
     perðe'menon xla'mun.

Coming from heaven, clad in a purple mantle.

Quoted by Pollux about A.D. 180 to illustrate Sappho's use of he word xlamu's, which she is said to be the first to use.


Brodopa'xees a?'gnai Xa'rites, deu^te Dios ko'rai.

Come rosy-armed Graces, virgin daughters of Zeus.

The Idyll on a Distaff by Theocritis, according to the argument before it, was written in the metre of this fragment. Philostratus, about A.D. 220, refers to this as indicating Sappho's love for the rose.


...O? d? A?'reus fai^si ken A?'faiston a?'gnh Bi'aj.

But Ares said he would forcibly drag Hephaestus.


---- Polla` d? a?na'riðma
poth'ria kalai'fis.

Innumerable drinking cups thou drainest.

From Athenaeus.


Katða'noisa de` kei'seai po'ta, kwu? mnamosu'na se'ðen
e?'sset? ou?'te to't? ou?'t? u'?steron. ou? ga`r pede'xeis bro'down
tw^n e?k Pieri'as a?ll? a?fa'nhs kh?n' ?Ai^da do'mois
foita'seis ped? a?mau'rwn ne'kuwn e?kpepotame'na.

But thou shalt ever lie dead nor shall there be any remembrance of thee then or ever, for thou hast none of the roses of Pieria; but thou shalt wander unnoticed, even in the houses of Hades, flitting among the shadowy dead.

Forever shalt thou lie dead, nor shall there be any remembrance of thee now or hereafter, for never has thou had any of the roses of Pieria; but thou shalt wander, eternally unregarded in the houses of Hades, flitting among the insubstantial shades.

Quoted by Stobaeus about A.D. 500 as addressed to a woman of no education. Plutarch also quotes this fragment, twice in fact, once as if written to a rich woman, and again when he says that the crown of roses was assigned to the Muses, for he remembers that Sappho had said these same words to some uneducated woman.


Ou?d? i?'an doki'moimi prosi'doisan fa'os a?li'w
e?'ssesðai sofi'an pa'rðenon e?is ou?de'na pw xro'non toiau'tan.

I think that no maiden whall ever see the sunlight, who shall have thy wisdom.

No maiden, I think, more wise than thou
Shall ever see the sun.

Quoted by Chrysippus, and may be part of the preceding poem.


Ti's d? a?groiw^ti's toi ðe'lgei no'on,
ou?k e?pistame'na ta` bra'ke? e?'lkhn
     e?pi' tw^n sfu'rwn;

What rustic girl bewitches thee who knows not how to draw her dress about her ankles?

What rustic girl bewitches thee,
Who cannot even draw
Her garments neat as they should be,
Her ankles roundabout?

Athenaeus and others quote these lines.


H?'rwn e?ksedi'daks? ek Gua'rwn ta`n tanusi'dromon.

Hero of Gyara, that swift runner, I taught.

Quoted by Choeroboscus to show an Aeolic form of the accusative.


A?'lla' tis ou?k e?'mmi paligko'twn
o?'rgan, a?ll? a?ba'khn ta`n fre'n? e?'xw.

I am not of a malign nature but have a calm temper.

Quoted in the "Etymologicum Magnum" to show the meaning of a?ba'khs, "innocent", "unsophisticated."


Au?ta`r o?rai^ai stefanhplo'keun.

Then sweet maidens wove garlands.

Quoted by the Scholiast upon the "Thermophoriazusae" of Aristophanes to show that the weaving of floral garlands is a sign of being in love.


----- Su' te ka?'mos ðero'pwn E?'ros.

Thou and my servant, Eros.

Quoted by Maximus Tyrius.


?All? ?'ewn fi'los a?'mmin [a?'llo]
le'xos a?'rnusw new'teron
ou? ga`r tla'som? e?'gw ksunoi'khn
newj g? e?'ssa geraitera.

For if thou lovest us, choose another and a younger spouse, for I will not endure to live with thee, old woman with young man.

From the anthology of Stobaeus.


Eu?morfote'ra Mnascidi'ka ta^s a?pa'las Guri'nnws.

More shapely is Mnasidica, than gentle Gyrinno.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of metre.


Acarote'ras ou?'gdam? e?p w?^ p?a'nna seðen tu'xoica.

One more scornful than thee, O Eranna, I have never found.

Quoted by Hephaestion. The reading is doubtful.


Su` de` stefa'nois, a Di'ka perðe'sað? e?ra'tais fo'baisin,
o?'rpakas a?nh'toio sun r?rais? a?pa'laisi xe'pcin,
e?ga'nðesin e?'k ga`r pe'letai kai` xa'ritos makaira^n
ma^llon prote'rhn, a?sterfanw'toisi d? a?pystere'fontai.

Do thou, O Dica, set garlands upon thy lovely hair, weaving sprigs of dill with thy delicate hands; for those who wear fair blossoms may surely stand first, even in the presence of Goddesses who look without favour upon those who come ungarlanded.

Athenaeus quotes this fragment, saying that according to Sappho those who approach the gods should wear garlands, as beautiful things are acceptable to them.


E?'gw de` fi'lhm? a?brosu'nan, kai` moi to` la'mpron
e?'ros a?eli'w kai` to` ka'lon le'logxen.

I love refinement and for me Love has the splendour and beauty of the sun.

From Athenaeus.


Ka`m me'n te tu'lan kaspole'w.

And down I set the cushion.

From Herodian.


O? plou^tos a?'neu seu^ g? a?re'ta c?t? ou?k a?si'nhs pa'roikos,
[h` d e?ks a?mfote'rwn kra^sis eu?daimoni'as e?'xei to a?'kron.]

Wealth without thee, Worthiness is no safe neighbor, [but the mixture of both is the height of happiness].

From the Scholiast on Pindar. The second line is apparently a gloss of the commentator.


Auta de` su' Kallio'pa.

And thou thyself, Calliope.

Quoted by Hephaestion when discussing a metre of Archilochus.


Dau'ois a?pa'las e?ta'ras e?n sth'ðesin.

Sleep thou, in the bosom of thy sweetheart.

From the "Etymologicum Magnum." This fragment probably belongs among the Epithalamia.


Deu^ro dhu?^te Moi^sai xru'sion li'poisai.

Hither now, ye Muses, leaving golden [surroundings].

Quoted by Hephaestion.


E?'sti moi ka'la pa'is xrusi'oisin a?nðe'moisin
e?mfe'rhn e?'xoisa mo'rfan, Klh^is a?gapa'ta,
a?nti ta^s e?'gw ou?de` Ludi'an pai^san ou?d? e?'rannan.

I have a fair daughter with a form like golden flowers, Cleis the belovedest whom I cherish more than all Lydia or lovely [Lesbos].

A fair daughter have I, Cleis by name,
Like a golden flower she seems to me.
Far more than all Lydia, her do I love,
Or Lesbos shimmering in the sea.

Quoted and commented upon by Hephaestion.


     Po'lla moi ta`n
Pwluana'ktida pai^da xa^irhn.

From all joy to me, O daughter of Polyanax.

From Maximus Tyrius.


Za` d? e?leksa'man o?'nar Kuprogenh'aj.

In my dream, I spoke to the Cyprian goddess.

From Hephaestion.


Ti' me Pandi'onis w?^ p?'anna xeli'dwn;

Why lovely swallow, Pandion's child dost thou [weary] me?

From Hephaestion. Another reading suggests w?ra'na.


A?mfi` d? a?'brois lasi'ois eu?^ ve pu'kassen.

She wrapped herself well in gossamer garments.

Pollux says that the line refers to finely woven linen.


Glu'keia ma^ter, ou?' toi dy'namai kre'khn to`n i?'ston,
po'ðwj da'meisa pai^dos bradi'nan di? A?fro'ditan.

My sweet mother, broken by soft Aphrodite's spell, longing for a youth, I can no more weave the cloth.

My sweet mother! Fair Aphrodite's spell
Has from me sense and reason all bereft,
And, yearning for that dear beloved youth,
No longer can I see the warp or weft.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of metre.


I?'psoi dh` to` me'laðron,
a?e'rrete te'ktones a?'ndres,
ga'mbros e?'rxetai i?^sos A'?reuï,
andros mega'lo po'lu mei'zwn
Raise high the roof beams, Workmen!
Like Ares comes the bridgroom!
Taller than all tall men!

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of mes-hymnic poem.


Pe'rroxos w?s o?'t? a?'oidos o? Le'sbois a?lloda'poisin.

Towering like the singer of Lesbos among men of other lands.

Quoted by Demetrius about A.D. 150. It is possible that Terpander is meant, but the line may be merely a reference to Lesbian poets in general.


Oi?^on to` gluku'malon e?reu'ðetai a?'krwj e?p? u?'sdwj
a?'kron e?p? a?krota'twj lela'ðonto de` malodro'pnes,
ou? ma`n e?klela'ðont?, a?ll? ou?k e?du'nant? e?pi'kesðai.

As the sweet apple blushes on the end of the bough, the very end of the bough which gatherers missed, nay, missed not, but could not reach.

At the end of the bough--its uttermost end,
Missed by the harvesters, ripens the apple,
Nay, not overlooked, but far out of reach,
     So with all best things.

Quoted by the Scholiast on Hermogenes and elsewhere. The "sweet-apple" to which Sappho refers was probably the result of a a graft of apple on quince.


Oi?'an ta`n u?a'kinðon e?n ou?'resi poi'menes a?'ndres.
po'ssi katastei'boisi, xamai d? e?piporfu'rei a?'nðos.

As on the hills the shepherds trample the larkspur (?) under foot and the flower lies empurpling in decay on the ground.

O'er the hills the heedless shepherd,
  Heavy footed, plods his way;
Crushed behind him lies the larkspur,
  Soon empurpling in decay.

Quoted by Demetrius, who comments on the ornament and beauty of the lines. Bergk was the first to assign the lines to Sappho. The last three words contain a picture of a crushed flower decaying on the ground, which would perhaps be impossible to put in so few words in any language but Greek. The Greek word u?a'kinðos does not mean the flower which at the present day is called "hyacinth". The Greek name was applied to several flowers of which one was almost certainly the larkspur, and another, as noted elsewhere, the iris.


Ve'spere, pa'nta fe'rwn, o?'sa fai'nolis e?ske'das? agws,
fe'reis oi?'n, fe'reis ai?^ga, fe'reis a?'pu mate'ri pai^da.

Evening, thou that bringst all that bright morning scattered, thou bringst the sheep, the goat, and the child back to its mother.

Hail, gentle Evening, that bringst back
All things that bright morning hath beguiled.
Thou bringst the lamb, thou bringst the kid,
And to its mother, her drowsy child.

From the "Etymologicum Magnum," where the meaning of au?'ws ("dawn") is discussed. The beauty of the fragment needs no emphasising.


A?ïpa'rðenos e?'ssomai.

Ever shall I be a maid.

From a manuscript in Paris, edited by Cramer.


Dw'somen, h?^si pa'ter.

We will give, says the father.

From the same manuscript as the preceeding.


Ðurw'rwj po'des e?ptoro'guioi
ta` de` sa'mbala pempebo'na,
pi'suggoi de` de'k? e?ksepo'nasan.

To the door-keeper, feet seven fathoms long, and sandals of five bulls' hides, work for ten cobblers.

Quoted by Hephaestion as a specimen of metre.


O?'lbie ga'mbre, coi` me`n dh` ga'mos, w?s a?'rao
e?ktete'lest? e?'xeis de` pa'rðenon, a?'n a?'rao.

Happy bridegroom! Now has come thy wedding as thou wished, and thou hast the maiden of thy desire.

Thou happy bridegroom! Now has dawned
  That day of days supreme,
When in thine arms thou'lt hold at last
  The maiden of thy dream.

From Hepaestion.


Melli'xios d' e?p? i?mme'rtwj ke'xutai prosw'powj.

And a sweet expression spreads over her fair face.

From Hepaestion. Compare Catullus, "Mellitos oculos." and "Pulcher es neque te Venus negligit."


O? me`n ga`r ka'los, o?'sson i?'dhn, pe'letai [a?'gaðos]
o? de` ka?'gaðos au?'tika kai` ka'los e?'ssetai.

He who is fair to look upon is good, and he who is good, will soon be fair also.

He should be good who is fair of face,
And he will be fair whose soul has grace.

Galen, writing about A.D. 160, says: "It is better therefore, knowing as we do that youthful beauty is like the flowers of spring, its allurement lasting but a short time, to agree with the Lesbian poetess, and to believe Solon when he points out the same."


H?^r? e?'ti parðeni'as epiba'llomai;

Do I still long for maidenhood?

Quoted by Apollonius to show the Aeolic form h?^ra, the interrogative particle a?^ra, and also as a specimen of metre.


Xai'roisa hu'mfa, xaire'tw d? o? ga'mbros.

The bride [comes] rejoicing, let the bridegroom also rejoice.

From Hephaestion as a specimen of catalectic iambic.


Ti'wj, s?, w?^ fi'le ga'mbre, ka'lws e?'ika'sw;
o?'rpaki bradi'nwj se ka'list? e?'ika'sdw.

To what may I liken thee, dear bridegroom?
Best to a tender shoot may I liken thee.

From Hephaestion as an example of metre.


...Xai^re, nu'mfa,
Xai^re, ti'mie gambe, po'lla.

Hail bride, and all hail! noble bridegroom.

Quoted by Servius about A.D. 390, and referred to by Pollux and Julian.


Ou? ga`r h?^n a?te'ra pai^s, w?^ ga'mbre, toau'ta.

For, like her, O bridegroom, there was no other maiden.

From Dionysius of Halicarnassus.


A. Parðeni'a, parðeni'a, poi^ me li'pois? a?poi'xhj;
B. Ou?ke'ti h?'ksw pro`s ce', ou?ke'ti h?'ksw.

Maidenhood, maidenhood, whither art thou gone from me?
Never, O, never again, shall I return to thee.

Quoted by Demetrius, to show the beauty of Sappho's style, and her successful use of repetition.


Fai'netai' voi kh^nos...

To himself he seems...

Quoted by Apollonius to show the use of digamma in Aeolic Greek.


W?ï'w po'lu leuko'teron.

[A thing] much whiter than an egg.

From Athenaeus.


Mh't? e?'moi me'li mh'te me'lissa.

Neither honey nor bee for me.

This is a proverb quoted by a number of late authors. It is an example of Sappho's successful use of alliteration.


Mh` ki'nh xe'radas.

Stir not the pebbles.

Mary Barnard translates this: "If you're squeamish, don't prod the beach rubble." {jbh}.

From the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius. Xera'des were little heaps of stone.


O?'ptias a?'mme.

Thou burnest us.

From Apollonius, showing Aeolic form hma^s, "us".

Next: Part IV