The Poems of Sappho

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The Poems of Sappho
written by Sappho, translated by Edwin Marion Cox
The poems of the poet Sappho. Sometimes only fragments of her poetry remain, where they were quoted by later scholars and historians.



Hymn to Aphrodite

Greek

Ποικιλόθρον᾽ ἀθάνατ᾽ ᾽Αφρόδιτα,
παῖ Δίος, δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε
μή μ᾽ ἄσαισι μήτ᾽ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
πότνια, θῦμον.

ἀλλὰ τυίδ᾽ ἔλθ᾽, αἴποτα κἀτέρωτα
τᾶς ἔμας αὔδως ἀίοισα πήλοι
ἔκλυες, πάτρος δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χρύσιον ἦλθες

ἄρμ᾽ ὐποσδεύξαια· κάλοι δέ σ᾽ ἆγον
ὤκεες στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύκνα δινεῦντες πτέρ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ὠράν᾽ αἴθε-
ρος διὰ μέσσω,

αἶψα δ᾽ ἐξίκοντο· σὺ δ᾽, ὦ μάκαιρα
μειδιάσαισ᾽ ἀθάνατῳ προσώπῳ,
ἤρε᾽ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δηὖτε κάλημι

κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλᾳ θύμῳ· "τίνα δηὖτε †πείθω
ἄψ σ᾽ ἄγην† ἐς σὰν φιλότατα; τίς τ᾽, ὦ
Ψάπφ᾽, ἀδίκηει;

καὶ γάρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ᾽, ἀλλὰ δώσει,
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει,
κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα".

ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον· σὐ δ᾽ αὔτα
σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

English

Shimmering-throned immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee,
Spare me, O queen, this agony and anguish,
Crush not my spirit.

Whenever before thou hast hearkened to me—
To my voice calling to thee in the distance,
And heeding, thou hast come, leaving thy father's
Golden dominions,

With chariot yoked to thy fleet-winged coursers,
Fluttering swift pinions over earth's darkness,
And bringing thee through the infinite, gliding
Downwards from heaven,

Then, soon they arrived and thou, blessed goddess,
With divine contenance smiling, didst ask me
What new woe had befallen me now and why,
Thus I had called thee.

What in my mad heart was my greatest desire,
Who was it now that must feel my allurements,
Who was the fair one that must be persuaded,
Who wronged thee Sappho?


For if now she flees, quickly she shall follow
And if she spurns gifts, soon shall she offer them
Yea, if she knows not love, soon shall she feel it
Even reluctant.


Come then, I pray, grant me surcease from sorrow,
Drive away care, I beseech thee, O goddess
Fulfil for me what I yearn to accomplish,
Be thou my ally.

2nd Poem

Greek

Φάινεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν ὤνερ ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλασίον ἆδυ φωνεί-
     σασ ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν. τὸ δὴ ᾽μάν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν,
ὢς γὰρ εὔιδον βροχέωσ σε, φώνας
     οὖδεν ἔτ᾽ εἴκει,

ἀλλὰ κὰμ μὲν γλῳσσα ϝέαγε, λέπτον
δ᾽ αὔτικα χρῷ πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμακεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ᾽ οὖδεν ορημμ᾽, ἐπιρρόμ-
     βεισι δ᾽ ἄκουαι.

ἀ δέ μ᾽ ίδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ᾽ ὀλίγω ᾽πιδεύης
     φαίνομαι ἄλλα·

ἀλλὰ πᾶν τόλματον, ἐπεὶ +καὶ πένητα

English

                    
Peer of the gods, the happiest man I seem
Sitting before thee, rapt at thy sight, hearing
Thy soft laughter and thy voice most gentle,
Speaking so sweetly.


Then in my bosom my heart wildly flutters,
And, when on thee I gaze never so little,
Bereft am I of all power of utterance,
My tongue is useless.

There rushes at once through my flesh tingling fire,
My eyes are deprived of all power of vision,
My ears hear nothing but sounds of winds roaring,
And all is blackness.

Down courses in streams the sweat of emotion,
A dread trembling o'erwhelms me, paler am I
Than dried grass in autumn, and in my madness
Dead I seem almost.

3rd Poem

Greek

Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ᾽ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον ἔγω δὲ κῆν᾽
     ὄττω τὶσ ἔπαται.

πάγχυ δ᾽ εὔμαρεσ σύνετον πόησαι
πάντι τοῦτ᾽. ἀ γὰρ πόλυ περσκόπεισα
κάλλοσ ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα τὸν ἄνδρα
     κρίννεν ἄριστον,

ὂσ τὸ πὰν σέβασ τροΐασ ὄλεσσ[ε,
κωὐδὲ παῖδοσ οὔδε φίλων τοκήων
μᾶλλον ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ᾽ αὔταν
     πῆλε φίλεισαν,

Ὠροσ. εὔκαμπτον γαρ ἀεὶ τὸ θῆλυ
αἴ κέ τισ κούφωσ τὸ πάρον ν]οήσῃ.
οὐδὲ νῦν, Ἀνακτορία, τὺ μέμναι
     δὴ παρειοῖσασ,

τᾶσ κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
καμάρυγμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
η τὰ λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι
     πεσδομάχεντασ

εὶ μεν ἴδμεν οὔ δύνατον γένεσθαι
λῷστ᾽ ὀν᾽ ἀνθρώποισ, πεδέχην δ᾽ ἄραστηαι,
τῶν πέδειχόν ἐστι βρότοισι λῷον
      ἢ λελάθεσθαι.

English


A troop of horse, the serried ranks of marchers,
A noble fleet, some think these of all on earth
Most beautiful. For me naught else regarding
Is my beloved.

To understand this is for all most simple,
For thus gazing much on mortal perfection
And knowing already what life could give her,
Him chose fair Helen,

Him the betrayer of Ilium's honour.
Then recked she not of adored child or parent,
But yielded to love, and forced by her passion,
Dared Fate in exile.

Thus quickly is bent the will of that woman
To whom things near and dear seem to be nothing.
So mightest thou fail, My Anactoria,
If she were with you.

She whose gentle footfall and radiant face
Hold the power to charm more than a vision
Of chariots and the mail-clad battalions
Of Lydia's army.

So must we learn in a world made as this one
Man can never attain his greatest desire,
But must pray for what good fortune Fate holdeth,
Never unmindful.

4th Poem

Greek

Αστερες μέν ἀμφι κάλαν σελάνναν
ἆιψ ἀπυκρύπτοισι φάεννον εἶδοσ,
ὄπποτα πλήθοισα μάλιστα λάμπησ
ἀργυρια γᾶν.

English

The gleaming stars all about the shining moon
Hide their bright faces, when full-orbed and splendid
In the sky she floats, flooding the shadowed earth
with clear silver light.

5th Poem

Greek

     αμφὶ δ᾽ ὔδωρ
ψῖχρον ὤνεμοσ κελάδει δἰ ὔσδων
μαλίνων, αἰθυσσομένων δὲ φύλλων
     κῶμα κατάρρει.

English

By the cool water the breeze murmurs, rustling
Through apple branches, while from quivering leaves
Streams down deep slumber.

Invocation to Aphrodite

Greek

     ... Ἕλθε, Κύπρι,
Χπρυσίασιν ἐν κυλίκεσσιν ἄβραισ
συμμεμιγμένον θαλίαισι νέκταρ
     οἰνοχόεισα.

English

Come hither foam-born Cyprian goddess, come,
And in golden goblets pour richest nectar
All mixed in most ethereal perfection,
Thus to delight us.


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