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World Poetry Day: Celebrating Sappho

March 21st marks World Poetry Day, and what better way to celebrate than by sharing the work of this publication's namesake, Sappho.

Life and History of Sappho;

Little is known about Sappho of Lesbos, but scholars are confident in her fame and honour, preserved in the form of statues and even on currency. Sappho's romantic interest in woman is widely debated, yet simultaneously widely accepted.

The World History Encyclopedia describes Sappho as 'not only a brilliantly honest poet, however, but also a virtuoso of technique.'

A full recount of Sappho's life, what little is known of it, can also be read on the Poetry Foundation.

Translated by Julia Dubnoff, a version of one of Sappho's poems can be read below.

Some say an army of horsemen,

some of footsoldiers, some of ships,

is the fairest thing on the black earth,

but I say it is what one loves.

It's very easy to make this clear

to everyone, for Helen,

by far surpassing mortals in beauty,

left the best of all husbands

and sailed to Troy,

mindful of neither her child

nor her dear parents, but

with one glimpse she was seduced by

Aphrodite. For easily bent...

and nimbly...[missing text]...

has reminded me now

of Anactoria who is not here;

I would much prefer to see the lovely

way she walks and the radiant glance of her face

than the war-chariots of the Lydians or

their footsoldiers in arms.

[Taken from the Harvard course book for Greg Nagy's "The Concept of the Hero in Hellenic Civillization.", of which the full primary text reading list can be found online in the archives.]

One edition of Sappho's work that I cannot wait to get my hands on is this: If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, collection by The Folio Society.

A close up image of one of Sappho's fragments, side-by-side with its translation, can be viewed below.

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