love’s madness

He seems as fortunate as the gods who
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness
murmur in love and

laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit;
sets my heart trembling in my breast.
For when I look at you for a moment, the voice dies,
I can say nothing,

but my lips are stricken to silence, underneath
my skin the tenuous flame suffuses;
nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are
muted in thunder.

And the sweat breaks running upon me,
a trembling seizes me all over, I am greener
than grass, and it seems to me that
I am little short of dying.


the departing girl

…and honestly I wish I were dead.
She was leaving me with many tears and
said this: ‘’Oh what bad luck has been ours, Sappho;
truly I leave you against my will.’’
I replied to her thus: ‘’Go and fare well and remember me,
for you know how we cared for you.
If not, why then I want to remind you . . .
and the good times we had.
You put on many wreaths of violets
and roses and (crocuses?) together by my side,
and round your tender neck you put many woven garlands made from flowers and …
with much flowery perfume, fit for a queen,
you anointed yourself . . . and on soft beds . . .
you would satisfy your longing (for?) tender…
There was neither .. nor shrine from which we were absent,
no grove . . . nor dance … sound … ”



The moon was coming into view
in its fullness, and when the women
took their position round the altar….



(in possession of pity?)
old age now
(my) skin covers…

(Love?) flies
pursuing (the young?)…
taking (your lyre?)
sing to us of the violet-
robed one…



Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen
on the black earth is an array of horsemen;
some, men marching; some would say ships; but I say
she whom one loves best

is the loveliest. Light were the work to make this
plain to all, since she, who surpassed in beauty
all mortality, Helen, once forsaking
her lordly husband,

fled away to Troy-land across the water.
Not the thought of child nor beloved parents
was remembered, after the Queen of Cyprus
won her at first sight.

Since young brides have hearts that can be persuaded
easily, light things, palpitant to passion
as am I, remembering Anaktoria
who has gone from me

and whose lovely walk and the shining pallor
of her face I would rather see before my
eyes than Lydia’s chariots in all their glory
armored for battle.


the conversation

frequently(?)…For those whom I treat
well harm me most of all…idle…and I am
conscious of this…



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


*Attributed to Sappho by Arsenius (c. 1500);
Ascription rejected by Wilamowitz,Lobel,Page.


… Sappho declaring:
I do not know what I am to do;
I am in two minds.