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Sappho Through English Poetry


Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (144 pages)
(Pub. Dec 1996)
Out of Stock
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  • Excerpt
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    One Girl

    (A combination from Sappho)

    Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
    A-top on the top-most twig, – which the pluckers forgot, somehow, –
    Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it till now.

    Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
    Which the passing feet of the shepherds for ever tear and wound,
    Until the purple blossom is trodden into the ground.

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1870


    “I loved thee, Atthis”

    I loved thee, Atthis, in the long ago,
    When the great oleanders were in flower
    In the broad herded meadows full of sun.
    And we would often at the fall of dusk
    Wander together by the silver stream,
    When the soft grass-heads were all wet with dew
    And purple-misted in the fading light.
    And joy I knew and sorrow at thy voice,
    And the superb magnificence of love, –
    The loneliness that saddens solitude,
    And the sweet speech that makes it durable, –
    The bitter longing and the keen desire,
    The sweet companionship through quiet days
    In the slow ample beauty of the world,
    And the unutterable glad release
    Within the temple of the holy night.
    O Atthis, how I loved thee long ago
    In that fair perished summer by the sea!

    Bliss Carman
    from Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics, 1904

    The poetry of Sappho, who was born around 620 BC and lived on the Greek island of Lesbos, has inspired and fascinated readers and poets for two and a half thousand years. Today, as in antiquity, she is regarded as Greece’s supreme lyric poet. Yet apart from a few near-complete poems, her poetry survives largely in tantalizing fragments.

    This book traces Sappho’s reception in English-language poetry through translations and poems about her. From Donne and Pope via Swinburne, Bliss Carman and Pound to contemporary poets such as Michael Longley and Olga Broumas, it both celebrates and illustrates our changing image of Sappho.

    Sappho was highly regarded as a poet in antiquity. Very little by way of solid fact is known about her. She was on friendly terms with the poet Alkaios; her brother Charoxos was a trader. She was later the subject of both sentimental and scurrilous myth-making, such as Ovid’s story of ... read more
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