Friday, June 24, 2005

New(ly discovered) Sappho poem!

Well, this article on a newly discovered Sappho poem just landed in my inbox from the Classics-L mailing list.

The title "A new Sappho poem" is somewhat fraudulent, in that (ok, this is the nitpick in me) 1) there is no such thing as a "new" Sappho poem at this point, since she is well and truly dead, and 2) we've had a decent-sized (compared to others) fragment of this poem for a while. It's the one that mentions Tithonos, number 29 in Diane J. Rayor's translation in Sappho's Lyre.

Ok. I just noticed for the first time that Perseus doesn't have Sappho. That seems like a serious oversight to me, but it probably has more to do with the fact that her work is so fragmentary.

It's also cited as fragment 58 v. in Jane McIntosh Snyder's Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho.

Anyway, I won't copy the entire article here, but I'll copy Martin West's translation of the entire poem as we now have it:

[You for] the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
[be zealous,] girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre:

[but my once tender] body old age now
[has seized;] my hair’s turned [white] instead of dark;

my heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.

This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.

Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world’s end,

handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o’ertook him, husband of immortal wife."


A few words are still missing, but it is complete enough for real interpretation and smooth reading now! For one, it looks like some of the pronouns have been cleared up. I especially like that we can now see the emphasis on "being human" now that we have those words. The idea was there (and I'd argue that the basic idea of the poem was understandable before), but the artistry comes through better now, in my opinion.

In order to get the Greek, you'll have to get your hands on a copy of TLS. I'm going to try to find it at work (and barring that, see if I can order it somewhere), and I'll be sure to post what I find here!

The interesting part, though, is that they did not know where this poem supposedly begun and ended until they found this new fragment. Thus, Rayor includes two extra lines in the beginning and in the end, while Snyder includes 11 extra lines in the beginning (presumably, now, from another poem) and four extra lines at the end. Based on those two translations (I don't really know if they are an accurate sample of general academic consensus prior to the discovery of this new fragment, though), the poem seems to be quite a bit shorter than originally imagined.

It is a beautiful and moving poem, as are Sappho's others, and I can only imagine it is even better in the original Greek. My Greek is not yet good enough for Sappho, but it is certainly something for me to look forward to reading!

9 Comments:

Blogger Jane Dark said...

Lovely. And how nice to have another Sappho poem (sort of) completed

8:44 AM  
Blogger Wm Annis said...

I have also sent out minions in search of the Greek.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

re: jane dark -- I know! I'm so excited that I started spamming my profs with the article. I've somehow managed to keep myself from e-mailing the *entire* Classics dept, but still! ;-)

re: wm annis -- Good luck! If I find it, I'll definitely be posting it here right away! I'll keep an eye out on your blog too!

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Rohaa said...

Very nice poem, it seems so - modern!

And see? This is exactly what I meant when I commented: "teach me something". Thanks!

12:06 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Re: rohaa

::grin:: Glad to oblige! Depending on what you mean by "modern," it may be the translation. But then, Sappho has a certain timelessness to her anyway. ;-)

10:31 PM  
Blogger Wm Annis said...

Voila: restored Sappho. I go this via the classics-l post, so if there are any errors in that, then my PDF will have the same errors.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Re: wm annis

Lovely! Yes, I just got that in my mailbox too. I'm probably just going to post the unicode for now and scan in the actual article when I get it. But thanks!

7:31 PM  
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