The Poems of Sappho/Chapter 3

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The Poems of Sappho  (1924) 
by Edwin Marion Cox, with poems by Sappho and translations by various authors.
Text and Translations

This chapter includes 122 numbered poems or poem fragments presented in the Greek, followed by a literal translation, a poetic translation, and notes. At the end of the chapter (pp. 124–126) are listed some individual words and short phrases quoted from Sappho by ancient authors.

The Greek text of Sappho's poetry has been edited here to modern standards. The 1924 edition of the text uses a small-caps font for the Greek text and lunate sigma (Ϲ, ϲ) in place of the now standard initial, medial, and final variants (Σ, σ, ς). The lunate sigma was not introduced until two centuries after the time of Sappho.




1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122


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

ἀλλὰ τυίδ᾽ ἔλθ᾽, αἴποτὰ κἀτέρωτα
τᾶς ἔμας aύδως αἴοισα πήλυι
ἔκλυες πάτρος δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χρύσιον ἦλθες

ἄρμ᾽ ὐποζεύξαισα, κάλοι δέ σ᾽ ἆγον
ὦκεες στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύκνα δινεῦντες πτέρ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ὠράνω αἴθε-
-ρος διὰ μέσσω.

αῖψα δ᾽ ἐξίκοντο, σὺ δ᾽, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιάσαισ᾽ ἀθανάτῳ προσώπῳ,
ἤρε᾽ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δηὖτε κάλημι,

κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλᾳ θύμῳ, τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
μαῖς ἄγην ἐς σὰν φιλότατα τίς τ, ὦ
Ψάπφ᾽, ἀδίκηει;

καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ ἀλλὰ δώσει,
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει ταχέως φιλήσει
κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα

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

Immortal Aphrodite of the shimmering throne, daughter of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I pray thee crush not my spirit with anguish and distress, O Queen. But come hither if ever before thou didst hear my voice afar, and hearken, and leaving the golden house of thy father, camest with chariot yoked, and swift birds drew thee, their swift pinions fluttering over the dark earth, from heaven through mid-space. Quickly they arrived; and thou blessed one with immortal countenance smiling didst ask: What now is befallen me and why now I call and what I in my heart’s madness, most desire. What fair one now wouldst thou draw to love thee? Who wrongs thee Sappho? For even if she flies she shall soon follow and if she rejects gifts, shall soon offer them and if she loves not shall soon love, however reluctant. Come I pray thee now and release me from cruel cares, and let my heart accomplish all that it desires, and be thou my ally.


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 countenance 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.

A number of other versions in English are of interest for historical or poetical reasons. The first translation of the poem, that by Ambrose Philips in 1711, has chiefly historical and bibliographical importance.



O Venus beauty of the skies,
To whom a thousand temples rise,
Gaily false in gentle smiles,
Full of love-perplexing wiles;
O goddess from my heart remove
The wasting cares and pains of love.


If ever thou hast kindly heard
A song in soft distress preferred,
Propitious to my tuneful vow,
O gentle goddess hear me now.
Descend thou bright immortal guest
In all thy radiant charms confessed.


Thou once didst leave almighty Jove
And all the golden roofs above,
The car thy wanton sparrows drew,
Hovering in air they lightly flew;
As to my bower they winged their way
I saw their quivering pinions play.


The birds dismissed (while you remain)
Bore back their empty car again.
Then you with looks divinely mild
In every heavenly feature smiled,
And asked what new complaints I made
And why I called you to my aid.


What frenzy in my bosom raged,
And by what cure to be assuaged,
What gentle youth I would allure
Whom in my artful toils secure,
Who does thy tender heart subdue,
Tell me my Sappho, tell me who.


Though now he shuns thy longing arms,
He soon shall court thy slighted charms,
Though now thy offerings he despise,
He soon to thee shall sacrifice;
Though now he freeze, he soon shall burn
And be thy victim in his turn.


Celestial visitant, once more
Thy needful presence I implore.
In pity come, and ease my grief,
Bring my distempered soul relief,
Favour thy suppliant’s hidden fires
And give me all my heart desires.

Among the translations of the nineteenth century that of John Addington Symonds is one of the best.


Glittering-throned undying Aphrodite,
Wile-weaving daughter of high Zeus, I pray thee
Tame not my soul with heavy woe, dread mistress,
Nay, nor with anguish,


But hither come, if ever erst of old time
Thou didst incline, and listenedst to my crying,
And from thy father’s palace down descending
Camest with golden


Chariot yoked: thee fair swift flying sparrows
Over dark earth with multitudinous fluttering,
Pinion on pinion through middle ether
Down from heaven hurried.


Quickly they came like light, and thou, blest lady,
Smiling with clear undying eyes, didst ask me
What was the woe that troubled me, and wherefore
I had cried to thee;


What thing I longed for to appease my frantic
Soul: and whom now mutt I persuade, thou askedst,
Whom mutt entangle to thy love, and who now,
Sappho, hath wronged thee.


Yea, for if now he shun, he soon shall chase thee;
Yea, if he take not gifts, he soon shall give them;
Yea, if he love not soon shall he begin to
Love thee, unwilling.


Come to me now too, and from tyrannous sorrow
Free me, and all things that my soul desires to
Have done, do for me Queen, and let thyself too
Be my great ally.

Another good translation is that of Edwin Arnold, 1869, but it does not follow the original closely enough to be very satisfactory.


Splendour-throned Queen, immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Jove, Enchantress, I implore thee
Vex not my soul with agonies and anguish,
Slay me not, Goddess!


Come in thy pity—come, if I have prayed thee;
Come at the cry of my sorrow; in the old times
Oft thou hast heard, and left thy father’s heaven,
Left the gold houses,


Yoking thy chariot. Swiftly did the doves fly,
Swiftly they brought thee, waving plumes of wonder,
Waving their dark plumes all across the ether,
All down the azure.


Very soon they lighted. Then didst thou, Divine one,
Laugh a bright laugh from lips and eyes immortal,
Ask me what ailed me—wherefore out of heaven
Thus I had called thee.


What was it made me madden in my heart so.
Question me, smiling—say to me my Sappho,
Who is it wrongs thee. Tell me who refuses
Thee vainly sighing.


Be it who that may be, he that flies shall follow;
He that rejects gifts, he shall bring thee many;
He that hates now shall love thee dearly, madly—
Aye, though thou wouldst not.


So once again come, Mistress; and releasing
Me from my sadness, give me what I sue for,
Grant me my prayer, and be as heretofore now,
Friend and protectress.

The translation of T. W. Higginson, 1871, is also good, but again it diverges unnecessarily from the original.


Beautiful-throned, immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, beguiler, I implore thee
Weigh me not down with weariness and anguish,
O thou most holy!


Come to me now if ever thou in kindness
Hearkenest my words—and often hast thou hearkened
Heeding, and coming from the mansions golden
Of thy great Father,


Yoking thy chariot—borne by the most lovely
Consecrated birds, with dusky tinted pinions,
Waving swift wings from utmost heights of heaven
Through the mid-ether;


Swiftly they vanished leaving thee, O goddess,
Smiling, with face immortal in its beauty,
Asking why I grieved, and why in utter longing
I had dared call thee;


Asking what I sought, thus hopeless in desiring,
Wildered in brain and spreading nets of passion:
Alas, for whom? and saidst thou, Who has harmed thee?
O my poor Sappho!


Though now he flies, ere long he shall pursue thee;
Fearing thy gifts, he too in turn shall bring them;
Loveless to-day, to-morrow he shall woo thee,
Though thou shouldst spurn him.


Thus seek me now, O holy Aphrodite!
Save me from anguish, give me all I ask for,
Gifts at thy hand; and thine shall be the glory,
Sacred protector!

There have been some other versions of the poem in English, but none particularly noteworthy. The Greek text of this great poem was preserved by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who was living in Rome about A.D. 25. His praise of it was unstinted.


φάινεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν ὤνηρ ὄστις ἐναντίος τοι
ἰζάνει καὶ πλασίον ἀδυ φωνεύ-
-σας ὐπακύει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμμερόεν, τὸ δὴ ᾽μάν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόασεν,
ὠς γὰρ εὔιδον βροχέως σε, φώνας
οὐδὲν ἔτ᾽ εἴκει,

ἀλλὰ κάμ μὲν γλώσσα ϝέαγε, λέπτον
δ᾽ αὔτικα χρῷ πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμακεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ᾽ οὐδὲν ορημ᾽, ἐπιρρόμ-
-βεισι δ᾽ ἄκουαι.

ἀ δέ μ᾽ ἴδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ᾽ ὀλίγω ᾽πιδεύϝην
φαίνομαι [ἄλλα].

πᾶν τόλματον [ . . . . . . . ]

That one seems to me the equal of the gods, who sits in thy presence and hears near him thy sweet voice and lovely laughter; that indeed makes my heart beat fast in my bosom. For when I see thee even a little I am bereft of utterance, my tongue is useless and at once a subtle fire races under my skin, my eyes see nothing, my ears ring, sweat pours forth and all my body is seized with trembling. I am paler than [dried] grass and seem in my madness little better than dead. But I must dare all. . . .


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.

Another translation is that of John Herman Merivale, 1833.

Blest as the immortal gods is he,
The youth whose eyes may look on thee,
Whose ears thy tongue’s sweet melody
May still devour.

Thou smilest too?—sweet smile whose charm
Has struck my soul with wild alarm,
And when I see thee bids disarm
Each vital power.

Speechless I gaze; the flame within
Runs swift o’er all my quivering skin,
My eyeballs swim; with dizzy din
My brain reels round

And cold drops fall; and tremblings frail
Seize every limb; and grassy pale
I grow; and then together fail
Both sight and sound.

A later and a better translation is that by J. A. Symonds in 1883.


Peer of gods he seemeth to me, the blissful
Man who sits and gazes at thee before him,
Close beside thee sits, and in silence hears thee
Silverly speaking,


Laughing Love’s low laughter. Oh this, this only
Stirs the troubled heart in my breast to tremble.
For should I but see thee a little moment,
Straight is my voice hushed;


Yea, my tongue is broken, and through and through me
Neath the flesh, impalpable fire runs tingling;
Nothing see mine eyes, and a noise of roaring
Waves in my ear sounds;


Sweat runs down in rivers, a tremor seizes
All my limbs and paler than grass in autumn,
Caught by pains of menacing death I falter,
Lost in the love trance.

This apparently nearly complete poem is preserved by Longinus, writing about A.D. 250. He calls it “not one passion, but a congress of passions.” It was also mentioned by Plutarch about A.D. 60, who referred to it as “mixed with fire”—a remarkably felicitous phrase.

The ode written by Catullus in imitation and called “Ad Lesbiam” is as follows:

Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
Ille, si fas est, superare divos,
Qui sedens adversus identidem te
Spectat et audit

Dulce ridentem misero quod omnis
Eripit sensus mihi; nam simul te,
Lesbia aspexi, nihil est super mi
* * * *

Lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
Flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
Tintinant aures, gemina teguntur
Lumina nocte.

This was actually the first of any of Sappho’s poems to be translated into English. John Hall of Durham in 1652, in his translation of Longinus, gives his version which has already been quoted in the description of the book in Chapter I.



Ο]ἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ᾽ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔ]μμεναι κάλλιστον· ἔγω δὲ κῆν᾽ ὄτ-
-τω τὶς ἔραται.


πά]γχυ δ᾽ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ᾽. ἀ γὰρ πόλυ περσκόπεισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
[κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον,


ὂς τὸ πὰν] σέβας Τροΐα[ς ὄ]λεσσ[ε,
κωὐδὲ πα]ῖδος οὔδε [φίλ]ων το[κ]ήων
μᾶλλον] ἐμνάσθη, ἀ[λλὰ] παράγαγ᾽ αὔταν
πῆλε φίλει]σαν,


Ὠπος. εὔκ]αμπτον γαπ [ἀεὶ τὸ θῆλυ]
αἴ κέ] τις κούφως τ[ὸ πάρον ν]οήσῃ.
οὐ]δὲ νῦν, Ἀνακτορί[α, τ]ὺ μέμναι
δὴ] παρειοῖσας,


τᾶ]ς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κ]αμάρυγμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
η τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι


εὔ μεν ἴδ]μεν οὔ δύνατον γένεσθαι
λῷστ᾽] ὂν ἀνθρώποις, πεδέχην δ᾽ ἄρασθαι,
[τῶν πέδειχόν ἐστι βρότοισι λῷον]
[ἢ λελάθεσθαι.]

With the emendations by Mr. J. M. Edmonds, the reprinting of which he has been kind enough to permit, a nearly literal rendering would be as follows:

Some say that the fairest thing upon the dark earth is a host of horsemen, and some say a host of foot soldiers, and others again a fleet of ships, but for me it is my beloved. And it is easy to make anyone understand this. When Helen saw the most beautiful of mortals, she chose for best that one, the destroyer of all the honour of Troy and thought not much of child or dear parent, but was led astray by Love, to bestow her heart far off, for woman is ever easy to lead astray when she thinks of no account what is near and dear. Even so, Anactoria, you do not remember, it seems, when she is with you, one the gentle sound of whose footfall I would rather hear and the brightness of whose shining face I would rather see than all the chariots and mail-clad footmen of Lydia. I know that in this world man cannot have the best; yet to pray for a part of what was once shared is better than to forget it. . . .


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.]

In the volume of the Egypt Exploration Society, “Oxyrhynchus Papyrus,” Part X, 1914, is printed this important fragment of a poem by Sappho. There are nearly six stanzas, and the editors, as well as Mr. Edmonds, have essayed the interesting and difficult task of emendation. In the “Classical Review,” May 1914, Mr. Edmonds published his version as here given, and his result is somewhat different from that of the editors of the Exploration Society’s volume. However, both sets of conjectures are plausible, and some are almost obviously right.

Mr. Edmonds has attempted the fuller restoration. The fragment with his conjectural restorations in brackets is as it is here printed. There is a very great deal of restoration in the last few lines, and in the “Classical Review,” June 1914, pp. 126–127, Mr. A. S. Hunt takes exception to some of Mr. Edmonds’ emendations, giving the reasons for his objections. Without necessarily accepting in full the emendations of either, it may be admitted that the effort to make them is most interesting and scholarly, and that it makes a reasonable basis for suggesting the purport of the poem. In September 1914, again in the “Classical Review,” Mr. T. L. Agar offers suggestions which differ in many ways from those of the other two commentators.


Ἄστερες μὲν ἀμφὶ κάλαν σελάνναν
αἶψ ἀπυκρύπτοισι φάεννον εἶδος,
ὄπποτα πλήθοισα μάλιστα λάμπης
ἀργυρία γᾶν.

The stars about the fair moon lose their bright beauty when she, almost full, illumines all earth with silver.

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.

Quoted by Eustathius of Thessalonica in the twelfth century.


ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ὔδωρ
ψῦχρον ὤνεμος κελάδει δἰ ὔσδων
μαλίνων, αἰθυσσομέμων δὲ φύλλων
κῶμα κατάρρει.

And by the cool stream the breeze murmurs through apple branches and slumber pours down from quivering leaves.

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

The sound of the words, the repetition of long vowels, particularly ω, the poetic imagery of the whole and the drowsy cadence of the last two words give this fragment a combination of qualities probably not surpassed in any language.

Κῶμα is something more than ordinary sleep; it is deeper with a quality of oblivion in it, and so, differs from ὕπνος, the more ordinary term. Poe in the “Haunted Palace” approaches this, when he writes:

Banners—yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow.
(This, all this was in the olden
Time long ago.)

But here there is just a suggestion of effort which is absent from the work of Sappho.

This beautiful fragment is quoted by Hermogenes about A.D. 170. Demetrius, about A.D. 150, says that it is part of Sappho’s description of the garden of the nymphs.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Ἔλθε, Κύπρι,
χρυσίαισιν ἐν κυλίκεσσιν ἄβραις
συμμεμιγμένον θαλίαισι νέκταρ

Come, goddess of Cyprus, and in golden cups serve near delicately mixed with delights.

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

Quoted by Athenaeus, who wrote in the first half of the third century A.D. The fragment is apparently part of an invocation to Aphrodite.


Ἤ σε Κύπρος καὶ Πάφος ἢ Πάνορμος

If thee, Cyprus or Paphos or Panormos [holds].

This from Strabo, early first century A.D. Panormos was a frequent name, and does not refer to Palermo, which was not founded in Sappho’s time.


Σοὶ δ᾽ ἔγω λεύκας ἔπι βῶμον αἴγος
Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg
καπιλείψω τοι Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg

But for thee I will [bring] to the altar [the young] of a white goat . . . and add a libation for thee. Cited by Apollonius of Alexandria about A.D. 140. The reading is uncertain.


Αἴθ᾽ ἔγω χρυσοστέφαν᾽ Ἀφρόδιτα,
τόνδε τὸν πάλον λαχόην.

May I win this prize, O golden-crowned Aphrodite.

From Apollonius. Sappho invented many beautiful epithets to apply to Aphrodite, and this fragment contains one of them.


Αἴ με τιμίαν ἐπόησαν ἔργα
τὰ σφὰ δοῖσαι;

Who made me gifts and honoured me?

From Apollonius, illustrating Aeolic dialect in the word σφά


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Τάδε νῦν ἐταίραις
ταῖς ἔμαισι τέρπνα κάλως ἀείσω

This will I now sing skilfully to please my friends.

Athenaeus quotes this to show that there is not necessarily any reproach in the word ἐταίραι, Like many others, this fragment is unfortunately too short for anything but a literal translation. The breathing of the word in question in Attic Greek would of course be rough.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Ὄττινας γὰρ
εὖ θέω κῆνοί με μάλιστα σίννον-
-ται. Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg

For thee to whom I do good, thou harmest me the most.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum,” tenth century A.D.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Ἔγω δὲ κῆν᾽ ὄτ-
-τω τις ἔραται.

But that which one desires I.

Quoted by Apollonius and in 1914 found to be part of the poem in the “Oxyrhynchus Papyrus,” No. 1231.


ταῖς καλαις ὔμμιν [τὸ] νόημα τὦμον
οἰ διάμειπτον.

To you, fair maidens, my mind does not change.

From Apollonius to illustrate the Aeolic form ὔμμιν.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Ἔγων δ᾽ ἐμαύτα
τοῦτο σύνοιδα.

And this I feel myself.

Quoted by Apollonius to illustrate Aeolic method of accentuation.


ταισι [δὲ] ψῦχρος μὲν ἔγεντο θῦμος,
πὰρ δ᾽ ἴεσι τὰ πτέρα Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg

But the spirit within them turned chill and down dropped their wings.

The Scholiast quotes this to show that Sappho says the same thing of doves as Pindar (Pyth. 1–10) says of the eagle of Zeus.

Another reading is ψαῦκρος, “light,” for ψῦχρος, “moist or chill.” The sense would then be, “the spirit within them became light and they relaxed their wings in rest.”


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg κατ᾽ ἔμον στάλαγμον,
τὸν δ᾽ ἐπιπλάζοντες ἄμοι φέροιεν
καὶ μελεδώναις.

From my distress: let buffeting winds bear it and all care away.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum” to show the Aeolic use of ζ in place of σσ. Bergk conjectures ἄμοι for ἄνεμοι, “winds.” The fragment is tantalizingly incomplete, as so many others are, and the reading of one or two words in it is not certain.


Ἀρτίος μ᾽ ἀ χρυσοπέδιλλος Ἀύως.

The just now the golden-sandalled Dawn [has called].

There could hardly be a more beautiful epithet than “golden-sandalled” to apply to the Dawn. It is fully equal in this respect to “rosy-fingered,” and in Greek both words are beautiful in sound.

This is quoted by Ammonius of Alexandria about A.D. 400. to show Sappho’s use of Ἀρτίος.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Πόδας δὲ
ποίκιλος μάσλης ἐκάλυπτε, Λύδι-
-ον κάλον ἔργον.

A broidered strap of beautiful Lydian work covered her feet.

Her shining ankles clad in fairest fashion
In broidered leather from the realm of Lydia,
So came the Goddess.

This fragment is very likely from an invocation to Aphrodite. It is from the Scholiast on Aristophanes’ “Peace,” 1174; Pollux about A.D. 180 also mentions it.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Παντοδάπαις μεμιγμέ-
-να χροίαισιν.

Shot with innumerable hues.

Quoted by the Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes, i, 727. Sappho’s reference may be to the rainbow.


Ἔμεθεν δ᾽ ἔχεισθα λάθαν.

Thou forgettest me.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Ἤ τιν᾽ ἄλλον
[μᾶλλον] ἀνθρώπων ἔμεθεν φίλησθα.

Or lovest another more than you do me.

Both from Apollonius to show the Aeolic ἔμεθεν for ἐμού.


Οὔ τι μοι ὔμμες.

You are nought to me.

Ἀς θελετ᾽ ὔμμες.

While you will.

These are quoted by Apollonius to show the Aeolic form ὔμμες.


καὶ ποθήω καὶ μάομαι.

I yearn and I seek.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum” to show the Aeolic form ποθήω for ποθέω, “I yearn.”


Σκιδναμένας ἐν στήθεσιν ὄργας
μαψθλάκαν γλῶσσαν πεφυλάχθαι.

When anger spreads through the breast keep thy tongue from barking foolishly (or idly).

When anger surges through thy heart
Let not thy foolish tongue take part.

This piece of somewhat sententious advice is of an unusual type amongst the Sapphic fragments. It is quoted by Plutarch in his essay, “On Restraining Anger.”


Αἰ δ᾽ ᾐχες ἔσλων ἴμερον ἤ κάλων,
καὶ μή τι ϝείπεν γλῶσσ᾽ ἐκύκα κάκον,
αἴδως κέ σ᾽ οὐ κίχανεν ὄππατ᾽
ἄλλ᾽ ἔλεγες περὶ τῶ δικαίως.

Hadst thou wished for things good or noble and had not thy tongue formed evil speech, shame would not have shown from thine eyes, but thou hadst spoken frankly about it.

Aristotle (“Rhetoric,” i, 9), about 330 B.C., says “base things dishonour those who do or wish them, as Sappho showed when Alcaeus said:

ἰόπλοκ´ ἄγνα μελλιχόμειδε Σάπφοι
θέλω τι ϝείπεν ἄλλά με κωλύει αἴδως.

“ ‘Violet-weaving, chaste sweetly smiling Sappho, I would speak but bashfulness restrains me.’ ”

And she answered him in the words of the present fragment. Blass thinks that these two lines assigned to Alcaeus are also by Sappho, and about A.D. 1110 Anna Comnena certainly suggested the same authorship.


Στᾶθι κἄντα φίλος, . . . . .
καὶ τὰν ἔπ᾽ ὄσσοις ἀμπέτασον χάριν.

Face me, my dear one . . . and unveil the grace in thine eyes.

Turn to me, dear one, turn thy face,
And unveil for me in thine eyes, their grace.

Athenaeus says that Sappho addressed the poem, of which this is a fragment, to a man famous for his physical beauty. It has also been suggested that the lines may have been addressed to Sappho’s brother. It need not, however, necessarily be assumed that any particular person is meant.


Χρύσεοι δ᾽ ἐρέβινθοι ἐπ᾽ αἰόνων ἐφύοντο.

And golden pulse grew along the shores.

From Athenaeus.


Λάτω καὶ Νιόβα μἀλα μὲν φίλαι ἦσαν ἔταιραι.

Lato and Niobe were most dear friends.

From Athenaeus.


Μνάσεσθαί τινά φαμι καὶ ὔστερον ἀμμέων.

I think men will remember us even hereafter.

From Dio Chrysostom, who, writing about A.D. 100, remarks that this is said “with perfect beauty.”


Ἠράμαν μὲν ἔγω σέθεν, Ἄτθι, πάλαι πότα.

I loved thee Atthis, once long ago.

From Hephaestion, about A.D. 150, quoted as an example of metre.


Σμίκρα μοὶ παῖς ἔμμεν ἐφαίνεο κἄχαρις.

To me thou didst seem a small and ungraceful child.

Quoted by Plutarch and others.


Ἄλλ᾽ ὄνμὴ μεγαλύννεο δακτυλίω πέρι.

Foolish woman! Have no pride about a ring.

Mentioned by Herodian about A.D. 160.


Οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὄττι θέω, δύο μοι τὰ νοήματα.

I know not what to do: I have two minds.

In doubt I am, I have two minds,
I know not what to do.

Quoted about 220 B.C. by Chrysippus, the Stoic philosopher.


Ψαύην δ᾽ οὐ δοκίμοιμ᾽ ὀράνω δύσι πάχεσιν.

With my two arms, I do not aspire to touch the sky.

Quoted by Herodian.


Ὤς δὲ παῖς πέδα μάτερα πεπτερύγωμαι.

So, like a child after its mother, I flutter.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum.”


Ἦρος ἄγγελος ἰμερόφωνος ἀήδων.

The messenger of Spring, the sweet-voiced nightingale.

Quoted by the Scholiast on the Electra of Sophocles, 149, “the nightingale is the messenger of Zeus, because it is the sign of Spring.”

Compare Ben Jonson’s “The Sad Shepherd,” Act II, Scene vi: “The dear good angel of the Spring, the nightingale.”


Ἔρος δαὖτέ μ᾽ ὀ λυσιμέλης δόνει
γλυκύπικρον ἀμάχανον ὄρπετον.

Now Love, the ineluctable, dominates and shakes my being, and fills me with bitter-sweetness.

Now Love, the ineluctable, with bitter sweetness
Fills me, overwhelms me, and shakes my being.

Quoted by Hephaestion.


Ἄτθι σοὶ δ᾽ ἔμεθέν μεν ἀπήχθετο
φροντίσδην, ἔπι δ᾽ Ἀνδρομέδαν πότῃ.

But to thee, Atthis, the thought of me is hateful; thou fliest to Andromeda.

Quoted by Hephaestion with the preceding, to which it does not appear really to belong.


Ἔρος δαὖτ᾽ ἐτίναξεν ἔμοι φρένας,
ἄνεμος κατ ὄπος δρύσιν ἐμπέσων.

Now Eros shakes my soul, a wind on the mountain overwhelming the oaks.

Now like a mountain wind the oaks o’erwhelming,
Eros shakes my soul.

Quoted by Maximus Tyrius about 150 B.C. He speaks of Socrates exciting Phaedrus to madness, when he speaks of love.


Ὄτα πάννυχος ἄσφι κατάγρει.

When all night long [sleep] holds them.

Bergk suggests that the words ὄππατ᾽ ἄωρος may have preceded these words. The fragment is quoted by Apollonius, and its sense may be: “when all night long sleep holds their eyes.”


Ἄγε δὴ χέλυ δῖά μοι φωνάεσσα γένοιο.

Come, O divine shell, yield thy resonances to me.

Come, O come, divinest shell,
And in my ear all thy secrets tell.

Quoted by Hermogenes and Eustathius. Sappho is apparently addressing her lyre. The legend is that Hermes is supposed to have made the first lyre by stretching the strings across the cavity of a tortoise’s shell.


Κἀπάλαις ὐποθύμιδας
πλέκταις ἀμπ᾽ ἀπάλᾳ δέρᾳ.

And delicately woven garlands round tender neck.

Quoted by Athenaeus.


Γἐλλως παιδοφιλωτέρα.

More fond of children than Gello.

Zenobius, about A.D. 130, quotes this as a proverb. The ghost of Gello was said by the Lesbians to pursue and carry off young children.


Μάλα δὴ κεκορημένας Γόργως.

Very weary of Gorgo.

Quoted by Choeroboscus about A.D. 600 to show the Aeolic genitive in -ως. Gorgo is mentioned by Maximus Tyrius with Andromeda as being friends of Sappho.


Ἔγω δ᾽ ἐπὶ μαλθάκαν τύλαν σπολέω μέλεα.

But upon a soft cushion I dispose my limbs.

From Herodian.

This is a good example of the choice of words which combine meaning and sound poetically.


κῆ δ᾽ ἀμβροσίας μὲν κράτηρ ἐκέκρατο,
Ἐρμᾶς δ᾽ ἔλεν ὄλπιν θέοις οἰνοχόησαι.
κῆνοι δ᾽ ἄρα πάντες καρχήσιά τ᾽ ἦχον
κάλειβον ἀράσαντο δὲ πάμπαν ἔσλα
τῳ γἀμβρῳ.

And there the bowl of ambrosia was mixed and Hermes took the ladle to pour out for the gods; and then all held goblets and made libation, and wished good fortune to the bridegroom.

Athenaeus quotes this fragment in two portions in different places. Lachmann first joined the two parts. The poem was evidently one of the Epithalamia.


Δέδυκε μεν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδες, μέσαι δὲ
νύκτες πάρα δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα,
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.

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

The sinking moon has left the sky,
The Pleiades have also gone.
Midnight comes—and goes, the hours fly
And solitary still, I lie.

The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads’ light;
It is midnight,
And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie.

J. A. Symonds, 1883.

This singularly beautiful fragment is quoted by Hephaestion as an example of metre. With the “Hymn to Aphrodite” it was the first portion of the Poems of Sappho to be printed in 1554.


Πλήρης μεν ἐφαίνετ᾽ α σελάννα
αἰ δ᾽ ὠς περὶ βῶμον ἐστάθησαν.

The moon rose full, and as around an altar, stood the women.

Now rose the moon, full and argentine,
While round stood the maidens, as at a shrine.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of the metre known as the Ionic a majore trimeter brachycatalectic. Poetically the figure is a fine one, and shows Sappho’s wonderful power of visualizing a scene in a few unerringly chosen words. The moon and its light had a great attraction for her, as a number of fragments shows.


Κρήσσαι νύ ποτ᾽ ὦδ᾽ ἐμμελέως πόδεσσιν
ὠρχεῦντ᾽ ἀπάλοις ἀμφ᾽ ερόεντα βῶμον
πόας τέρεν ἄνθος μάλακον μάτεισαι.

Thus sometimes, the Cretan women, tender footed, dance in measure round the fair altar, crushing the fine bloom of the grass.

From Hephaestion as an example of metre. Blass thinks that this and the preceding fragment belong together. The whole is another example of the delicate imagery of Sappho.


Ἄβρα δηὖτε παχήᾳ σπόλᾳ ἀλλόμαν.

Then lightly, in an enfolding garment I sprang.

From Herodian as a specimen of metre. It may not be by Sappho.


Φαῖσι δή ποτα Λήδαν ὐακινθίνων
[ὐπ᾽ ἀνθέων] πεπυκαδμένον
εὔρην ὤιον.

They say that Leda once found an egg under the hyacinths.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum.” It is uncertain what flower the Greeks described by the word “hyacinth” In this case the iris may be meant.


Ὀφθάλμοις δὲ μέλαις νύκτος ἄωρος.

And dark-eyed Sleep, child of Night.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum.”


Χρυσοφάη θεράπαιναν Ἀφροδίτας.

The handmaiden of Aphrodite, shining like gold.

In a manuscript of Philodemus about 60 B.C., found at Herculaneum, in which it is said that Sappho thus addresses Πειθώ, There is some doubt about this as the manuscript is defective.


Ἔχει μὲν Ανδρομέδα κάλαν ἀμοίβαν.

Andromeda has a fair reward.


Ψἀπφοι τί τὰν πολύολβον Ἀφρόδιταν;

Sappho, why [celebrate or worship] most happy Aphrodite?

Both of these are quoted by Hephaestion.


Δεῦτέ νυν ἄβραι Χἀριτες, καλλίκομοι τε Μοῖσαι.

Come now gentle Graces, and fair-haired Muses.

Quoted by Hephaestion, Attilius Fortunatianus, and Servius as an example of the choriambic tetrameter used by Sappho.


Πάρθενον ἀδύφωνον.

A sweet-voiced maiden.

Quoted by Attilius, about the fifth century A.D.


Κατθνάσκει Κυθέρη᾽, ἄβρος Ἄδωνις, τ κε θεῖμεν,
καττύπτερθε κόραι καὶ κατερείκεσθε χίτωνας.

Gentle Adonis is dying, O Cythera; what shall we do? Beat your breasts, O maidens, and rend your garments.

Gentle Adonis wounded lies, dying, dying.
What message, O Cythera, dost thou send?
Beat, beat your white breasts, O ye weeping maidens,
And in wild grief your mourning garments rend.

Quoted by Hephaestion and presumed to be written by Sappho from a passage in Pausanias.

The reverberating beat of the repetitions of the letter κ is very remarkable.


Ὤ τὸν Ἄδωνιν.

O for Adonis.

Quoted by Marius Plotius about A.D. 600. It appears to be the refrain of an ode.


Ἔλθοντ᾽ ἐξ ὀράνω πορφυρίαν [ἔχοντα]
περθέμενον χλάμυν.

Coming from heaven, clad in a purple mantle.

Quoted by Pollux about A.D. 180 to illustrate Sappho’s use of the word χλαμύς, which she is said to have been the first to use.


Βροδοπάχεες ἄγναι Χάριτες, δεῦτε Διος κόραι.

Come rosy-armed Graces, virgin daughters of Zeus.

The Idyll on a Distaff by Theocritus, according to the argument before it, was written in the metre of this fragment. Philostratus, about A.D. 220, refers to this as indicating Sappho’s love for the rose.


Long-foot-meter.svg Short-foot-meter.svg Long-foot-meter.svg Ὀ δ᾽ Ἄρευς φαῖσί κεν Ἄφαιστον ἄγην βίᾳ.

But Ares said he would forcibly drag Hephaestus.

From Priscian, fifth century A.D.


——Πολλὰ δ᾽ ἀνάριθμα
ποτήρια καλαίφις.

Innumerable drinking cups thou drainest.

From Athenaeus.


Κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσεαι πότα, κωὐ μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ᾽ οὔτε τότ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ὔστερον. οὐ γὰρ πεδέχεις βρόδων
τῶν ἐκ Πιερίας, ἀλλ᾽ ἀφάνης κἠν᾽ Ἀῖδα δόμοις
φοιτάσεις πεδ᾽ ἀμαύρων νέκυων ἐκπεποταμένα.

But thou shalt ever lie dead nor shall there be any remembrance of thee then or ever, for thou hast none of the roses of Pieria; but thou shalt wander unnoticed, even in the houses of Hades, flitting among the shadowy dead.

Forever shalt thou lie dead, nor shall there be any remembrance of thee now or hereafter, for never hast thou had any of the roses of Pieria; but thou shalt wander, eternally unregarded in the houses of Hades, flitting among the insubstantial shades.

Quoted by Stobaeus about A.D. 500 as addressed to a woman of no education. Plutarch also quotes the fragment, twice in fact, once as if written to a rich woman, and again when he says that the crown of roses was assigned to the Muses, for he remembers that Sappho had said these same words to some uneducated woman.


Οὐδ᾽ ἴαν δοκίμοιμι προσίδοισαν φάος ἀλίω
ἔσσεσθαι σοφίαν πάρθενον εἰς οὐδένα πω χρόνον τοιαύταν.

I think that no maiden shall ever see the sunlight, who shall have thy wisdom.

No maiden, I think, more wise than thou
Shall ever see the sun.

Quoted by Chrysippus, and may be part of the preceding poem.


Τίς δ᾽ αγροιῶτίς τοι θέλγει νόον,
οὖκ ἐπισταμένα τὰ βράκε᾽ ἔλκην
ἐπὶ τῶν σφύρων;

What rustic girl bewitches thee who knows not how to draw her dress about her ankles?

What rustic girl bewitches thee, Who cannot even draw Her garments neat as they should be, Her ankles roundabout?

Athenaeus and others quote these lines.


Ἤρων ἐξεδίδαξ᾽ εκ Γυάρων τὰν τανυσίδρομον.

Hero of Gyara, that swift runner, I taught.

Quoted by Choeroboscus to show an Aeolic form of the accusative.


Ἄλλά τις οὐκ ἔμμι παλιγκότων
ὄργαν, ἀλλ᾽ ἀβάκην τὰν φρέν᾽ ἔχω.

I am not of a malign nature but have a calm temper.

Quoted in the “Etymologicum Magnum” to show the meaning of ἀβάκης, “innocent,” “unsophisticated.”


Αὐτὰρ ὀραῖαι στεφανηπλόκευν.

Then sweet maidens wove garlands.

Quoted by the Scholiast upon the “Thermophoriazusae” of Aristophanes to show that the weaving of floral garlands was a sign of being in love.


——Σύ τε κἄμος θεράπων Ἔρος.

Thou and my servant, Eros.

Quoted by Maximus Tyrius.


Ἀλλ᾽ ἔων φίλος ἄμμιν [ἄλλο]
λέχος ἄρνυσω νεώτερον,
οὐ γὰρ τλάσομ᾽ ἔγω ξυνοίκην
νεῳ γ᾽ ἔσσα γεραὶτερα.

For if thou lovest us, choose another and a younger spouse; for I will not endure to live with thee, old woman with young man.

From the Anthology of Stobaeus.


Εὐμορφοτέρα Μνασιδίκα τᾶς ἀπάλας Γυνίννως.

More shapely is Mnasidica, than gentle Gyrinno.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of metre.


Ἀσαροτέρας οὔδαμ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ὦ ῤάννα σέθεν τύχοισα.

One more scornful than thee, O Eranna, I have never found.

Quoted by Hephaestion. The reading is doubtful.


Σὺ δὲ στεφάνοις, ω Δίκα, περθέσθ᾽ ἐράταις φόβαισιν,
ὄρπακας άνήτοιο συν ῤραισ᾽ ἀπάλαισι χέρσιν,
ἐυάνθεσιν ἒκ γὰρ πέλεται καὶ χάριτος μακαιρᾶν
μᾶλλον προτέρην, ἀστεφανώτοισι δ᾽ ἀπυστρέφονται.

Do thou, O Dica, set garlands upon thy lovely hair, weaving sprigs of dill with thy delicate hands; for those who wear fair blossoms may surely stand first, even in the presence of Goddesses who look without favour upon those who come ungarlanded.

Athenaeus quotes this fragment, saying that according to Sappho those who approach the gods should wear garlands, as beautiful things are acceptable to them.


Ἔγω δὲ φίλημ᾽ ἀβροσύναν, καί μοι τὸ λάμπρον
ἔρος ἄελίω καὶ τὸ κάλον λέλογχεν.

I love refinement and for me Love has the splendour and beauty of the sun.

From Athenaeus.


Κὰμ μέν τε τύλαν κασπολέω.

And down I set the cushion.

From Herodian.


Ὀ πλοῦτος ἄνευ σεῦ γ᾽ ἀρέτα ᾽στ᾽ οὐκ ἀσίνης πάροικος,
[ἠ δ ἐξ ἀμφοτέρων κρᾶσισ εὐδαιμονιας ἔχει το ἄκρον.]

Wealth without thee, Worthiness is no safe neighbour, [but the mixture of both is the height of happiness].

From the Scholiast on Pindar. The second line is apparently a gloss of the commentator.


Ἀυτα δὲ σύ Καλλιόπα.

And thou thyself, Calliope.

Quoted by Hephaestion when discussing a metre of Archilochus.


Δαύοις ἀπάλας ἐτάρας ἐν στήθεσιν.

Sleep thou, in the bosom of thy sweetheart.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum.” This fragment probably belongs among the Epithalamia.


Δεῦρο δηὖτε Μοῖσαι χρύσιον λίποισαι.

Hither now, ye Muses, leaving golden [surroundings].

Quoted by Hephaestion.


Ἔστι μοι κάλα πάις χρυσίοισιν ἀνθέμοισιν
ἐμφέρην ῎χοισα μόρφαν, Κλῆις ἀγαπάτα,
ἀντὶ τᾶς ἔγω οὐδὲ Λυδίαν παῖσαν οὐδ᾽ ἔρανναν.

I have a fair daughter with a form like golden flowers, Cleis the belovedest whom I cherish more than all Lydia or lovely [Lesbos].

A fair daughter have I, Cleis by name,
Like a golden flower she seems to me.
Far more than all Lydia, her do I love,
Or Lesbos shimmering in the sea.

Quoted and commented upon by Hephaestion.


Πόλλα μοι ταν
Πωλυανάκτιδα παῖδα χᾶιρην.

From me all joy to thee, O daughter of Polyanax.

From Maximus Tyrius.


Ζὰ δ᾽ ἐλεξάμαν ὄναρ Κυπρογενήᾳ.

In my dream, I spoke to the Cyprian goddess.

From Hephaestion.


Τί με Πανδίονις ὦ ῎ραννα χελίδων;

Why lovely swallow, Paudion’s child dost thou [weary] me?

From Hephaestion. Another reading suggests ὠράνα.


Ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ἄβροις λασίοις εὖ ϝε πύκασσεν.

She wrapped herself well in gossamer garments.

Pollux says that the line refers to finely woven linen.


Γλύκεια μᾶτερ, οὔ τοι δύναμαι κρέκην τὸν ἴστον,
πόθῳ δάμεισα παῖδος βραδίναν δἰ Ἀφρόδιταν.

My sweet mother, broken by soft Aphrodite’s spell, longing for a youth, I can no more weave the cloth.

My sweet mother! Fair Aphrodite’s spell
Has from me sense and reason all bereft,
And, yearning for that dear beloved youth,
No longer can I see the warp or weft.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of metre.


Ἴψοι δὴ τὸ μέλαθρον,
ἀέρρετε τέκτοντες ἄνδρες,
γάμβρος ἔρχεται ἶσος Ἄρευϊ,
ἄνδρος μεγάλω πόλυ μείζων

Raise high the roof beams, Workmen!
Like Ares comes the bridegroom!
Taller far than all tall men!

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of mes-hymnic poem.


Πέρροχος ὠς ὄτ᾽ ἄοιδος ὀ Λέσβιος ἀλλοδάποισιν.

Towering like the singer of Lesbos among men of other lands.

Quoted by Demetrius about A.D. 150. It is possible that Terpander is meant, but the line may be merely a reference to Lesbian poets in general.


Οἶον τὸ γλυκύμαλον ἐρεύθεται ἄκρῳ ἐπ᾽ ὔσδῳ
ἄκρον ἐπ᾽ ἀκροτάτῳ, λελάθοντο δὲ μαλοδρόπηες,
οὐ μὰν ἐκλελάθοντ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐδύναντ᾽ ἐπίκεσθαι.

As the sweet apple blushes on the end of the bough, the very end of the bough which the gatherers missed, nay missed not, but could not reach.

At the end of the bough—its uttermost end,
Missed by the harvesters, ripens the apple,
Nay, not overlooked, but far out of their reach,
So with all best things.

Quoted by the Scholiast on Hermogenes and elsewhere. The “sweet-apple” to which Sappho refers was probably the result of a graft of apple on quince.


Οἴαν τὰν ὐἀκινθον ἐν οὔρεσι ποίμενες ἄνδρες
πόσσι καταστείβοισι, χάμαι δ᾽ ἐπιπορφύρει ἄνθος.

As on the hills the shepherds trample the larkspur (?) under foot and the flower lies empurpling in decay on the ground.

O’er the hills the heedless shepherd,
Heavy footed, plods his way;
Crushed behind him lies the larkspur,
Soon empurpling in decay.

Quoted by Demetrius, who comments on the ornament and beauty of the lines. Bergk was the first to assign the lines to Sappho. The last three words contain a picture of a crushed flower decaying on the ground, which would perhaps be impossible to put in so few words in any language but Greek. The Greek word ὑἀκινθος does not mean the flower which at the present day is called “hyacinth.” The Greek name was applied to several flowers of which one was almost certainly the larkspur, and another, as noted elsewhere, the iris.


Ϝέσπερε, πάντα φέρων, ὄσα φαίνολις ἐσκέδασ᾽ αὔως,
φέρεις οἴν, φέρεις αἶγα φέρεις ἄπυ ματέρι παῖδα.

Evening, thou that bringest all that bright morning scattered, thou bringest the sheep, the goat, and the child back to its mother.

Hail, gentle Evening, that bringest back
All things that bright morning hath beguiled.
Thou bringest the lamb, thou bringest the kid,
And to its mother, her drowsy child.

From the “Etymologicum Magnum,” where the meaning of αὔως (“dawn”) is discussed. The beauty of the fragment needs no emphasizing.


Ἀϊπάρθενος ἔσσομαι.

Ever shall I be a maid.

From a manuscript in Paris, edited by Cramer.


Δώσομεν, ἦσι πάτηρ.

We will give, says the father.

From the same manuscript as the preceding.


Θυρώρῳ πόδες ἐπτορόγυιοι
τὰ δὲ σάμβαλα πεμπεβόηα,
πίσυγγοι δὲ δέκ᾽ ἐξεπόνασαν.

To the door-keeper, feet seven fathoms long, and sandals of five bulls’ hides, work for ten cobblers.

Quoted by Hephaestion as a specimen of metre.


"Ὄλβιε γάμβρε, σοὶ μὲν δὴ γάμος, ὠς ἄραο
ἐκτετέλεκτ᾽ ἔχεις δὲ πάρθενον, ἂν ἄραο.

Happy bridegroom, now has come thy wedding as thou wished, and thou hast the maiden of thy desire.

Thou happy bridegroom! Now has dawned
That day of days supreme,
When in thine arms thou’lt hold at last
The maiden of thy dream.

From Hephaestion.


Μελλίχιος δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἰμμέρτῳ κέχυται προσώπῳ.

And a sweet expression spreads over her fair face.

From Hephaestion. Compare Catullus, “Mellitos oculos” and “Pulcher es neque te Venus negligit.”


Ὀ μὲν γὰρ κάλος, ὄσσον ἴδην, πέλεται [ἄγαθος]
ὀ δὲ κἄγαθος αὔτικα καὶ κάλος ἔσσεται.

He who is fair to look upon is good, and he who is good, will soon be fair also.

He should be good who is fair of face,
And he will be fair whose soul has grace.

Galen, writing about A.D. 160, says: “It is better therefore, knowing as we do that youthful beauty is like the flowers of spring, its allurement lasting but a short time, to agree with the Lesbian poetess, and to believe Solon when he points out the same.”


Ἦρ᾽ ἔτι παρθενίας επιβάλλομαι;

Do I still long for maidenhood?

Quoted by Apollonius to show the Aeolic form ἦρα, the interrogative particle ἆρα, and also as a specimen of metre.


Χαίροισα νύμφα, χαιρέτω δ᾽ ὀ γάμβος.

The bride [comes] rejoicing, let the bridegroom also rejoice.

From Hephaestion as a specimen of catalectic iambic.


Τίῳ σ᾽, ὦ φίλε γάμβε, κάλως ἐϊκάσδω;
ὄρπακι βραδίνῳ σε κάλιστ᾽ ἐϊκάσδω.

To what may I liken thee, dear bridegroom?
Best to a tender shoot may I liken thee.

From Hephaestion as an example of metre.


. . . Χαῖρε, νύμφα,
χαῖρε, τίμιε γαμβε, πόλλα.

Hail bride, and all hail! noble bridegroom.

Quoted by Servius about A.D. 390, and referred to by Pollux and Julian.


Οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἀτέρα παῖς, ὦ γάμβε, τοαύτα.

For, like her, O bridegroom, there was no other maiden.

From Dionysius of Halicarnassus.


Α. Παρθενία, παρθενία, ποῖ με λίποισ᾽ ἀποίχῃ;
Β. Οὐκέτι ἤχω πρὸς σέ, οὐκέτι ἤχω.

Maidenhood, maidenhood, whither art thou gone from me?
Never, O, never again, shall I return to thee.

Quoted by Demetrius, to show the beauty of Sappho’s style, and her successful use of repetition.


Φαίνεταί ϝοι κῆνος . . . .

To himself he seems . . .

Quoted by Apollonius to show the use of ϝ in Aeolic Greek.


Ὠΐω πόλυ λεγκότερον.

[A thing] much whiter than an egg.

From Athenaeus.


Μήτ᾽ ἔμοι μέλι μήτε μέλισσα.

Neither honey nor bee for me.

This is a proverb quoted by a number of late authors. It is an example of Sappho’s successful use of alliteration.


Μὴ κίνη χέραδας.

Stir not the pebbles.

From the Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius. Χεράδες were little heaps of stones.


Ὄπταις ἄμμε.

Thou burnest us.

From Apollonius, showing Aeolic form ημᾶς, “us.”


Ἠμιτύβιον σταλάσσον.

A napkin dripping.

From the Scholiast on the Plutus of Aristophanes to show the meaning of ἠμιτύβιον, This was a piece of soft linen for wiping the hands.


Τὸν ϝὸν παῖδα καλει.

Him she called her son.

From Apollonius to show the use of ϝ.


Παῖδεσ, ἄφώνος ἐοῖσα τόδ᾽ ἐννέπω, αἴ τις ἔρηται,
φωνὰν ἀκαμάταν κατθεμένα πρὸ ποδῶν,
Ἀιτοπίᾳ με κόρᾳ Λατοῦς ἀνέθηκεν Ἀρίστα
Ἐρμοκλειδαία τῶ Σαοναϊάδα,
σὰ πρόπολοσ, δέσποινα γυναικῶν, ᾆ σὺ χαρεῖσα
πρόφρων ἁμετέραν εὐκλέϊσον γενεάν.

Maidens, though I am dumb, yet thus I speak, if any ask and place at your feet one with an untiring voice: To Aethopia the daughter of Leto was I consecrated by Arista, daughter of Hermocleides Saonaiades, thy servant, O queen of women; whom mayest thou bless and deign to glorify our house.

From the Greek Anthology. It is a difficult and obscure piece. Bergk has not attempted to restore the Aeolic form.


Τιμάδος ἄδε κόνις, τὰν δὴ πρὸ γάμοιο θανοῦσαν
λέξατο Φερσεφόνας κυάνεος θάλαμος,
ἄς καὶ ἀποφθιμέμας πᾶσαι νεοθᾶγι σιδάρῳ
ἄλικες ἰμμερτὰν κρᾶτος ἔθεντο κόμαν.

This is the dust of Timas whom the dark chamber of Persephone received, dead before her wedding; when she died all her companions clipped with sharpened metal all their lovely tresses.

Here rests the dust of Timas who, unwed,
Passed the dark portals of Persephone.
With sharpened metal, when her spirit fled,
Her mourning friends each shore her fair-tressed head.

The version of J. A. Symonds is as follows:

This is the dust of Timas, whom, unwed,
Persephone locked in her darksome bed:
For her, the maids who were her fellows, shore
Their curls and to her tomb this tribute bore.

The verse is from the Greek Anthology.


Ἄνθε᾽ ἀμέργουσαν παῖδ᾽ ἄγαν ἀπαλάν.

A most tender maiden gathering flowers.

Quoted by Athenaeus.


Πόλυ πάκτιδος ἀδυμελεστέρα, χρύσω χρυσοτέρα.

Than the lyre, far sweeter in tone, than gold, more golden.

Far sweeter than the throbbing lyre in sound,
A voice more golden than gold, new found.

Quoted by Demetrius to show the poetical value of hyperbolical phrase.


Maximus Tyrius says that Socrates calls Love the wizard, while Sappho uses the term μυθοπλόκος, “fiction weaving.”


Aristides quotes Sappho as saying τὸ γάνος . . . οὐ διαφθεῖρον τὰς ὄψεις, “the brightness . . . not destroying the sight.”


᾽Ροδοπήχεις καὶ ἐλικώπιδες καὶ καλλιπάρῃοι
καὶ μειλιχόφωνοι.

With rosy cheeks and glancing eyes and voices sweet as honey.

Philostratus says that this indeed is Sappho’s sweet salutation.

Aristaenetus says that Sappho in a hymeneal song uses the epithet μειλιχόφωνοι, “soft voiced.”


Pausanias, about A.D. 180, says of Sappho that concerning love she sang many things that do not always agree with one another.


Himerius, apparently quoting, says, “Thou art the evening stat, of all stars the fairest, I think,” and he says that the line comes from Sappho’s song to Hesperus. Again he says, quoting: “Now thou didst appear like that fairest of all stars; for the Athenians call thee, Hesperus.”

Himerius also refers to an ode which was apparently an imitation of the work of Sappho. This ode has been translated by J. A. Symonds.


The Scholiast on Hesiod, Op. et D., 74, says that Sappho calls Persuasion, Ἀφροδιτης θυγατέρα.


Athenaeus mentions βάρωμος and σάρβιτος, two stringed instruments in use in the time of Sappho. Their exact character is not known. He also gives the form βάρμος for the name of the former instrument.

A few single words or short phrases attributed to Sappho have been preserved here and there by various writers. Some examples may be given, as they have a certain interest.

Eustathius speaks of a “vagabond friendship, as Sappho would say,” καλὸν δημόσιον—“a public good.”

The “Lexicon Sequerianum” defines Ἄκακος as meaning “without experience of ill,” and says “so Sappho uses the word.”

The “Etymologicum Magnum” defines Ἀμαμαξύς as a vine trained on poles, and says that Sappho makes the plural ἀμαμάξυδες, The same work mentions Sappho’s use of the form αὔως for ἤως, “the dawn.”

Pollux says that Sappho used the word βεῦδος for a woman’s dress.

Phrynichus, the grammarian, says that Sappho calls a woman’s dressing-case where she keeps her scents, γρύτη.

A Parisian manuscript (ed. Cramer) says: “Among the Aeolians ζ is used for δ, as when Sappho says ζαβατον for διάβατον, ‘fordable.’ ”

Choeroboscus says: “Sappho makes the accusative of κίνδυνος, danger, κίνδυν.” Another writer says, κίνδυνα.

Photius, in his Lexicon (ninth century) says: “θάψος is a wood used to dye hair and wool yellow, which Sappho called ξύλον Σκυθικόν, Scythian wood.”

The Fayum fragments in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, brought there in 1879, contain among other things a very small scrap with a very imperfect text on both sides of it. The fragment is considered to be of the eight century A.D., and Professor Blass of Kiel ascribes the text to Sappho, judging by the metre and the dialect. There is a posthumous essay by Bergk on this subject in the fourth edition, 1882, of his “Poetae Lyrici Graeci,” but the text of the fragments is so exceedingly imperfect that attempts at restoration are the merest conjectures.

Finally, the following verse may be quoted:

Κεῖνον ὦ χρυσόθρονε Μοῦσ᾽, ἔνισπες
ὗμνον ἐκ τᾶς καλλιγύναικος ἐσθλᾶς
Τηιος χώρας ὃν ἀείδε τερπνῶς
πρέσβυς ἀγαυός.

O Muse, golden throned, sing that strain which the revered elder of Teos, from the rich land of fair women, sang so melodiously.

This verse was almost certainly not written by Sappho. Athenaeus says that “Hermesianax was mistaken when he represented Sappho and Anacreon as contemporaries, for Anacreon lived in the time of Cyrus and Polycrates [about 563–478 B.C.], while Sappho lived in the reign of Alyattes, father of Croesus.” It is extremely improbable that Sappho was still living when Anacreon was born.