The Poems of Sappho/Foreward

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THE general English reader, as distinguished from the classical student, has not had presented to him any edition approaching completeness of the remains of Sappho’s poetic genius since that of H. T. Wharton, first published in 1885, and subsequently reprinted several times during the succeeding two decades. That edition was comprehensive and satisfactory as far as it went. The translations which it contained were however, not the work of its editor, but were reprinted by him from various sources and, since the publication of the book, a considerable quantity of new material has come to light in the fragmentary papyri found in the delta of the Nile. This present edition is an attempt to bring the subject more up to date, and at the same time to offer a number of new translations which it is hoped will be acceptable. In some instances a number of the older translations which seemed most suitable and interesting have also been printed. In the case of some of the fragments there have been previously only literal translations, and furthermore, some of them are so short and defective that they are insusceptible of anything but a literal rendering, though they often consist of words or phrases of great beauty, both in idea and in language. The plan adopted in this edition has been to print first the Greek text, then the literal or prose translation, then a metrical version, adhering as nearly as possible to the meaning of the Greek, and finally, notes and commentary.

About twenty fragments consisting of one or two words only or such as are of doubtful authenticity, which are included by Wharton and others, have been omitted from the present arrangement.

With the kind permission of the Egypt Exploration Society, and of Mr. J. M. Edmonds the text with emendations of No. 3 has been included in the present volume. Other fragmentary poems which have from time to time been published by the Egypt Exploration Society, and emended and restored with very great industry and learning by several scholars, have not been reprinted. The amount of restoration is so great that the fragments, while of very great interest to the philologist and palaeographer, do not appeal very strongly to the general reader.

In the spelling of Greek proper names, when they are printed in Roman type, the form to which the English reader is accustomed has been adopted. Philological commentary and variant readings have, in nearly all cases, been omitted, as in the present state of the subject Mr. Edmond’s arrangement in his “Lyra Graeca” offers all that the classical student, as distinguished from the general reader, can expect.