Sappho Σαπφώ


Translated by G. Theodoridis

© 2005

All Rights Reserved

1  Abandoned (Edm 83, 216, 96D)

I want to die
rather than be abandoned

Well, I was told all sorts of things –
things such as,
“Oh, dear, dear Sappho, what awful things we must
Believe me,
I’m leaving you against my will!”

To which I replied,
“All right, then, go ahead, abandon me,
be happy!
remember me because I cared for no one else.

Because if you forget,
I’ll remind you
of the good things we lived through

Remember the many garlands of violets
and roses I placed next to you
the many flower necklaces I weaved around
your soft

and spread bountiful myrrh
[……]* fit for a queen

and upon the gentle mattress,
[……]* the passion you exuded

and neither the [……]*
nor the singly sacred [……]*
did we weave  [……]*
from which we stayed away.”


2  And as for me (Edm.118a)

And as for me, listen to this:
I love luxury!
To me,
the bright love, the bright sun
beauty are all one!


3  But I sleep Alone (Edm. 62)


And like the hour,
The moon and the
Pleiades have gone

And I,
I sleep alone.


It Seems to me (Edm 2)

It seems to me he’s equal to the gods, the
who sits within the scope of your sweet voice
of your  laughter, which stirs the heart within my breast

Seeing you like this,
even for a second,
stops the sighs
within me.

Yet my tongue
beneath my skin a fire rages
my eyes are empty but
my ears are full.

A torrent of sweat
a wild tremor
overwhelm me

I’ve turned the colour of drying grass
just before death.


5  Eros again! (204, 42B, 50D)

Eros again!
He shook my mind
Like the mountain winds shake
The Oaks!


6  Ode to Aphrodite (Edm. 1, 191 IB. et D)

Immortal Aphrodite of the splendid throne*
Daughter of Zeus, weaver of snares,
Great Woman, grant me this:
Let not my spirit be harnessed by this anguish,
This affliction
But come here, to me, as you did once before.

On that day,
you heard my distant voice and, nodding,
you left your father’s golden chambers and yoked your
two swift companion birds to your glittering chariot.

They fluttered through the spreading sky and
brought you hurriedly down here,
next to me,
here, upon the black soil.

Great woman!
With a smile on your immortal face you had asked me then
about  my sighs, what was it that made me call you
yet again?

What was it that my despairing heart wanted you to do
this time?

You asked,
“Who is it this time, Sappho?  Whom do you want me
to bring to you?**  Who, Sappho is hurting you now?”

at that time, you offered, “Tell me
Sappho who she is and if she turns from you now,
by my urgings,
she’ll be turning towards you;
and if she’s not close to you now,
by my urgings,
she will be –
willingly or not!”

Come to me again now,
Great Woman
release me from this great woe;
grant me this, my heart’s greatest desire!
Against all these pains,
Great Woman, be my ally.

* Translating Ποικιλόθρον᾽ not Ποικιλόφρον᾽
** Translating πείθω not Πείθω (the goddess Persuasion)
7  To Her Lyre (Ed80)

Come to me, my Lyre,

8  On Eros (238, 40-41B, 137D)

Again it is Eros! He, the
sweet and
bitter God who unfastens the limbs!

Again, omnipotent Eros,
shakes me like a snake,

And you, Atthis, you’ve learnt to
hate me and run off
to Andromeda


9  The stars around the moon (Edm 3)

And again when
the moon
casts her brilliance all over the earth
The stars
soften the blaze of their


10  Sweet Apple (105a, 105c, B93,B94)


Just like the sweet apple, reddening at the highest
branch, missed by the apple pickers –
But no,
They did not miss you!
They just couldn’t reach so


You’re just like the mountain
trodden by the shepherds
next to the purple


11 A company of soldiers (27aD, 195P)

Some say that the most beautiful sight upon earth’s
Dark soil
Is a company of soldiers on horse.
Others think that this honour belongs to
A line of soldiers on foot.
And still others to a fleet of ships.
Ah, but for me
This honour belongs to whoever one loves.

It’s easy to see why.
The most gorgeous woman on earth, Helen,
Abandoned her man,
Most excellent of all men!
And made sails for Troy!

Not a thought for her daughter
Nor her dear parents.

That was Cypris’ fault!
It was this goddess who had led her so far astray.
So suddenly.
So easily.
So gently.

This reminds me of Anactoria who is very far away.
How I’d much rather look upon her charming step
Upon the dazzling beauty of her face
Upon all the glittering chariots of the Lydia
And all of her foot soldiers
Clad in their weighty armour!

12 The Handsome and the Pure (49D, 207P)

The handsome man is handsome only
In looks.
The Pure man is pure as well as
13 You shall die! (58D, 211P)

You shall die
And you shall lie there!
You shall lie there
And no one will remember you
Long for you
Because you have none
Of the roses
Of the Muses
Of Pieria
You shall wonder
Among the shadows of the dead
In the Halls of Hades –


14  Atthis (218, L96, 98D)

Oh, Atthis!
Once She saw you simply as a famous goddess
Loved the sound of your voice!

But now!
Look at Her, now!
Now She’s matchless among the Lydian women!

She is the rosy-fingered moon after the sun has set!

Supreme among the stars!
A light that shines equally over the salty sea
Over the flower-covered fields!

And so,
The gorgeous dew falls
The roses bloom
And so does
The tender chervil
And the flowering honey clover.

She takes these walks –
This way and that-
With longing in her heart,
She remembers our gentle Atthis.

Her soul!
Her soul is consumed by this longing!
15  Gongyla (217, L95, D 97)

“And so”
Gongyla asked me,
“How can you be so sure? Have you seen some sign of it?”
And I replied,
“Well, let me tell you, Gongyla.
I saw Hermes in my dream and I said to him,
‘Lord,’ I said, ‘Lord, I am lost!
I am lost and, I swear to you, Lord!
In the name of the blessed goddess,
I swear, I no longer care for wealth and riches!
I just want to die!
I want to die and I want to see the dew-covered lotus
On the banks of the Acheron'”

16  Hesperus (trans. “Evening”) (223, 95B, 120D)

You always bring back all those things which
The brilliant Dawn has scattered!

You bring back
The sheep,
The goats

The child, back to its mother!

17 To Dika (80D)

Come, Dika!
With your gentle fingers weave
For your lovely hair
Garland of anise.

The blessed Graces prefer-
By far-
To gaze upon a garlanded head
Than one bereft of flowers, from which
They turn away.


18  Sweet Mother (L102, D114, B90)

Sweet mother!
How can I weave my web now?
Dazzling Aphrodite tamed my desire
For a boy!
19  Leave Crete (192, 4-5B, Suppl. p 30D)

Leave Crete
Come here!
Come to this pure temple,
To this charming apple grove
To these altars scented with
Burned frankincense.

Icy water sings through the branches of the
Apple trees
The shadows of roses cover the ground
Up from the trembling leaves flows down
Sweet sleep.

On this horse-nurturing valley
The flowers of Spring bloom
The gentle breezes sigh sweetly

Come Kypris!
Gracefully pour nectar
Into these golden wine cups
Make it one with our festivities.
20  To Hera (196, 28D)

To Hera

Blessed Hera, when I pray for your
Charming form to appear.
Come beside me!

Yours is the form to which
The sons of Atreus, kings both,
Also prayed.

They accomplished many great deeds
First at Troy
And then on the seas
But were lost and couldn’t make their way here
Until they called on you, Hera
And on Zeus
And on Thyoni’s charming boy,

Come then goddess
And help me as you’ve done in the past.


21 Virginity! (230, 109B, 131 D)

Virginity you have abandoned me!
where have you gone?
I will never return to you, no,
I shall never return
to you!


22 Kleis, My Daughter (239, 85B, 152 D)

I have a daughter,
Gorgeous like a golden flower
I love her more than all of Lydia
More even than…


23 Honey or Bee (146)

I need neither

24 I was in love with you Atthis (206, 33-34B, 40-41D)

I was in love with you
Once, a long time ago!
I use to think you were a clumsy
Little child then.

25 The sky (209, 37B, 47D)

I don’t think I can touch the sky with my hands.
26 Wealth (249, 80B, 92D)

Wealth without virtue is not an innocent neighbour
But, mix them together and you have the very best of fortunes!

1 Response to Sappho Σαπφώ

  1. Thank you, and thank the Oxyrhyncus midden. The library of Alexandria had whole scrolls of this radiant and splendid melos. Now we wait for whatever scraps entropy and kismet allow us.

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