The Other Poet from Lesbos – EIDOLON
consult D. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus (Oxford ) and M. Manfredi, Dai Papiri della. Societ4 Italiana 7th century sat in social, even romantic proximity with men to whom .. did not observe.2" By studying her usage closely we can find wer rather an observat one poet who was m other poet ever, an of diction. On this . As an example of one of the pointless questions that people love to debate, Seneca includes "whether Sappho was a prostitute". Those who. It may be the case that more people know Sappho's poetry now than at any Only a handful have probably ever been aware that Alcaeus was.
Only in festive situations does the sacred include the profane. Once the festival is over, the sacred can once again wall itself off from the profane. The festive balancing of the sacred and the profane is relevant to questions of morality and decorum. Vase painters conventionally depict this god as a morally correct and decorous figure even in settings where his own closest attendants abandon themselves to morally incorrect and indecorous behavior.
We find striking illustrations in pictures of satyrs, mythologized Dionysiac attendants whom vase painters conventionally depict in the act of committing various wanton sexual acts. To illustrate such balancing, I highlight the inclusion of songs typical of Sappho in sympotic songs sung by men and boys.
A case in point is Song 2 of Sappho.Poetry from Ancient Greece - Sappho of Lesbos
We have two attested versions of the closure of this song. As we will also see, choral songs typical of Sappho could be included in sympotic songs typical of Alcaeus. Within the songs of Alcaeus, the choral figure of Sappho could appear decorous—even sacred.
Guide to the classics: Sappho, a poet in fragments
A notable example is this fragment: Alcaeus F As I argued in earlier work, the wording that describes the choral figure of Sappho here is fit for a queenly goddess. In the overall context of all her songs identifying her with Aphrodite herself, Sappho appears here as the very picture of that goddess. Such appearances, however, can be deceiving. The aura of the sacred and the decorous as externalized in choral songs typical of Sappho can no longer be the same once these songs make contact with the profane and the indecorous as externalized in sympotic songs typical of Alcaeus.
In such unprotected contexts, even the honor of Sappho as a proper woman will be called into question. Such a situation arises in a fragment of poetry quoted by Aristotle Rhetoric 1. The fragment reveals a dialogue in song—a duet, as it were. Ancient scholia interpret Aristotle to mean that it was Sappho who composed this dialogue in song, and that the song is representing Alcaeus in the act of addressing her. Here is the dialogue as quoted by Aristotle: Men are ashamed to say, to do, or to intend to do shameful things.
That is exactly the way Sappho composed her words when Alcaeus said: This assumption leads to two alternative ways of interpreting the lyric exchange quoted by Aristotle: In terms of my argument, however, we are dealing here not with competing songs composed by competing composers but with competing traditions in the actual performance of these songs. Some of these traditions feature musical dialogues between the lovers or would-be lovers, and there is a vast variety of scenarios, as it were, for success or failure in such ritualized games of love: West, F S ed.
Yet before the 19th century, Sappho's sexuality was far from clearly defined. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Baudelaire, through Sappho, invented modern lesbianism, and Swinburne brought it to England.
- Lady of Lesbos
Classicists in the late 19th century, protective of Hellenic purity, tried to repress Sappho's sexual orientation: Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff fantasised that she ran a girls' school, which helped dispel the whiff of impropriety. For the ancients, the problem with Sappho was her licentiousness, not her sexual orientation.
The Other Poet from Lesbos
As an example of one of the pointless questions that people love to debate, Seneca includes "whether Sappho was a prostitute". Those who admired her poetry but disliked the idea of promiscuity found a simple solution: According to ancient legend, Sappho was bisexual.
After various affairs with girls, she supposedly fell in love with a ferryman called Phaon, and threw herself off the Leucadian Rock in order to rid herself of her passion. This influential story, which goes back at least as far as Menander, was probably inspired by allusions in Sappho's poetry to an Adonis-like myth about the ageing Aphrodite and a young sun deity called Phaon perhaps identifiable with Phaethon.
The legend was widely known in post-classical times through an Ovidian or pseudo-Ovidian epistle, "Sappho to Phaon", and assumed a central position in almost all later responses to the poet. Later writers often use the story of the Leucadian leap as a misogynistic fable, an emblem of the comeuppance awaiting any woman who is too intellectual and too highly sexed.
Erica Jong's latest novel, Sappho's Leap, corrects the legend by describing a Sappho who is unharmed by her various sexual adventures, which include a zipless fuck with a toy-boy called Phaon.
She falls from the rock almost by accident, survives, and lives happily ever after with her first love, Alcaeus, and her devoted grandchildren. Jong's novel is the latest in a long line of works about Sappho by women writers. An early example is Mary Robinson's breathless sonnet sequence, Sappho and Phaon Robinson aspires to the Longinian Sublime; sadly, her writing sounds like this: In vain you fly me!
It is not surprising that women writers who are attracted to Sappho simply because they want to celebrate her gender should produce pretty turgid results. Unmitigated panegyric is seldom fun to read, and sentimentality, even vaguely feminist sentimentality, does not age well. Furious ranting is often more enjoyable than gushing praise. Sylvia Plath's "Lesbos" powerfully presents the island as an unreachable ideal place, the counterpart to everything that is wrong with real women's lives.
Lady of Lesbos | Books | The Guardian
The speaker and her beloved could meet on Lesbos, "in another life", but "Meanwhile there's a stink of fat and baby crap. In Art and Lies, her Sappho cries in outraged capital letters: We have pretty much the same amount of Sappho as of her fellow Lesbian poet, Alcaeus, who was in his time an equally important figure, and whose work had a great impact on Horace.
But the damaged text of Alcaeus has no value as a political symbol, whereas the gaps in Sappho can be used as an image of male oppression. For Winterson, the loss of Sappho's poetry represents the damage done to women's bodies and women's writing by centuries of patriarchy.
Like Winterson, Reynolds sees Sappho as an emblematic female artist, whose work has been mutilated by male writers, critics and scholars. She argues that both Baudelaire and Swinburne "break up Sappho, dissect her, fragment her and insert themselves into her spaces".
By contrast, female writers have treated those blank spaces as an opportunity for sharing. In the 19th century a pair of women, lesbians in the modern sense and also aunt and niece, published a set of imitations of Sappho under the name Michael Field.
They achieve, Reynolds argues, a "duet where Sappho is not a rival, but a partner". But it is not only men who mutilate texts. Reynolds freely admits, however, that she is not a classical scholar, and that her subject is not Sappho herself, or the Greek text of Sappho's poems, but the work of later writers and artists who imitated and alluded to her.
Reynolds is flexible enough to recognise that there is more to the story of Sapphic reception than male oppression and female solidarity. Despite its definite article, The Sappho History is designed only "to take snapshots of particular moments in the peculiar history of Sappho's afterlife in cultural transmission and in the cultural imagination". Confronted with the Aeolic Greek of the poet, printed neatly on a page, the translator is immediately drawn into emendations, conjectures, broken lines, missing words, incomplete words, hypothetical punctuation and, in short, a philological headache.
And, after persisting, the translator is always dissatisfied. New discoveries But despite the hurdles and the intellectual heartache, there are rewards in recent discoveries that continue to add more words, more lines, more stanzas and sometimes even new poems to the canon.
Inthe discovery of piece of papyrus that completed an existing fragment - thereby making a new poem by Sappho - received international media coverage. The process of repair resulted in Poem 58which deals with the themes of youth and old age. Papyrus from third century BC. Wikimedia Commons Sappho mourns the passing of her youth, and reminds her audience of the myth of Tithonosone of the few mortals to be loved by a goddess.
Struck by the beauty of the young man, the goddess Eos asks Zeus to permit her to take the young man to live with her eternity. But Eos forgets to ask that Tithonos be granted a second gift: