The Relationship Between Gods and Humans in "Aias" and the Poetry of Sapphos - Inquiries Journal
Verses present the words of Aphrodite to Sappho. Sappho .. among Greek women who engaged in homosexual relationships, and that Sappho could . Mimesis in Lyric: Sappho's Aphrodite and the Changing Woman of the Apache Part II. We turn to a striking example of the equation between a ritual “this” and a . This relationship seems comparable to the dramatized interactions of. prose, poetry and drama from ancient Greece - Hymn to Aphrodite by Sappho. and (uniquely among such works) the goddess's response to the poet's plea.
Papyrus was replaced by parchment codex, and many texts were rewritten on the new material. Reynolds suggests that perhaps "scribes and their employers thought Sappho an arcane taste, not worth the labour of retranscription.
What remained were scraps of Sappho's poems that had been preserved within the work of other writers who quoted from her songs and poems. The "Hymn of Aphrodite" is one of the few works that have survived in this manner after it was quoted in its entirety in Dionysus's work On Literary Composition, published in about 30 B. The availability of Sappho's compositions changed late in the nineteenth century when farmers in Egypt discovered shreds of papyrus in an area that was being plowed for new fields.
The areas being laid open had been a rubbish dump, and amongst the old pieces of papyrus were several fragments of poetry that were later identified as Sappho's work. Many of the fragments had been used to wrap mummies. To do this, the papyrus was torn from top to bottom in narrow bands. In result, sections of poems were missing—often the center part. The nine books of poetry that had been written and compiled some twenty-five hundred years earlier were reduced to only about two hundred lines of verse, most with gaps in the middle of the line.
After the discovery of Sappho's fragments, several translations of her work appeared. These were by writers who attempted to fill in the missing words with words that they thought fit the idea being expressed.
It did not matter to these early translators that the archaic Greek that they were translating was exceedingly difficult to translate or that the word s chosen might not be correct. The idea of leaving a blank space in a line was unacceptable. Feminine pronouns that expressed Sappho's love for other women were also changed to masculine, both to protect the sensibilities of the reader and also to sanitize Sappho's reputation.
The tendency to rewrite Sappho has changed in recent years, and few readers of Sappho now read these early translations. A significant number of women literary scholars have become interested in Sappho's work, and several translations that reflect both the author's use of feminine pronouns and the gaps in verse have emerged and are being studied.
The great irony about Sappho's work is that her work has been preserved, not through Sappho's own efforts, but through the work of admirers and scholars.
Metzger Metzger has a doctorate in English Renaissance literature and teaches literature and drama at the University of New Mexico. She is also a professional writer and the author of several reference texts on literature.
In this essay, Metzger discusses the problems of translating Sappho's work and the resulting differences in meaning that result. During her lifetime, Sappho never wrote down a single poem.
Her poetry was celebrated throughout the Greek world and often copied and passed around, but all of this occurred many years after her death. Her work was also the inspiration for other poets, so much so that Plato labeled her the "tenth muse. After her death, the development of a Greek alphabet and writing materials allowed Sappho's admirers to finally preserve her work, which had previously been memorized, on papyrus. The result was at least nine volumes of poetry, most of which eventually disappeared from the written record.
Most of this body of work has been lost in the period since Sappho's death, and the work that has survived did so in a manner that seems quite serendipitous now. Some of her works were quoted by other authors and have survived in the preserved texts of later writers, though some of Sappho's original texts survive only as papyrus fragments recovered from Egyptian rubbish heaps.
A significant additional problem that has arisen from texts recovered in either fashion concerns the translations of these works. Sappho's poems were written in a rural and archaic form of Greek, the vernacular Aeolian dialect. Even scholars who are familiar with ancient Greek have problems with the more arcane dialects for which word meanings are uncertain.
As a result, translations of Sappho's poems often offer significant variation among translators. Although the text of "Hymn to Aphrodite" was preserved in its entirety in Dionysus's On Literary Composition, translations of this poem can vary significantly, resulting in both loss of meaning and loss of integrity in Sappho's work.
As a result, an examination of several of the different translations of these poems can provide important lessons about the integrity and responsibility of the translator to preserve meaning. The biggest problem, according to Williamson, is the centuries of recopying. Williamson notes that manuscripts of this poem provide for three variants, and modern translations are based on one of these earlier manuscripts, which provides for some important differences in translation.
Reynolds mentions that another problem of translation was that "in early writing practice no punctuation was used and, worse still, no gaps between words. Because there have been so many translations of this poem, it is important to establish a reliable source for comparison.Sappho's Ode to Aphrodite
For purposes of this study, the benchmark translation of "Hymn to Aphrodite" is that of Josephine Balmer, taken from Sappho: There have been several recent translations of Sappho that attempt to stay close to the Greek and that resist the temptation either to clean up the poet's image by changing the focus of the poem from feminine to masculine or by protecting the sensibilities of readers who might be shocked by the references to a passionate love between women.
Balmer's translation of Sappho is one that provides for the reader, as Williamson suggests, a translation, "whose unencumbered layout does more justice to their [the poems'] clarity and elegance. Reynolds's The Sappho Companion includes reprints of several of the earliest translations of the "Hymn to Aphrodite," beginning with those published early in the eighteenth century when new interest in Sappho's work first flourished.
The earliest translation included in Reynolds's study was taken from Ambrose Phillips's book The Works of Anacreon and Sappho, Done from the Greek, by several hands The text itself remains consistent in its pleadings to the goddess, although with some embellishment that is not seen in the more recent translations of the poem.
For instance, Phillips's translation adds to the flattery that the speaker directs toward the goddess. For example, Balmer translates the first line to read: Sappho's pleading words have been changed to rhyming couplets, a favorite genre of the Renaissance poets but not a poetic device used by early Greek writers.
The stanza and meter have also been changed from four lines to six. Williamson explains the Sapphic meter has four lines of eleven syllables, followed by a fourth line of five syllables.
In contrast, Phillips provides for an iambic eight syllables in each line, with alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. Reading the poem aloud illustrates the monotony of both the rhyming couplets and the eight-syllable line, whereas reading Balmer's translation of Sappho's poem aloud clearly illustrates how the variation in stressed and unstressed syllables helps to create a tension and an interest in the flow of her poem.
Obviously, Phillips did not intend for his translation to be sung, as did Sappho, but ignoring the purpose of the original work causes Phillips's translation to have a much more dated sound.
His work clearly fails to escape its early-eighteenth-century origins, unlike Sappho's original work, which is timeless in its appeal.
Another problem with Phillips's translation is one that reoccurs frequently over the next two hundred years. Of course, Phillips is not alone in his reliance on heterosexual love to define the poet-speaker's longing. Williamson points out that this line is especially important since "In the Greek this is the only point in the poem at which it is made explicit that the speaker's beloved is a woman and not a man. The propensity to change the feminine to masculine finally changed in the late nineteenth century.
Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings and a Literal Translation, Symonds restores both the missing line and the transformed feminine pronouns.
In his sixth stanza, Symonds also reverts to the Sapphic stanza. The artificiality of rhyming couplets has disappeared, as has the alternating iambic meter. Symonds verse now reads: Yea, for though she flies, she shall quickly chase thee; Yea, though gifts she spurns, she shall soon bestow them; Yea, though now she loves not, she shall soon love thee, Yea, though she will not!
While Symonds remains true to meter, he substitutes parallelism to create additional interest. There is the repetition of the first word in each line, followed by the inverted thought from the first half of each line into the converse thought of the second half of the line. Symonds partners "flies" with "chase," "spurns" with "bestow," and "loves not" with "love.
And yet, in spite of the continued reliance on poetic artifice, Symonds does include the often missing final line and the feminine pronoun to define the lover. Williamson credits the work of German editor Theodor Bergk for the change that resulted in the acknowledgement that Sappho's poem was intended to be a pleading for a female lover. Williamson relates that it was Bergk's Poetae Lyrici Graeci that first proposed that the gender of the beloved was female.
Bergk later defended his choice in an edition of his earlier work. The effect of his work can be seen almost immediately in Symonds's translation, which appeared only three years later. In the translations that followed those of Bergk and Symonds, most translators have chosen to retain the feminine endings. A notable exception was the widely read anthology Greek Poets in English Verse, whose editor, William Hyde Appleton, chose to include his own translation.
Like the writers of nearly two hundred years earlier, Appleton ignored the recent scholarship on Sappho and retained the masculine gender designation: For, though now he flies, he soon shall follow, Soon shall be giving gifts who now rejects them. Even though now he love not, soon he love thee Even though thou wouldst not. Although Appleton has rejected the rhyming couplets and tried to eliminate some of the pronouns, especially in line 2, he does not acknowledge the female lover.
Another important point is clear in the last line of stanza 6. The phrase "even against her own will" has been completely altered with the inclusion of the word "thou. Instead of the lover being forced to love even when she or he, as Appleton insists would not wish to, Appleton's version implies that the poet-speaker may no longer want the lover.
Hymn to Aphrodite - Sappho - Ancient Greece - Classical Literature
This change drastically alters one of the most important ideas of the poem: In virtually all of the translations of the twentieth century, Sappho's meaning in "Hymn to Aphrodite" has been kept intact. Many of the translations have altered meter and stanza, but they have stayed true to the integrity of meaning.
A study of the many different translations of Sappho that exist, whether those of the eighteenth, nineteenth, or twentieth century, will reveal much about the preferences in poetic form of that period, and thus all are worth the time spent in study. Additionally, these many differing translations only indicate how important it is for readers not to limit themselves to only one translation of Sappho's work. In this essay, Blevins uses Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite" to expose the importance of archetypal forms in the Western poetic tradition.
Many contemporary poets, critics, and scholars associate poetic form with metrical formalism, or almost exclusively associate verse itself with the most common, rhythm-based verse formulas in English such as the sonnet. Such an attitude fails to recognize the importance of other, perhaps less obvious, structures or rhetorical stratagems for establishing patterns.
Some important examples are the narrative, the catalogue, and the prayer. Without these, there could be no poetry in any language. As Joseph Campbell and other scholars have pointed out, human history is imbued with forms and structures that contemporary poets and other artists must rely on as they need not the sonnet: This pattern of falling and rising, which comes out of the prehistorical human experience of the death of one season and the birth of the next, is so archetypal, or fundamental to the human understanding of form in nature, that it is virtually impossible to conceive of art without it.
The two most relevant strands of contemporary American poetry, the narrative and the lyric, derive their shapes from forms far more ancient than most contemporary poets and readers are willing to admit. It would be difficult to imagine the novel being invented without the literary culture having absorbed the quest forms of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Beowulf. That is, while contemporary writers are obliged in some ways to "make it new," as the modernist Ezra Pound advised at the beginning of the twentieth century, every story—even every TV sitcom—owes its shape, which is often described in terms of the conflict, the crisis, and the resolution, to the first storytellers of the literate world.
The same is true for lyric poetry, which meditates, usually in the first person, on a single topic. Lyric poetry is associated with heightened language in a way that narrative or epic poetry is not because the first lyrics Sappho's poems are among the first known lyrics in the Western tradition were usually accompanied by music.
Despite the fact that many of her poems and lines have been lost, Sappho is among the most interesting of the lyric poets not only because her work precedes much of the most important lyric poetry in the tradition but also because it communicates a wise and self-aware understanding of female sexual experience that many contemporary lyric poets have yet to achieve. It is the ultimate lyric plea, addressing Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, in a heightened, or highly musical, address or request.
The poem uses the direct address to stop time and fill the universe with Sappho's plea. It is thus able to remind all readers not only of other prayers in the tradition but of the ways in which humans always implore the gods to help them.
Sappho's poem records female sexual desire in a language that honors and celebrates yearning so expertly that it is able to transcend its intimate aspects and become an impersonal, or universal, record of human need. The poem's first lines address Aphrodite with the praise that is traditional in the prayer, though even by the second line Sappho's sense of irony comes into play. That is, when Sappho calls Aphrodite a "guile-weaver," she is potentially criticizing her goddess for causing trouble evidently, the gods were expert troublemakersand this advances our appreciation of Sappho as a character, or speaker, by revealing her courage.
The reference is also powerful because it communicates a speaker who understands the goddess she is addressing well enough to challenge her. In the poem's second stanza, Sappho moves backward in time to remind Aphrodite that she has visited the poet previously, and this control of time happens swiftly, revealing Sappho's great skill as a poet. The shift in time in the poem's second and third stanzas is also visually appealing, or imbued with images that make Aphrodite's movement from her "father's golden house" to "the dark earth" filled with the mystery and wonder of a "whirl of wings.
It can thus be said to be an archetypal, formalized, imagistic movement in the poem: By illustrating the miracle or phenomenon of yet another god descending in lines that swell with music, these lines also illustrate Sappho's poetic mastery.
Hymn to Aphrodite
Yet, the poem's most interesting turn begins in its fourth stanza, when Sappho criticizes herself for asking for Aphrodite's help again and again.
In the poem's fifth stanza, Sappho admits to having a "demented heart," and then moves into Aphrodite's voice, speculating in that voice on what Aphrodite might say to Sappho in her time of need and "aching pain. In the poem's final stanza, Sappho repeats the poem's initial plea. The final lines reiterate the argument that was introduced in the poem's first stanza. Sappho thus closes the poem in the formal shape of the circle, which might be called the formal shape of the return which is also one of the main purposes of rhyme.
By finishing where she started, Sappho closes her poem the way it began, and so recalls the forms of nature the cycle of the seasons, of menstruation, and of the movement from birth to death that have more to do with forms in art than formulas like the sonnet do.
As Josephine Balmer points out in her introduction to Sappho: Poems and Fragments, many critics have been unable to talk about Sappho as a lyric poet of great skill because of their obsession with her potential lesbianism, which some critics have even suggested came, in Sappho's case, out of a "clinically commonplace female castration complex.
That is, just as it is impossible to say whether or not Sappho's poems are autobiographical, it is impossible to infer personal intentions from poems whose main purpose is to formalize human experience into shapes that all readers will recognize. When one reads the most beautiful poems in the Bible, one does not speculate about their authors' lives and intentions. When the author of King Solomon's song in "The Song of Songs " tells his unnamed beloved that "the joints of her thighs are like jewels" and "her navel.
As is said sometimes of statistics, literary criticism can be too often like a bikini, which reveals the interesting while covering up the vital. The vital in the case of Sappho's poems is not what she did or did not do in her own life with women, but the ways in which she has been able to transform her understanding of human experience into forms that one can immediately recognize as the forms of nature from which the greatest art always derives.
Curt Guyette Guyette is a longtime journalist. He received a bachelor's degree in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh.
In this essay, Guyette discusses how Sappho was able to produce poetry that still speaks to readers after twenty-six centuries. The Greek poet Sappho created her "Hymn to Aphrodite" more than 2, years ago, yet it and her other pieces of work have done much more than simply survive the long span of history between then and now.
Her poetry has transcended time and cultural differences by speaking to readers in a way that still remains vibrant and vital at the beginning of the twenty-first century. How was she able to do that? Much has obviously changed since Sappho issued her prayer to Aphrodite, but the human condition remains largely the same. Then, as now, people fell hopelessly in love and had their hearts broken when that love went unrequited.
Longing, lust, and infidelity—the stuff of soap operas and country music ballads—are not modern phenomena. Rended hearts needed mending every bit as much at the dawn of civilization as they do today. Throughout time, it has been the job of poets and other artists to illuminate the way for others by baring their souls, creating works of enduring beauty in the process. In that respect, Sappho helped set a standard others have followed ever since.
The daily reality confronting Sappho was obviously very different from our modern day in many ways. She inhabited a world without mass communication ; the written word was only in its earliest stages when her poems were created. It was a world largely unexplored, a world people believed was ruled by mercurial gods rather than the laws of science.
Sappho's earth was a circular disk, round and flat. At its center was Mount Olympus"the abode of the gods," writes Thomas Bulfinch in his Bulfinch's Mythology, describing a place where an assortment of deities "feasted each day on ambrosia and nectar" and "conversed of the affairs of heaven and earth.
This is especially true when it came to the arts, which the ancient Greeks exalted. Sappho occupied a central role in that celebration, taking on the status of what today would be called a superstar. Jong continues by saying that Sappho "became an inspiration to the singers who followed her. She has remained a muse in our own time. Most of Sappho's poetry has been lost to time. Only fragments of work remain, stray lines that were part of larger pieces.
Her "Hymn to Aphrodite" is an exception, offering readers the rare chance to experience a Sappho poem in full. It is fitting that this poem was directed to Aphrodite, the goddess of love who was frequently found in Sappho's work.
However, the special relationship existing between Sappho and Aphrodite was not always heavenly. The residents of Mount Olympus were often less than benevolent beings. Writing seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Sappho worshipped deities that were a capricious lot, capable of making much mischief and toys with mortals' lives as a form of amusement. They could be jealous, deceitful, and unfaithful.
Affronts were met with revenge. The goddess of love was no exception. Reynolds continues by saying that Aphrodite is also "sometimes her ally, sometimes her rival, occasionally her enemy. Willis Barnstone, a literature professor who has translated her work into English for a book titled, simply, Sappho, notes that the poet was "far from being a woman of unfailingly noble sentiments. It is easy enough to imagine Sappho kneeling in prayer, beseeching the goddess for assistance.
The poet's heart is filled with anguish and grief. As with all of Greek mythologythe deity portrayed is not simply carved stone. Aphrodite is depicted as a tangible presence in Sappho's life, capable of speaking directly to her supplicant and able to take action that would influence the hearts of others—if the goddess was so moved.
People of faith still do the same thing today when facing troubled times. When falling ill, they pray to be made better. When catastrophe strikes, they seek divine assistance. A tradition going back at least to Menander Fr. This is regarded as unhistorical by modern scholars, perhaps invented by the comic poets or originating from a misreading of a first-person reference in a non-biographical poem. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema 's Sappho and Alcaeus above portrays her staring rapturously at her contemporary Alcaeus; images of a lesbian Sappho, such as Simeon Solomon 's painting of Sappho with Erinna belowwere much less common in the nineteenth century.
Today Sappho, for many, is a symbol of female homosexuality;  the common term lesbian is an allusion to Sappho, originating from the name of the island of Lesboswhere she was born. In classical Athenian comedy from the Old Comedy of the fifth century to Menander in the late fourth and early third centuries BCSappho was caricatured as a promiscuous heterosexual woman,  and it is not until the Hellenistic period that the first testimonia which explicitly discuss Sappho's homoeroticism are preserved.
The earliest of these is a fragmentary biography written on papyrus in the late third or early second century BC,  which states that Sappho was "accused by some of being irregular in her ways and a woman-lover".
InDenys Page, for example, stated that Sappho's extant fragments portray "the loves and jealousies, the pleasures and pains, of Sappho and her companions"; and he adds, "We have found, and shall find, no trace of any formal or official or professional relationship between them, Campbell in judged that Sappho may have "presided over a literary coterie", but that "evidence for a formal appointment as priestess or teacher is hard to find".
Parker argues that Sappho should be considered as part of a group of female friends for whom she would have performed, just as her contemporary Alcaeus is. Winkler argues for two, one edited by Aristophanes of Byzantium and another by his pupil Aristarchus of Samothrace. For instance, the Cologne Papyrus on which the Tithonus poem is preserved was part of a Hellenistic anthology of poetry, which contained poetry arranged by theme, rather than by metre and incipit, as it was in the Alexandrian edition.
The earliest surviving manuscripts of Sappho, including the potsherd on which fragment 2 is preserved, date to the third century BC, and thus predate the Alexandrian edition. Many of the surviving fragments of Sappho contain only a single word  — for example, fragment A is simply a word meaning "wedding gifts",  and survives as part of a dictionary of rare words.
It has been remodeled, that is, re-enacted.
What is remodeled can continue to be a model. What is merely copied cannot. The paradox here is that a model implies no change, whereas whatever is remodeled does indeed imply change. That is to say, an explicit idea of unchangeability through time subsumes an implicit idea of change in the here-and-now of the occasion of performance. For if she is fleeing now, soon she will give chase.
If she is not taking gifts, soon she will be giving them. If she does not love, soon she will love against her will. You become my ally in war. As the song begins, its female speaker invokes Aphrodite, the archetype of love, in the form of a prayer. Then, as the goddess arrives all the way from her distant celestial realm, she is quoted by the speaker as speaking directly in the first person to this speaker, who is now suddenly shifted into the second person lines 18— And she is addressing a woman whom she calls Sappho line So we see that the speaker who had started speaking at the beginning of the song was Sappho.
But now, from the standpoint of performance, the speaker Sappho is speaking in the first person of Aphrodite lines 18— We have earlier noted a comparable shift to the first person in the songs of the Changing Woman rituals.
It is reinforced by the repetition of this adverb denoting repetition—three times at that. It is all an archetypal re-enactment for the archetypal goddess of love, but for the humans who re-enact love it becomes a vast variety of different experiences by different people in different situations.
This paradox of repetition brings to mind the words of Kierkegaard: Let us compare the experiences of those initiated in the Changing Woman ritual. When Changing Woman gets to be a certain old age, she goes walking toward the east.
After a while she sees herself in the distance looking like a young girl walking toward her. They both walk until they come together and after that there is only one. She is like a young girl again. Also, the other way around, the young finds the old. They find each other, young and old, old and young, through an everlasting repetition of the Changing Woman ritual.
Each repetition of the Changing Woman ritual, old as it is, brings newness, youth, change. I repeat in this context the words of Kierkegaard: Here we may turn to another story taken from the Lesbian myths about this Phaon the testimonia are collected in Sappho F V. After Aphrodite crosses over the strait, the old woman changes back into a beautiful young goddess, who then confers beauty and youth on Phaon as well again, Sappho F V.