June 25th, 2005

After Sappho

You may have heard how they've found a "new" poem by Sappho. This one turned up in the papier-mache casing of an Egyptian mummy. It's only the fourth near-complete text we have from the woman whom the ancients considered to be the greatest of all lyric poets.

I don't read Greek, but I've seen a literal English translation. Here's my (very free) version of it....

After Sappho

Enjoy it girls, enjoy the music,
Sweet as night scented stocks,

And don’t mind me. I’m old and out of sorts.
Don’t ask me to dance.

There was a time, before these knees packed up,
I leaped around like a deer.

But such is life. It could be so much worse.
You’ve heard them speak of Tithonus-

How Goddess Aurora loved him,
Carried him off to live in the sunrise,

And gave him immortality.
Soon he grew frail and ill- and couldn’t die.