Mary Bernard

Above is a representation of Sappho playing the lyre, which is how she accompanied her beautiful lyrics.

The poems below are some excerpts from Mary Bernard's Sappho. I chose these poems specifically because I believe they show the true beauty and feeling that is captured in Sappho's poetry. Some of these poems are to the women she loved and some of them are simply giving advice, but either way, Sappho's talents are wonderfully portrayed in each line of each stanza.

The text of Sappho's poem 1 from Estienne's 1554 edition of Anaceron.  This picture can be found in Sappho's Immortal Daughters. 1. Tell Everyone
Now, today, I shall
sing beautifully for my friends' pleasure

2. We shall ejoy it
As for him who finds
fault, may silliness
and sorrow take him!

6. I confess
I love that
which caresses
me. I believe
Love has his
share in the
Sun's brilliance
and virtue

8.I took my lyre and said:
Come now, my heavenly
tortoise shell: become
a speaking instrument

17. Sleep, darling
I have a small
daughter called
Cleis, who is
like a golden
I wouldn't
take all Croesus'
kingdom with love
thrown in, for her

19. Tomorrow you had better
Use your soft hands,
Dica, to tear off
dill shoots, to cap
your lovely curls
She who wears flowers
attracts the happy
Graces: they turn
back from a bear head

24. Awed by her splendor
Stars near the lovely
moon cover their own
bright faces
when she
is roundest and lights
earth with her silver.

This portrail of Sappho shows the beauty and sophistication that is evident in her poetry. 34. Lament for a maidenhead
Like a quince-apple
ripening on a top
not once noticed by
harvesters or if
not unnoticed, not reached
Like a haycinth in
the mountains, trampled
by shepherds until
only a purple stain
remains on he ground.

38. Prayer to my lady of Paphos

Dapple-throned Aphrodite,
eternal daughter of God,
snare-knitter! Don't, I beg you,

cow my heart with grief! Come,
as once when you heard my far-
off cry and, listening, stepped

from your father's house to your
gold car, to yoke the pair whose
beautiful thick-feathered wings

oaring down mid-air from heaven
carried you to light swiftly
on dark earth; then, blissful one,

smiling your immortal smile
you asked, What ailed me now that
made me call you again? What

was it that my distracted
heart most wanted? "Whom has
Persuasion to bring round now

"to your love? Who, Sappho, is
unfair to you? For, let her
run, she will soon run after;

"if she won't accept gifts, she
will one day give them; and if
she won't love you -- she soon will

"love, although unwillingly...."
If ever -- come now! Relieve
this intolerable pain!

What my heart most hopes will
happen, make happen, you your-
self join forces on my side!

In this portrait, Sappho has a very powerful appearance - beautiful and statuesque - which is common in many other depictions of her. 39. He is more than a hero

He is a god in my eyes--
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you--he

who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing

laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast. If I meet
you suddenly, I can't

speak--my tongue is broken;
a thin flame runs under my skin; seeing nothing,
hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body

and I turn paler than
dry grass. At such times
death isn't far from me

40. Yes, Atthis, you may be sure
Even in Sardis
Anactoria will think often of us

of the life we shared here, when you seemed
the Goddess incarnate
to her and your singing pleased her best

Now among Lydian women she in her
turn stands first as the red-
fingered moon rising at sunset takes

precedence over stars around her;
her light spreads equally
on the salt sea and fields thick with bloom

Delicious dew pours down to freshen
roses, delicate thyme
and blossoming sweet clover; she wanders

aimlessly, thinking of gentle
Atthis, her heart hanging
heavy with longing in her little breast

She shouts aloud, Come! we know it;
thousands-eared night repeats that cry
across the sea shining between us

This is part of fragment 16 preserved on papayrus.  This poem begins a few lines down, the right hand column also shows part of another poem.  This picture can also be found in Sappho's Immortal Daughters. 41. To an army wife, in Sardis

Some say a cavalry corps,
some infantry, some, again,
will maintain that the swift ores

of our fleet are the finest
sight on dark earth; but I say
that whatever one loves, is.

This is easily proved: did
not Helen--she who had scanned
the flower of the world's manhood--
choose as first among men one
who laid Troy's honor in ruin?
warped to his will, forgetting

love due her own blood, her own
child, she wandered far with him.
So Anactoria, although you

being far away forget us,
the dear sound of your footsteps
and light glancing in your eyes

would move me more than glitter
of Lydian horse or armored
tread f mainland infantry.

42. I have not heard one word from her
Frankly, I wish I were dead.
When she left, she wept

a great deal; she said to
me, "This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."

I said, "Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love.

"If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared

"all the violent tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your neck
"myrrh poured on your head
In this portrait, Sappho is in a classic Victorian pose, making her seem pure and beautiful. and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for besides them
"while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring with-
out song..."

43. It was your, Atthis, who said
"Sappho, if you will not get
up and let us look at you
I shall never love you again!

"Get up, unleash your suppleness,
lift off your Chian nightdres
and, like a lily leaning into

"a spring, bathe in the water.
Cleis is bringing your best
purple frock and the yellow

"tunic down from the clothes chest;
you will have a cloak thrown over
you and flowers crowning your hair...

"Praxinoa, my child, will you please
roast nuts for our breakfast? One
of the gods is being good to us:

"today we are going at last
into Mitylene, our favorite
city, with Sappho, loveliest

"of its women; she will walk
among us like a mother with
all her daughters around her

"when she comes home from exile..."

But you forget everything.