1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Here's a taste of Sappho

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Lemex, Apr 18, 2015.

    I want to take things back in time. 2,500 years, and to the eastern Mediterranean. Let's go back to a time when Rome had not yet been founded, and the isle that would become known as Britain was unknown wilderness. A time when even gunpowder would have seemed like magic - something like a gift from the ancient gods.

    In such a time lived Sappho of Lesbos.

    I recently read a small collection of her poems, one of those Penguin little black classics. I read it in about 10 minutes, and was just blown away by it. What impressed me, and what remains with me still, is how human the poems are. How beautiful is the 'soul' (for lack of a better word) of the poet. It's obvious Sappho was sexually liberal - the love poems here are addressed to both men and women, and they are pretty upfront about sexuality.

    And the poems become even more poignant in that they survive (for all but 2 or 3 complete poems) entirely in fragments. The age of the manuscripts and unknown damage done to them has meant we now have Sappho only in snapshots - we can only imagine what the full poems were like. It makes me sad to realize how little of her work has survived, and it's frustrating too. Like reading a lot of Anglo-Saxon verse, you can be reading what appears to have been a very powerful and brilliant poem but then see the dot dot dot ellipsis signifying the original manuscript is too damaged or tattered to read.

    But the poems. Oh the poems. They are still beautiful. Sappho must have led a beautiful life, and even from the small collection I have read there are poems of the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. She is not a dense poet, she is a poet of emotion - of the 'soul'. I'm sure anyone could relate to at least one of Sappho's poems, I know I can.

    So, here are some. Entirely for your pleasure.

    *My own footnote: Atthis was the daughter of the Athenian king Cranaus. It is, I assume, being used as way of hiding the name of the actual woman Sappho was in love with.
    **My own footnote: Andromedia was the wife of Perseus, who defeated Medusa.

    Well, we did.

    These poems were first written 2,500 years ago.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
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  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Always liked her. :) Pretty cool woman. Her writing is very vivid to say in the least.

    Oh, and thanks for giving me the chance to reply to what Sappho said to future generations 2,500 years ago, Lemex. :D I'm gonna try doing it in poetry.

    Sappho, the poet of Lesbos,
    If you but look yonder and gaze,
    At what we do at our age,
    You would think us gods.

    Yea, do not think,
    Or dare to dream,
    That we had forgotten you.
     
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  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Oh, I really like that. That's fantastic, Link. :) You should try to get that published somewhere.
     
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  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Damn it, Link. You inspired me to try my own hand at writing a response. I failed, but here's the result to laugh at. :p

    For Sappho


    I see you in my minds eye
    In some bucolic land of girls
    Among fire-white petal pearls,
    Among other dancing girls.

    In that same pastoral glade
    I see myself among other guys
    Undressing girls with our eyes
    Do we join? My mind goes fuzzy.

    Then moon and ocean meet,
    Then is the time for you to take
    Some lover for a lover's sake.
    And I see you smiling sweetly.

    You had Aphrodite's charms,
    And could entice members
    Of both of the old genders.
    Their love lives in your words.

    Sappho - I cannot know you,
    Could not have understood
    A word you would have said,
    But I love you all the same.
     
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  5. LittleHidingOwl
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    LittleHidingOwl New Member

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    *home run slides in* Did someone say Sappho?

    I'm unfortunately not much of a poetry person, so I shan't contribute my own. But I will say learning of Sappho was a shining moment for a younger, closeted me. A pioneer of writing, and she liked girls? It was like finding a mentor, despite my earlier mentioned non-poetness.

    One thing that's often overlooked, though: her bisexuality. Normally influential lesbians are touted as bisexual in English classes to make their history more... palatable I guess? So normally I would be stoked when a woman is presented as uninhibitedly gay. Buuuuuut not when it means erasing another important identity instead. The irony kind of hurts.

    Here's one poem where she refers to love of a man:

    Unusually sparse on the description of the object of her affections. Anyway, just wanted to point out a common misconception that no one even mentioned. Back to girls!


    And finally, one from John Donne, of all people, who took a shot at writing from Sappho's point of view. I wrote an essay on this in college and would have presented it at the undergrad research conference had I not been so busy.

     
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  6. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    You sound like a cool instructor, Lemex. Wish I had a class with you.
     
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  7. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you just did.

    If you care to join us, tomorrow's lesson is "Ayn Rand's books are utter garbage."
     
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  8. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I'll be there. Do we get to dissect statist boogeymen?
     
  9. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a good question to ask professor... I mean Lord... I mean Lord Professor Lemex.
     
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  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That would be a lesson in which I encourage everyone to go through the treatment at the end of A Clockwork Orange to create powerful associations of hatred toward copies of Atlas Shrugged. :D While, I'll admit, reading selections from The Virtue of Selfishness without sniggering and crossing out.

    Dissect state intervention into economics at least. ;)
     
  11. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    I love He is more than a hero. That can't have been easy to translate so beautifully.
     
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  12. Rhys
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    Rhys Member

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    Can't say I'm familar with her but I quite liked what I just read.

    "I declare
    That later on,
    Even in an age unlike our own,
    Someone will remember who we are."

    I especially like this. Amazing to think it was written 2,500 years ago and is still recorded.
     
  13. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Beautiful stuff! Some fab responses here too, I'm not a poetry-girl but highly impressed.
     

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