Although she is a literary legend, only one complete poem of Sappho's survives, along with substantial fragments of four others (the last discovered in 2004). Now two new fragments have been discovered. [more inside]
New Sappho poem found.
Combining a Cologne University fragment found in the cartonnage of an Egpytian mummy
with a fragment from Oxyrhynchus
has allowed the reconstruction of Sappho's fourth poem.
The Oxyrhynchus papyri have been much in the news lately, what with the discovery of the earliest fragment of Revelations to give the number of the beast as 616
and the publication of several lines from Sophocles' lost tragedy The Progeny
(scroll down). Infra-red imaging techniques
may not be sexy, but Sappho
sure is. After all, Plato said she was worthy of being considered not only as a poet but as a muse.
Sappho herself is a palimpsest
or a sort of cypher. We know next to nothing about her -- including whether she was lesbian or not. One thing's for sure: she almost certainly wasn't a schoolmistress.
Are you not amazed at how she evokes soul, body, hearing, tongue, sight, skin, as though they were external and belonged to someone else? And how at one and the same moment she both freezes and burns, is irrational and sane, is terrified and nearly dead, so that we observe in her not a single emotion but a whole concourse of emotions? Such things do, of course, commonly happen to people in love. Sappho’s supreme excellence lies in the skill with which she selects the most striking and vehement circumstances of the passions and forges them into a coherent whole. Longinus, On the Sublime Sappho’s poem of jealousy
survives only because the ancient critic Longinus quoted it as a supreme example of poetic intensity--now Ken Knabb has put up 26 translations of it in the English at the Gateway to the Vast Realms
, the literature and texts section of his Bureau of Public Secrets
. And wait! There's more!
The Songs of Bilitis.
'First published in Paris in 1894, this purports to be translations of poems by a woman named Bilitis, a contemporary and acquaintance of Sappho. This caused a sensation, not only because finding an intact cache of poems from a completely unknown Greek poet circa 600 B.C. would be a miracle, but because of its open and sensitive exploration of lesbian eroticism. Actually Bilitis never existed. The poems were a clever forgery by Pierre Louÿs--the "translator"; to lend weight, he had even included a bibliography with bogus supporting works ... '
A new addition to the sacred-texts.com
The Bureau Of Public Secrets
, Kenneth Rexroth
. It was while looking for this fragment of hers, translated by him--(Details within)