Hot Sapphic Love (poem)
June 24, 2005 3:28 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by melmoth (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If she didn't give it up to Plato after that, she must have been.
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:16 AM on June 24, 2005

In the interests of not looking like a completely insensitive berk, I am interested in this poem, the whole sequence of modern rediscoveries of ancient literary artifacts and the outlandish-sounding science which allows it all to happen.

Also, for a link, let alone a first, this is a good'un.
posted by NinjaPirate at 4:26 AM on June 24, 2005

Excellent post. Thanks.
posted by Rothko at 4:32 AM on June 24, 2005

Damn cool. Thanks for the heads up.
posted by gramschmidt at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2005

Too long....
posted by felix betachat at 9:22 AM on June 24, 2005

Oh my god. Really.

Thank you.

One of my favourite articles about Sappho is Terry Castle's excellent piece from the LRB, Always the Bridesmaid.

SAPPHO: short, dark in appearance, teensiest hint of a moustache - a cross between Mme Moller (high school French teacher) and a slightly defective but still gorgeous Audrey Hepburn. More femme than butch in style (favours flowing chitons, the odd bangle, funny sandals with lots of straps) but good too at outdoorsy things, such as pounding in tent pegs and spotting constellations. Sings and dances, always ready with a hymn to Aphrodite, but gets mopey at weddings (always the bridesmaid, never the groom!). Dynamite in bed, of course, and totally gay: that stuff about being in love with Phaon and jumping off a cliff just not true! Ovid all bollocks. Would have been in love with me, had I lived in ancient Greece. May in fact have been referring to me in Wretched Tatty Papyrus Fragment No. 211 (Lobel-Page):

Come [Terry?] . . .
cast off your [air-cushioned?] Nikes
the [?] nightingale [?] . . .

posted by jokeefe at 9:48 AM on June 24, 2005

Old Greek poem
doesn't rhyme
Sappho isn't
worth a dime.
Burma shave.

Thank you, thank you. *bows!*
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2005

This is some pretty cool stuff.
posted by absalom at 10:33 AM on June 24, 2005

As I said elsewhere: I wouldn't call it a "new poem"—it's a filled-out version of Lobel-Page's fragment 58 (you can see the original Greek here; scroll down to D. 65a L.-P. 58, it's the first fragment on the page longer than a line)—but it's great to have basically the whole thing. I'd love to see the Greek, if anybody can find a link to it.

Good post, though you're trying too hard with all the links; we really don't the 616 and other Oxyrhynchus stuff, because there's already been a post about that.
posted by languagehat at 11:27 AM on June 24, 2005

Don't need. D'oh.
posted by languagehat at 11:27 AM on June 24, 2005

l-hat, the TLS link says the greek's in the print edition, which I imagine you can get hold of.
posted by kenko at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2005

But I want it online! Now!!
posted by languagehat at 12:30 PM on June 24, 2005

Great post. I really enjoyed your last link, too. Some virtuoso myth-busting there. Thanks melmoth.
posted by maryh at 4:58 PM on June 24, 2005

Very cool, thanks for posting this.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2005

awesome. I love sappho.
posted by mai at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2005

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