Swithin

Sappho and Her Friends: The Poetry Thread

163 posts in this topic

Today's tribute to Sappho: her poem "Bridal Song:"

 

Bride, that goest to the bridal chamber
In the dove-drawn car of Aphrodite,
By a band of dimpled
Loves surrounded;

Bride, of maidens all the fairest image
Mitylene treasures of the Goddess,
Rosy-ankled Graces
Are thy playmates;

Bride, O fair and lovely, thy companions
Are the gracious hours that onward passing
For thy gladsome footsteps
Scatter garlands.

Bride, that blushing like the sweetest apple
On the very branch's end, so strangely
Overlooked, ungathered
By the gleaners;

Bride, that like the apple that was never
Overlooked but out of reach so plainly,
Only one thy rarest
Fruit may gather;

Bride, that into womanhood has ripened
For the harvest of the bridegroom only,
He alone shall taste thy
Hoarded sweetness.

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Today's poem by Sappho is about the other woman in the Simeon Solomon painting, which I posted on Friday:

 

ERINNA

Haughtier than thou, O fair Erinna,
I have never met with any maiden.

Such a careless scorn as thine for passion
Proves a dire affront to Aphrodite.

When with soft desire she wounds thy bosom,
Thou shalt know love's pain and doubly suffer.

Keep the gifts I gave thee, long rejected;
Fabrics for thy lap from far Phocea,

Babylonian unguents, scented sandals,
And the costly mitra for thy tresses;

Tripods worked in brass to flank the altar
With the ivory figure of the Goddess;

Where the sacrificial fumes from sacred
Flames shall rise to gladden and appease her,

In the hour when at her call thy fervid
Breast and mouth to mine shall be relinquished.

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Today's tribute to Sappho takes the form of a poem by Emily Dickinson, who mentions Sappho:

 

IN A LIBRARY

A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.

 

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Today's tribute to Sappho:

 

Please

 

Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,
You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
dot_clear.gifA beauty desired.

Even your garment plunders my eyes.
I am enchanted: I who once
Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess,
dot_clear.gifWhom I now beseech

Never to let this lose me grace
But rather bring you back to me:
Amongst all mortal women the one
dot_clear.gifI most wish to see.

dot_clear.gif

 

--Translated by Paul Roche

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Today's tribute to Sappho, a poetic fragment:

 

He is dying, Cytherea, your tender Adonis,

What should we do?

Beat your breasts, girls, tear your tunics…

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Today's poem by ****:

 

Some say horsemen, some say warriors

 

Some say horsemen, some say warriors,

Some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest

Vision in this dark world, but I say it’s

What you love.

 

It’s easy to make this clear to everyone,

Since Helen, she who outshone

All others in beauty, left

A fine husband,

 

And headed for Troy

Without a thought for

Her daughter, her dear parents…

Led astray….

 

And I recall Anaktoria, whose sweet step

Or that flicker of light on her face,

I’d rather see than Lydian chariots

Or the armed ranks of the hoplites.

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Today's tribute to Sappho, one of her poems:

 

Come to me here from Crete

 

Come to me here from Crete,

To this holy temple, where

Your lovely apple grove stands,

And your altars that flicker

With incense.

 

And below the apple branches, cold

Clear water sounds, everything shadowed

By roses, and sleep that falls from

Bright shaking leaves.

 

And a pasture for horses blossoms

With the flowers of spring, and breezes

Are flowing here like honey:

Come to me here,

 

Here, Cyprian, delicately taking

Nectar in golden cups

Mixed with a festive joy,

And pour.

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Today's poem by ****:

 

Girls, you be ardent for the fragrant-blossomed

 

Girls, you be ardent for the fragrant-blossomed

Muses’ lovely gifts, for the clear melodious lyre: 

But now old age has seized my tender body,

Now my hair is white, and no longer dark.

My heart’s heavy, my legs won’t support me, 
That once were fleet as fawns, in the dance. 

I grieve often for my state; what can I do? 
Being human, there’s no way not to grow old. 
 

Rosy-armed Dawn, they say, love-smitten,

Once carried Tithonus off to the world’s end: 

Handsome and young he was then, yet at last

Grey age caught that spouse of an immortal wife.

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Thank you for the poems and the illustrations -- and the links, too. 

Thank you, faceinthecrowd!  :)

 

What shall we do, Cytherea?

Lovely Adonis is dying.

Ah, but we mourn him!

 

Will he return when the Autumn

Purples the earth, and the sunlight

Sleeps in the vineyard?

 

Will he return when the Winter

Huddles the sheep, and Orion

Goes to his hunting?

 

Ah, but thy beauty, Adonis,

With the soft spring and the south wind,

Love and desire!

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Today's tribute to ****:
 

O Pan of the evergreen forest,
Protector of herds in the meadows,
Helper of men at their toiling,—
Tillage and harvest and herding,—
How many times to frail mortals

 

Hast thou not hearkened!

Now even I come before thee
With oil and honey and wheat-bread,
Praying for strength and fulfilment
Of human longing, with purpose

 

Ever to keep thy great worship
    Pure and undarkened.

O Hermes, master of knowledge,
Measure and number and rhythm,
Worker of wonders in metal,

 

Moulder of malleable music,
So often the giver of secret
    Learning to mortals!

Now even I, a fond woman,
Frail and of small understanding,

 

Yet with unslakable yearning
Greatly desiring wisdom,
Come to the threshold of reason
    And the bright portals.

And thou, sea-born Aphrodite,

 

In whose beneficent keeping
Earth with her infinite beauty,
Colour and fashion and fragrance,
Glows like a flower with fervour
    Where woods are vernal!

 

Touch with thy lips and enkindle
This moon-white delicate body,
Drench with the dew of enchantment
This mortal one, that I also
Grow to the measure of beauty

    Fleet yet eternal.

 

 
 

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Today's tribute to Sappho, a fragment of her poetry:

 

Fragment 58

 

Age seizes my skin and turns my hair

From black to white:

My knees no longer bear me

And I am unable to dance again

Like a fawn.

 

What could I do? I am not ageless:

My youth is gone.

Red-robed Dawn, immortal goddess,

Carried [ Tithonus ] to earth's end

Yet age siezed him

Despite the gift from his immortal lover ....

 

I love delicate softness:

For me, love has brought the brightness

And the beauty of the sun ....

 

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MOON AND STARS

When the moon at full on the sill of heaven
Lights her beacon, flooding the earth with silver,
All the shining stars that about her cluster
Hide their fair faces;

So when Anactoria's beauty dazzles
Sight of mine, grown dim with the joy it gives me,
Gorgo, Atthis, Gyrinno, all the others
Fade from my vision.

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As my favorite poets are Carl Sandburg and Langston Hughs, I'm afraid I can't get into any of this 

 

Sepiatone

Well, you can start threads about them! At least their names can be mentioned here without being censored. I started this thread because one of the great poets of antiquity cannot be mentioned on this TCM board, nor can an adjectival use of her name, or the name of the Greek island where she was born. Imagine, the name of a Greek island is censored!

 

****   ****   ****

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Les Fleurs du mal, Charles Baudelaire's collection of poems, was published in 1857. A few of the poems -- including this one named for the Greek island where **** was born -- were banned in France until 1949. How sad is it that even now, the title of this poem and the name of the woman mentioned within are censored here!

 

**** by Charles Baudelaire

 

Mother of Latin games and Greek delights,
****, where kisses, languishing or joyous,
Burning as the sun's light, cool as melons,
Adorn the nights and the glorious days;
Mother of Latin games and Greek delights,

****, where the kisses are like cascades 
That throw themselves boldly into bottomless chasms 
And flow, sobbing and gurgling intermittently, 
Stormy and secret, teeming and profound; 
****, where the kisses are like cascades!

****, where courtesans feel drawn toward each other,
Where for every sigh there is an answering sigh,
The stars admire you as much as Paphos,
And Venus may rightly be jealous of ****!
****, where courtesans feel drawn toward each other,

****, land of hot and languorous nights,
That make the hollow-eyed girls, amorous
Of their own bodies, caress before their mirrors
The ripe fruits of their nubility, O sterile pleasure!
****, land of hot and languorous nights,

Let old Plato look on you with an austere eye; 
You earn pardon by the excess of your kisses 
And the inexhaustible refinements of your love, 
Queen of the sweet empire, pleasant and noble land. 
Let old Plato look on you with an austere eye.

You earn pardon by the eternal martyrdom 
Inflicted ceaselessly upon aspiring hearts 
Who are lured far from us by radiant smiles 
Vaguely glimpsed at the edge of other skies!
You earn pardon by that eternal martyrdom!

Which of the gods will dare to be your judge, ****, 
And condemn your brow, grown pallid from your labors, 
If his golden scales have not weighed the flood 
Of tears your streams have poured into the sea? 
Which of the gods will dare to be your judge, ****?

What are to us the laws of the just and unjust 
Virgins with sublime hearts, honor of these islands; 
Your religion, like any other, is august, 
And love will laugh at Heaven and at Hell! 
What are to us the laws of the just and unjust?

For **** chose me among all other poets 
To sing the secret of her virgins in their bloom, 
And from childhood I witnessed the dark mystery 
Of unbridled laughter mingled with tears of gloom; 
For **** chose me among all other poets.

And since then I watch from Leucadia's summit,
Like a sentry with sure and piercing eyes
Who looks night and day for tartane, brig or frigate,
Whose forms in the distance flutter against the blue;
And since then I watch from Leucadia's summit,

To find out if the sea is indulgent and kind, 
If to the sobs with which the rocks resound 
It will bring back some night to ****, who forgives, 
The worshipped body of ****, who departed 
To find out if the sea is indulgent and kind!

Of the virile ****, paramour and poet, 
With her wan pallor, more beautiful than Venus!
— The blue eyes were conquered by the black eyes, ringed 
With dark circles, traced by the sufferings 
Of the virile ****, paramour and poet!

— Lovelier than Venus dominating the world,
Pouring out the treasures of her serenity
And the radiance of her golden-haired youth
Upon old Ocean, delighted with his daughter;
Lovelier than Venus dominating the world!

— Of **** who died the day of her blasphemy, 
When, insulting the rite and the established cult, 
She made of her body the supreme pabulum 
Of a cruel brute whose pride punished the sacrilege 
Of her who died on the day of her blasphemy.

And it is since that time that **** mourns, 
And in spite of the homage the world renders her, 
Gets drunk every night with the tempest's howls 
Which are hurled at the skies by her deserted shores. 
And it is since that time that **** mourns.

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Swithin, my heart skipped a beat seeing that poem by Baudelaire. Now you're moving into my territory. I love the guy. I was a French major and had to read a certain amount of poetry (not a whole lot) and B was my favorite. I was so assiduous that I committed a number of poems to memory (in French) and have never forgotten them. In fact I practice them to myself on occasion so that I won't. Another loving specialty were the Fables of de la Fontaine ,,,

 

Short story ... I enrolled in a beginning Shakespeare class in college and the professor spent the first hour speaking generally about poetry. Along the way he talked a bit about Baudelaire and called him a 'madman." He was really quite disparaging about it. I saw him after class and told him that he oughtn't do that. We are all impressionable students (I really said that) and your poisoning minds by carelessly making subjective judgments like that. He kindly offered a corrective the next class period, simply saying that it was his opinion only. I was satisfied.

 

Reminds me of my German teacher who referred to the music of Gustav Mahler as "shrecklich!" Shrecklich, are you kidding me! Only this guy would retract nothing. Yes, there are still people from that class walking around today under the erroneous impression that Mahler is ---I can't bear to even say it --- shrecklich. Quelle tragedie!!!

 

EDIT: That is a remarkable poem by Baudelaire. What minds these people have, quelle imagination! The images he comes up with about a place that existed centuries before he was even born. And of course a person who he couldn't have known --- except for the poetry, part of the point.

 

Swithin, how long is it going to take for someone in Mod Land to simply make the correction?. Allow the word S a p p h o to exist, is that too much to ask? They have, in fact, made corrections to what misswonderlytoo has brilliantly termed as the Ottosenselessor, why can't they make this one? If they ever do, I hope the thread will go on, perhaps (just an idea) in the service of other poets as well as ****. We have a thread about opera, why not poetry as well. (PS I hope you don't mind the suggestion)

--

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Swithin, how long is it going to take for someone in Mod Land to simply make the correction?. Allow the word S a p p h o to exist, is that too much to ask? They have, in fact, made corrections to what misswonderlytoo has brilliantly termed as the Ottosenselessor, why can't they make this one? If they ever do, I hope the thread will go on, perhaps (just an idea) in the service of other poets as well as ****. We have a thread about opera, why not poetry as well. (PS I hope you don't mind the suggestion)

--

Thank you for yet another thoughtful post, lafitte! I began this thread because of the ban on her name, the adjective version of her name, and the name of the island where she was born.  Even if they ever do reverse this rather strange form of censorship, I will probably continue the thread, with a changed title.  The early Church was responsible for burning many of her texts; maybe there is a religious reason for the censorship on this board.

 

Today's selection is a translation of ****'s poem "Jealousy" by William Carlos Williams (1958):

 

That man is peer of the gods, who

face to face sits listening

to your sweet speech and lovely

     laughter.

It is this that rouses a tumult

in my breast. At mere sight of you

my voice falters, my tongue

     is broken.

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in

my limbs; my eyes

are blinded and my ears

     thunder.

Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts

me down. I grow

paler than grass and lack little

     of dying.

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