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Sappho: A New Translation Paperback – June, 1958
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Top Customer Reviews
"Awed by her splendor
Stars near the lovely
moon cover their own
is roundest and lights
earth with her silver"
Not only is there beauty. There is a straightforwardness and frankness to the poems of Sappho. It is a clear distillation of the poet's vision confronts the readers of these pages.
There is also wisdom and humor. As when she writes:
"Experience shows us
by Virtue is never
an innocuous neighbor"
Mary Barnard is to be praised for these clear, unvarnished translations. Likewise, the introduction is very useful in dispelling so much of the myth that has sprung up around the legacy of this great poet. I recommend this book highly.
Some of the fragments are so brief that you are reminded of haiku: "The nightengale's / The soft-spoken / announcer of / Spring's presence"
Other poems speak specifically of feminine concerns - the lost of the maiden-head, the color of ribbon that fits best in her daughter's yellow hair.
I read a great deal of poetry in translation. In other translations I have not found Sappho to my liking. This translation appears to me to be truer to the author's earthliness and less concerned with making Sappho fit into preconceptions. In short, I highly recommend this translation.
Although as a child and young adult I never read literature seriously, various factors have made me curious about Sappho's writings and this small volume is an ideal pocket book or gift. The poems are not easy to get into because it takes the reader quite some time to see what is being written about, but the fact that they are mere fragments actually serves to a limited extent as an offsetting factor. The tone is wonderfully passionate - it is no wonder these poems are known to have been sung to musical accompaniment because even when one reads them they can move the emotions even of a reader like me who is never naturally moved to tears. However, because this emotion is only visible when one reads the lines as Barnard translates them, it is no wonder a casual reader may not realise what passion Sappho possessed.
Although Sappho is known for her sensual focus, many of these fragments have an almost spiritual tone to them, as in "the indistinct dead/in Hell's palace". The beautiful lines about the sweet flavours of the natural world stir the reader's imagination even more, however, and are almost unrivalled among poetry or music.
Whilst the detail in the introduction is not as good as in the alternative translation The Love Songs of Sappho, it is still adequate for the uninitiated.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a treasure to dip into when one is able to. Such treasures should be more widely known.Published 5 months ago by Teresa Hulmes
Reading this, or some of the other translations of the fragments of Sappho's work, makes me feel as if I am glimpsing a vision of indescribable beauty, as seen via fragments of a... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Beverly Diehl
First time discovery of this poet which J. D. Salinger had Franny Glass reading with approval. I liked the poetry a lot.Published on July 27, 2014 by SR et tu, LLC