Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho


Including an introduction, extensive notes and a glossary, and testimonia from Sappho's admirers and critics from Plato to Plutarch. One of the greatest of the Greek lyric poets—and one of the very few women poets of the ancient world whom we know by name—Sappho wrote incomparable songs of love, heartache, and desire that have enthralled readers for more than two millennia. Though her extant work consists of a collection of fragments and only a handful of complete poems, her mystique endures as she is discovered ...
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Including an introduction, extensive notes and a glossary, and testimonia from Sappho's admirers and critics from Plato to Plutarch. One of the greatest of the Greek lyric poets—and one of the very few women poets of the ancient world whom we know by name—Sappho wrote incomparable songs of love, heartache, and desire that have enthralled readers for more than two millennia. Though her extant work consists of a collection of fragments and only a handful of complete poems, her mystique endures as she is discovered anew by each generation, inspiring new efforts at bringing the spirit of her poetry faithfully into English. In the past, translators have taken two approaches to Sappho's work: either literally translating the extant fragments, or taking liberties by filling in the gaps, imagining what might be missing. Willis Barnstone has taken a middle path, in which he remains faithful to the words of the fragments, only very judiciously filling in a word or phrase in cases where the meaning is obvious. In his unique approach he aims for a fine balance between the literal and underlying meanings of the text. It is a method that he has written about extensively, and that has been the guiding principle behind his much-praised translations of Rainer Maria Rilke, Jorge Luis Borges, Antonio Machado, St. John of the Cross, and the Bible. Sweetbitter Love includes a wealth of materials that enhance the text and provide insight into Sappho and her world. In addition to the extensive introduction and explanatory notes, there is an intriguing- to-read glossary that identifies in detail the characters Sappho refers to, both divine and human, as well as the places she mentions; and a fascinating collection of "Testimonia": translated selections from the ancient Greek and Latin world that refer to Sappho—biographical material, descriptions of her appearance, praise, criticism, poems dedicated to her or inspired by her—by everyone from Plato to Plutarch.

The most celebrated lyric poet of the sixth century BCE, Sappho left behind two intact poems and nearly one hundred fragments, and the mystery surrounding her life has fascinated people for centuries. This unabridged miniature edition contains virtually all of Sappho's surviving poetry.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590301753
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/12/2006
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.72 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Lewiston, Maine, Willis Barnstone was educated at Bowdoin, Columbia, the Sorbonne, and Yale. He taught in Greece at the end of the civil war (1949–51), and in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War. During the Cultural Revolution he went to China where he was later a Fulbright Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University (1984–85). Former O'Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University, he is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish at Indiana University.

His publications include Modern European Poetry (Bantam, 1967), The Other Bible (Harper Collins, 1984), Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice (Yale, 1993), Funny Ways of Staying Alive (University Press of New England, 1993), The Secret Reader: 501 Sonnets (University Press of New England, 1996), the memoir With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires (University of Illinois, 1993), Algebra of Night: Selected Poems—1949–1998 (Sheep Meadow, 1999), The Apocalypse (New Directions, 2000), Life Watch (BOA Editions, 2003), Border of a Dream: Poems of Antonio Machado (Copper Canyon, 2003), and The Gnostic Bible (Shambhala Publications, 2003).

A Guggenheim Fellow, his awards include a National Endowment for the Arts award, a National Endowments for the Humanities award, an Emily Dickinson Award of the Poetry Society of America, a W. H. Auden Award of the New York State Council on the Arts, the Midland Authors Award, three Book of the Month Selections and four Pulitzer Prize nominations for poetry. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Doubletake, Harper's, New York Review of Books, Poetry, Paris Review Poetry, Partisan Review, the New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement .

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Table of Contents

Introduction     xv
Afroditi of the Flowers at Knossos
Prayer to Afroditi     3
Afroditi of the Flowers at Knossos     7
Moon and Women     9
Dancers at a Kritan Altar     9
In Time of Storm     11
To Lady Hera     13
Invitation     15
Sacrifice     15
Death of Adonis     17
Adonis Gone     17
To Afroditi     19
Afroditi     19
Afroditi to Psapfo     21
Days of Harshness     21
Artemis on Solitary Mountains     23
Artemis     23
Evening Star     27
Hesperos     27
Moon     29
Earth     29
Nightingale     31
Cicada     31
Doves Playing Dead     33
Of Gello Who Died Young, Whose Ghost Haunts Little Children     33
World     35
Eos     35
Dawn     35
Walking to a Wedding
Hair Yellower Than Torch Flame     39
Time of Youth     41
Of a Young Lover     43
My Daughter     43
Wildflowers     45
The Virgin     45
Girl     47
Remorse     47
Words with Virginity     47
The Lyre Speaks     49
Wedding of Andromache and Hektor     51
Walking to a Wedding     55
Song to the Groom     57
Song for the Bride     57
Lesbian Bride     57
Guarding the Bride     59
Chamber     59
Hermis at a Wedding     61
Fragments     63
To Hymen, Wedding God     65
Song to Groom and Bride     65
Night Song     67
A Guard outside the Bridal Chamber, Who Keeps the Bride's Friends from Rescuing Her     69
End of a Party     69
You Burn Us
Seizure     73
Alone     75
Emptiness     75
Eros     77
Love     77
Supreme Sight on the Black Earth     79
To Eros     81
Absence     81
Goatherd     83
Shall I?     83
Pleasure     83
Encounter     85
Homecoming     85
Desire     87
A God      87
Absent     89
Of Those Unwilling to Take the Bitter with the Sweet     91
Endure     91
I Shall     91
Return, Gongyla
To a Friend Gone, Remember     95
Beauty in a Man     99
Atthis     99
Her Friends     101
Sweetbitter     101
Return, Gongyla     103
You Can Free Me     105
Kydro     107
You in Sardis     109
Afroditi and Desire     111
A Handsome Man     113
Myths     113
Paralysis     113
Behind a Laurel Tree     115
Companions     117
Lito and Niobi     117
As Long As There Is Breath     119
Return     121
Weathercocks and Exile
Fury     125
Abuse     125
Gorgo     127
Andromeda     127
Atthis Disappearing     129
Where Am I?     129
A Ring     131
Madden     131
Delicate Girl     131
Andromeda, What Now?     133
Hello and Goodbye     133
Mika      135
Alkaios Speaks and Psapfo Responds     137
In My Pain     137
From Her Exile     139
Protect My Brother Haraxos     141
To My Brother Haraxos     143
To Afroditi About Her Brother's Lover     145
Doriha     145
Secret of My Craft
Holy Tortoise Shell     149
Some Honored Me     149
Graces     151
Singer     151
Graces and Muses     153
The Muses     153
Happiness     155
Light     155
A Swan's Egg Containing Kastor and Polydeukis     159
Comparisons     159
A Swallow     161
Jason's Cloak     161
Robe     163
Chickpeas     165
Purple Handcloth     165
Beauty of Her Friends     165
On Going Bareheaded     167
Sandal     169
Garment     169
Dream and Sleep
Dawn with Gold Arms     173
Sleep     173
Black Sleep     175
In a Dream     175
Dream     177
Innocence     179
Clear Voiced     179
Dew     181
Face     181
Age and Light
Old Man     185
Gods     185
Angry with Her Daughter When She Psapfo Was Dying     185
Old Age     187
No Oblivion     189
To Hermis Who Guides the Dead     189
To a Woman of No Education     191
Menelaos     191
Wish     193
Age and the Bed     193
Afroditi to Psapfo     195
Growing Old     197
Desire and Sun     199
Indirect Poems
Death Is Evil     203
Gold     203
Elegiac Poems from the Greek Anthology Wrongly Attributed to Sappho
On Pelagon     207
On Timas     207
Testimonia and Encomia     209
Epilogue   William E. McCulloh     245
Sources, Notes, and Commentary     249
Metrical Guide   William E. McCulloh     283
Glossary     293
Bibliography     310
Index of Poems by Number     315
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Another translation.

    More or less 150 years after Homer's Iliad, Sappho lived on the island of L. west off the coast what is present Turkey. (Due to political upheavel she went two times in exile, the second time to Sicily for a short time ).

    Sappho takes a special place among the poets of Antiquity. She was already famous in her own time. Plato said that she was the tenth Muse and someone called her poetry " as refreshing as a morning breeze ". Her poems are vivid and she needs only a few words to describe essential human feelings. She calls solitude for instance " this icy numbness of being alone ".
    ( Nice to know: from Sappho's poems remain about 500 lines. All Tragedies by Aeschylus have a total of 8144 lines. Conclusion: What's left of Sappho's poems is next to nothing. )

    " Wedding of Andromache " is one of the most vivid descriptions in the poetry of Antiquity. It gives an almost journalistic account of the homecoming of Hector and Andromache. A fragment of Barnstone's translation:
    " ...
    and all set out for Troy
    in a confusion of sweet-voiced flutes, citharas,
    and small crashing cymbals
    and young girls sang a loud heavenly song

    Sappho excels also in describing landscapes and nature ( something you don't find often in Ancient literature ). A fragment of " Aphrodite of the flowers ",
    Here ice water babbles through the apple branches
    and roses leave shadow on the ground

    This translation was published in 1998 but as a work of art in itself, it's by no means outdated.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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