[To an army wife, in Sardis...]

By Sappho Sappho

Translated By Mary Barnard

To an army wife, in Sardis:
 
Some say a cavalry corps,
some infantry, some, again,
will maintain that the swift oars
 
of our fleet are the finest
sight on dark earth; but I say
that whatever one loves, is.
 
This is easily proved: did
not Helen—she who had scanned
the flower of the world’s manhood—
 
choose as first among men one
who laid Troy’s honor in ruin?
warped to his will, forgetting
 
love due her own blood, her own
child, she wandered far with him.
So Anactoria, although you
 
being far away forget us,
the dear sound of your footstep
and light glancing in your eyes
 
would move me more than glitter
of Lydian horse or armored
tread of mainland infantry

Sappho, "[To an army wife, in Sardis...]" from Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard, published by the University of California Press. Copyright © 2012 by The Estate of Mary Barnard.  Reprinted by permission of Estate of Mary Barnard.

Source: Sappho, Translated by Mary Barnard (University of California Press, 2012)

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Poet Sappho

POET’S REGION Greece

Subjects Living, Marriage & Companionship, Love, Heartache & Loss, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Greek & Roman Mythology

Biography

Little is known with certainty about the life of Sappho, or Psappha in her native Aeolic dialect. She was born probably about 620 B.C. to an aristocratic family on the island of Lesbos during a great cultural flowering in the area. Apparently her birthplace was either Eressos or Mytilene, the main city on the island, where she seems to have lived for some time. Even the names of her family members are inconsistently reported, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Marriage & Companionship, Love, Heartache & Loss, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION Greece

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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