In English
Fragment 31 of Sappho in Greek
Sappho
Sappho in Greek

φαινεται Ϝοι κηνος ισος θεοισιν

εμμεν' ωνηρ οττις εναντιος τοι

ισδανει και πλᾱσιον δυ φωνει-

σᾱς υπακουει                                                                   4

 

και γελαισᾱς μεροεν το μ' η 'μᾱν

καρδίᾱν εν στηθεσιν επτοαισεν ·

ως γαρ ες σ' δω βροχε' ως με φωναισ'

ουδ' εν ετ' εικει                                                                8

 

αλλ' ακᾱν μεν γλωσσα εᾱγε λεπτον

δ' αυτικα χρωι πρ υπαδεδρομηκεν

οππατεσσι δ' ουδ' εν ορημμ' επιρρομ-

βεισι δ' ακουαι                                                                12

 

καδ δε μ' ιδρως κακχεεται τρομος δε

παισαν αγρει χλωροτερᾱ δε ποιᾱς

εμμι τεθνᾱκην δ' ολιγω 'πιδευσην

φαινομ' εμ' αυτᾱι                                                           16

Click here to return to the main Sappho page

METRICAL SCHEME

Sapphic Stanza

First 3 lines:  ˉ ˘ ˉ ˉ | ˉ ˘ ˘ ˉ | ˘ ˉ ˉ  or  ˉ ˘ ˉ ˘ | ˉ ˘ ˘ ˉ | ˘ ˉ ˉ

Last line:  ˉ ˘ ˘ ˉ ˉ (must carry over from 3rd line)

 

VOCABULARY NOTES

1    Ϝοι = οἷ

1    κηνος = εκεινος

2    εμμεν' = ειναι

2    ωνερ = ὁ ανηρ

2    οττις = ὁστις

2    τοι = σοι

3    ισδανει = ἱζει

3    πλᾱσιον = πλησιον

3    ᾱδυ = ἡδυ

3    φωνεισᾱς = φωνησης

4    υπακουει = ὑπακουει

5    γελαισᾱς = γελαισης

5    ῑμεροεν =ἱμεροεν

5    μ' = μοι

5    'μᾱν = εμην

6    επτοαισεν = επτοησε (< πτοεω)

7    ως = ὡς

7    ες = εις

7    σ' = σε

7    ῑδω = ειδω

7    βροχε' = βραχεα

7    φωναισ' = φωνησαι

8    εν = ἑν

8    ετ' = ετι

9    αλλ' = αλλά

9    ακᾱν = ακην

9    εᾱγε < αγνυμι

10    υπαδεδρομηκεν = ὑποδεδρομηκε (< ὑποτρεχω)

11    οππατεσσι = ομμασι

11    ουδ' εν = ουδεν

11    ορημμ' = ὁραω

13    καδ  = κατα

13    κακχεεται = καταχειται

14    αγρει = αἱρει

14    ποιᾱς = ποᾱς

15    εμμι = ειμι

15    τεθνᾱκην = τεθναναι (< θνησκω)

15    ολιγω = ολιγου

15    'πιδευσην = επιδεησειν (< επιδεω)

16    φαινομ' = φαινομαι

16    εμ' = εμοι

 

Commentary

This fragment has been rescued from oblivion because it was quoted by Longinus (1st century CE) in his treatise Περι ὑψους, where he praises Sappho's superb use of vivid and contradictory physical details to convey a subjective impression of what it feels like to be in love.

With his usual flair for doing away with pedantry, Longinus has put his finger squarely on the most obvious literary value of this fragment. Note how the repeated use in Stanzas 3 and 4 of paratactic δ' increases the sense of breathless bewilderment under the assault of physical sensations: "and ... and ... and ... !"

A musical setting of these stanzas, composed and conducted by Conrad Steinmann and performed on reconstructed period instruments, is available on CD from Harmonia Mundi in a collection entitled Melpomen: Ancient Greek Music for an Athenian Symposium of ca. 450 BC. It is a worthy addition to any library with the sole caveat that the melodic rhythm often ignores the actual length of the syllables, which would not have been the case in the original musical setting by Sappho. The instruments themselves (by Paul J. Reichlin) are the real stars of this recording, and they are illustrated in the notes that accompany the CD.

As the CD title makes clear, the Melpomen collection aims to recreate the short lyric pieces and dance numbers that would have been performed at a drinking party in Athens. For an excellent impression of the type of music that would have been heard in the tragic theater, Musique de la Grèce Antique, also from Harmonia Mundi, is highly recommended. It is based on actual musical transcriptions that have survived on fragments of papyrus and marble.

 

Textual Notes

Greek letters printed in gray instead of black represent portions of the manuscript where the letters are nearly illegible or are lost from the text and have been supplied by modern scholars.

Line 1: φαινεται Ϝοι. This reading should be accepted on the principle of lectio dificilior. The important Alexandrian grammarian Apollonius Dyscolus (2nd century CE) cites these opening words (in his treatise on pronouns: Pron. 106a) as evidence that the Aeolians used digamma for the pronoun οἷ. It is not difficult to imagine that the digamma was changed to a mu (Ϝοι > μοι) through scribal error or substitution in oral performance prior to the time of Catullus.

Line 15: 'πιδευσην. There is no compelling reason to emend Longinus' text by replacing this future infinitive complement of φαινομαι with the more "normal" adjective επιδευης.

Here is a Latin imitation of this poem: Catullus 51, written in the same meter.

Ille pār esse deō vidētur
ille fās est superāre dīvōs
quī sedēns adversus identidem
    spectat et
audit

dulce rīdentem miserō quod omnīs                5
ēripit sēnsūs mihi nam simul
Lesbia aspexī nihil est super
   
vōcis in ōre

lingua sed torpet tenuis sub artūs
flamma dēmānat sonitū
suōpte                    10
tintinant aurēs geminā teguntur
    lūmina nocte.

ōtium Catulle tibi molestumst
ōtiō exultās nimiumque gestis
ōtium et rēgēs prius et
beātās                        15
    perdidit urbēs.