Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho

Front Cover
Shambhala, 2006 - 316 pages
Sappho is the greatest lyric poet of antiquity. Plato, a century after her death, referred to her as "the Tenth Muse," and Longinos, in his first-century treatise "On the Sublime," uses her verse to exemplify that transcendent quality in literature. In Sappho's lyrics we hear for the first time in the West the words of an individual woman of her own world: her apprehension of sun and orchards; the troubles and summits of love, desire, and friendship. Her poems combine an impression of intimate self-involvement with an almost modern sense of detachment.

Though time has reduced the nine volumes of her work to a handful of complete poems and a collection of fragments, each word and phrase that survives is poignantly significant. The clarity of her voice, its absolute candor, its amazing fresh authority--whether in addressing a goddess, dancers before a night altar, the moon and stars, a sweet apple or mountain hyacinth, a lamb or cricket, a lover or companion--are qualities that compel us today as in antiquity.

Willis Barnstone has given us a close and beautiful lyrical version. His translation, with the original Greek on facing pages, includes a dozen hitherto unintelligible fragments that have been brought vibrantly back to life by him, as well as Sappho's newly discovered poem from the Cologne papyrus in its complete form. It also contains the translator's essay placing the poet in her historic and artistic context; a glossary; extensive notes; an epilogue and metrical guide by William E. McCulloh, Professor Emeritus of Classics at Kenyon College; and a special section of testimonia appreciations of Sappho in the words of her ancient admirers.

From inside the book

Contents

Introduction
xv
Nightingale
xxi
Afroditi of the Flowers at Knossos
1
Copyright

26 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)

Willis Barnstone was born in Lewiston, Maine. He attended Bowdoin, Columbia, and Yale, earning his doctorate. Barnstone taught in Greece from 1949 to 1951, and in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War. He went to China during the Cultural Revolution, where he was later a Fulbright Professor of American Literature at Beijing Foreign Studies University from 1984 to 1985. Barnstone has authored more than forty books, poetry collections, poetry translations, philosophical and religious texts. He is a former O'Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University, is a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and is in the Institute of Biblical and Literary Studies at Indiana University. He has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Emily Dickinson Award, the W. H. Auden Award, and a PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Special Citation for translation. Barnstone was also a Guggenheim Fellow and Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry. His titles include The Complete Poems of Sappho,, Translated with an Introduction, Ancient Greek Lyrics, Love Poems, and Café de l'Aube à Paris, Dawn Café in Paris: Poems Composed in French and Their Translation in English.

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