Sappho's Stylus & Papyrus (Washington, DC)

The Greek text is an extract from (or based on?) her Fragment 55.

 

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There are plenty of translations of Sappho online, but here is a wonderful rendering of Fragment 55 from a 2002 edition called If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by the Canadian poet and professor of Classics Anne Carson:

 

Dead you will be and never memory of you

will there be nor desire into the aftertime--for you do not share in the roses

of Pieria, but invisible too in Hades' house

you will go your way among dim shapes. Having been breathed out.

 

Carson's notes explain that:

 

"a participle in the aorist tense (katthanoisa) begins the poem and a participle in the perfect tense (ekpepotamena) ends it. The aorist tense expresses past action as a point of fact; the perfect tense renders past action whose effect continues into the future; so does Sappho's poem softly exhale some woman from the point of death into an infinitely featureless eternity. Cognate with words for wings, flying, fluttering and breath, the participle ekpepotamena, with its spatter of plosives and final open vowel, sounds like the escape of a soul into nothingness." (p. 368)

 

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For the original Greek, with some other translations into English, see: Sappho: Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings and a Literal Translation by Henry Thornton Wharton, with paraphrases in verse by Anne Bunner (1920).

 

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Vinnie Ream is buried at Arlington where a 1915 bronze copy of this ca. 1870 marble marks her tomb.

 

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See also:

www.flickr.com/photos/the_hurd_family/495507811/

www.flickr.com/photos/lbraverm/2387461547/

www.flickr.com/photos/rockypix/401190173/

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Taken on May 15, 2008
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