Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sappho

I listened to an enjoyable, illuminating episode of the BBC Radio 4 series Great Lives.  The subject was Sappho.  The host (the rather arch Matthew Pariss) and a couple of wholly enthusiastic, delightful guests filled half an hour of talk with their exuberance and joy for the real woman, real poet.  It's infectious.  Here's the first poem from the broadcast, Fragment 31.  It's brilliant.

He seems to me the peer of gods, that man
who sits and faces you,
close by you hearing
your sweet voice speaking,

and your sexy laugh, which just this moment makes
the heart quake in my breast: for every time
I briefly glance towards you, then I lose
all power of further speech.

My tongue is smashed; at once a film of fire
runs underneath my skin; no image shapes
before my eyes;
my ears are whining like a whirling top;

cold sweat pours down me, and in every part
shuddering grips me;
I am paler than summer grass,
and seem to myself to need little to make me die.
.