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Main page » Non-Fiction » Science literature » Literature Studies » The Poetry of Sappho

The Poetry of Sappho


Collected in an edition of nine scrolls by scholars in the second century BC, Sappho's poetry largely disappeared when the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204. All that remained was one poem and a handful of quoted passages . A century ago papyrus fragments recovered in Egypt added a half dozen important texts to Sappho's surviving works. In 2004 a new complete poem was deciphered and published. By far the most significant discovery in a hundred years, it offers a new and tellingly different example of Sappho's poetic art and reveals another side of the poet, thinking about aging and about the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. Jim Powell's translations represent a unique combination of poetic mastery in English verse and a deep schlolarly engagement with Sappho's ancient Greek. They are incomparably faithful to the literal sense of the Greek poems and, simultaneously, to their forms, preserving the original meters and stanzas while exactly replicating the dramatic action of their sequences of disclosure and the passionate momentum of their sentences. Powell's translations have often been anthologized and selected for use in textbooks, winning recognition among discerning readers as by far the best versions in English.

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Tags: poetry, Sappho, Greek, poise, formal, Poetry