Previously published Examiner
Conclusion of the Sappho series
Translation of Sappho’s poetry
Mary Barnard’s translations from the 1960’s are still widely used today. The poet and professor of McGill University, Montreal, Anne Carson, has also translated and reproduced the fragments of Sappho writings including parts that have been broken off from the ancient parchments.
Sappho is hailed as the greatest female lyrical poet of the classical Lyric age of Greece. Her poetry about female love has secured her place as a feminist icon. Sappho is also appreciated in women’s studies courses across the globe. The fragments of Sappho’s poems are so sharp and powerful that she is considered one of the greatest poets of all time.
Her homosexually placed her in the position of the first feminist long before such a concept every existed. She is also accredited with having schooled many young women in their social and marital duties of the time. Whether she lived to a ripe old age or killed herself for love of Phaon, we do not really know. What we do know is her poetry has withstood the sands of time. Plato called her the tenth muse, Horace imitated her, and she inspired Ezra Pound.
The question of Sappho’s lesbianism clouded her poetry for centuries and now the tide has swung back to poetry and not the lifestyle of the poet. Judith Hallett, the chair of the Department of Classics, at the University of Maryland, maintains that Sappho may not have been writing about her own sexual adventures; but, was addressing her theisos (school) of young women to embrace heterosexuality. This opinion has not been universally accepted.
The importance of Sappho’s work demonstrated that she carved a female place in a male dominated culture; a place for women to express their individuality; a place where they could have a voice. Eva Stehle Stigers maintains that Sappho’s use of poetry through a speaking persona expanded women’s identity. The legacy that Sappho handed down to us has inspired women and has given us a platform to speak through poetry.
For a wonderful Women’ s studies program in Montreal apply to the Simone De Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University.
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