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Best Famous Sappho Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Sappho poems. This is a select list of the best famous Sappho poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Sappho poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of sappho poems.

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by Sappho | |

I have not had one word from her

I have not had one word from her 

Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left she wept 

a great deal; she said to me This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly.  

I said Go, and be happy
but remember (you know 
well) whom you leave shackled by love 

If you forget me think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared 

all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck 

myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them 

while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song...  

--Translated by Mary Barnard 


by Sappho | |

On the throne of many hues Immortal Aphrodite

On the throne of many hues Immortal Aphrodite 
child of Zeus weaving wiles--I beg you
not to subdue my spirit Queen 
with pain or sorrow 

but come--if ever before 
having heard my voice from far away
you listened and leaving your father's 
golden home you came 

in your chariot yoked with swift lovely
sparrows bringing you over the dark earth
thick-feathered wings swirling down
from the sky through mid-air 

arriving quickly--you Blessed One 
with a smile on your unaging face
asking again what have I suffered
and why am I calling again 

and in my wild heart what did I most wish
to happen to me: "Again whom must I persuade
back into the harness of your love?
Sappho who wrongs you? 

For if she flees soon she'll pursue 
she doesn't accept gifts but she'll give 
if not now loving soon she'll love
even against her will." 

Come to me now again release me from
this pain everything my spirit longs 
to have fulfilled fulfill and you
be my ally 

--Translated by Diane Rayor 


by Edna St Vincent Millay | |

To S. M.

 If he should lie a-dying

I AM not willing you should go 
Into the earth, where Helen went; 
She is awake by now, I know.
Where Cleopatra's anklets rust You will not lie with my consent; And Sappho is a roving dust; Cressid could love again; Dido, Rotted in state, is restless still; You leave me much against my will.


More great poems below...

by Jennifer Reeser | |

Civilization

 Send your army home to their wives and children.
It is late.
Your soldiers are burdened, thirsty.
Lock the doors, the windows, and here in darkness lie down beside me.
Speak of anything we possess in common: ground or law or sense.
Only speak it softly.
Spiders crawl the crevices.
Violent voices ruin their balance, and they’ll fall – intuit – upon our faces, where I fear them most.
But you’ve heard this terror, and my midnight phobias always move you – cause to remain here.
Leave a light still burning, in some far wall sconce.
Tuck one rebel end of the flat sheet under.
Turn away, self-ruled, to remind me even Sappho was mortal, even Shakespeare, writing of cups and spiders in his winter’s tale.
Send your tin men home, then.
Once I asked your reason to stay.
You said, “Because you’re still with me.


by Christina Rossetti | |

Sappho

 I sigh at day-dawn, and I sigh
When the dull day is passing by.
I sigh at evening, and again I sigh when night brings sleep to men.
Oh! it were far better to die Than thus forever mourn and sigh, And in death's dreamless sleep to be Unconscious that none weep for me; Eased from my weight of heaviness, Forgetful of forgetfulness, Resting from care and pain and sorrow Thro' the long night that knows no morrow; Living unloved, to die unknown, Unwept, untended, and alone.


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet IV: Why When I Gaze

 Why, when I gaze on Phaon's beauteous eyes,
Why does each thought in wild disorder stray?
Why does each fainting faculty decay,
And my chill'd breast in throbbing tumults rise?
Mute, on the ground my Lyre neglected lies,
The Muse forgot, and lost the melting lay;
My down-cast looks, my faultering lips betray,
That stung by hopeless passion,--Sappho dies!
Now, on a bank of Cypress let me rest;
Come, tuneful maids, ye pupils of my care,
Come, with your dulcet numbers soothe my breast;
And, as the soft vibrations float on air,
Let pity waft my spirit to the blest,
To mock the barb'rous triumphs of despair!


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet XLII: Oh! Canst Thou Bear

 Oh! can'st thou bear to see this faded frame,
Deform'd and mangled by the rocky deep?
Wilt thou remember, and forbear to weep,
My fatal fondness, and my peerless fame?
Soon o'er this heart, now warm with passion's flame,
The howling winds and foamy waves shall sweep;
Those eyes be ever clos'd in death's cold sleep,
And all of Sappho perish, but her name!
Yet, if the Fates suspend their barb'rous ire,
If days less mournful, Heav'n designs for me!
If rocks grow kind, and winds and waves conspire,
To bear me softly on the swelling sea;
To Phoebus only will I tune my Lyre,
"What suits with Sappho, Phoebus suits with thee!"


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet XXXV: What Means the Mist

 What means the mist opaque that veils these eyes;
Why does yon threat'ning tempest shroud the day?
Why does thy altar, Venus, fade away,
And on my breast the dews of horror rise?
Phaon is false! be dim ye orient Skies;
And let black Erebus succeed your ray;
Let clashing thunders roll, and lightning play;
Phaon is false! and hopeless Sappho dies!
"Farewell! my Lesbian love, you might have said,"
Such sweet remembrance had some pity prov'd,
"Or coldly this, farewell, Oh! Lesbian maid!"
No task severe, for one so fondly lov'd!
The gentle thought had sooth'd my wand'ring shade,
From life's dark valley, and its thorns remov'd!


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet XXIII: To Aetnas Scorching Sands

 To AEtna's scorching sands my Phaon flies!
False Youth! can other charms attractive prove?
Say, can Sicilian loves thy passions move,
Play round thy heart, and fix thy fickle eyes,
While in despair the Lesbian Sappho dies?
Has Spring for thee a crown of poppies wove,
Or dost thou languish in th' Idalian grove,
Whose altar kindles, fann'd by Lover's sighs?
Ah! think, that while on AEtna's shores you stray,
A fire, more fierce than AEtna's, fills my breast;
Nor deck Sicilian nymphs with garlands gay,
While Sappho's brows with cypress wreaths are drest;
Let one kind word my weary woes repay,
Or, in eternal slumbers bid them rest.


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet XXXIV: Venus! To Thee

 Venus! to thee, the Lesbian Muse shall sing,
The song, which Myttellenian youths admir'd, 
when Echo, am'rous of the strain inspir'd,
Bade the wild rocks with madd'ning plaudits ring!
Attend my pray'r! O! Queen of rapture! bring
To these fond arms, he, whom my soul has fir'd;
From these fond arms remov'd; yet, still desir'd,
Though love, exulting, spreads his varying wing!
Oh! source of ev'ry joy! of ev'ry care
Blest Venus! Goddess of the zone divine!
To Phaon's bosom, Phaon's victim bear;
So shall her warmest, tend'rest vows be thine!
For Venus, Sappho shall a wreath prepare,
And Love be crown'd, immortal as the Nine!


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet XXIX: Farewell Ye Towring Cedars

 Farewell, ye tow'ring Cedars, in whose shade,
Lull'd by the Nightingale, I sunk to rest,
While spicy breezes hover'd o'er my breast
To fan my cheek, in deep'ning tints array'd;
While am'rous insects, humming round me, play'd,
Each flow'r forsook, of prouder sweets in quest;
Of glowing lips, in humid fragrance drest,
That mock'd the Sunny Hybla's vaunted aid!
Farewell, ye limpid rivers! Oh! farewell!
No more shall Sappho to your grots repair;
No more your white waves to her bosom swell,
Or your dank weeds, entwine her floating hair;
As erst, when Venus in her sparry cell
Wept, to behold a brighter goddess there!


by Mary Darby Robinson | |

Sonnet V: O! How Can Love

 O! How can LOVE exulting Reason queil!
How fades each nobler passion from his gaze!
E'en Fame, that cherishes the Poet's lays,
That fame, ill-fated Sappho lov'd so well.
Lost is the wretch, who in his fatal spell Wastes the short Summer of delicious days, And from the tranquil path of wisdom strays, In passion's thorny wild, forlorn to dwell.
O ye! who in that sacred Temple smile Where holy Innocence resides enshrin'd; Who fear not sorrow, and who know not guile, Each thought compos'd, and ev'ry wish resign'd; Tempt not the path where pleasure's flow'ry wile In sweet, but pois'nous fetters, holds the mind.


by Anne Sexton | |

The Red Dance

 There was a girl
who danced in the city that night,
that April 22nd,
all along the Charles River.
It was as if one hundred men were watching or do I mean the one hundred eyes of God? The yellow patches in the sycamores glowed like miniature flashlights.
The shadows, the skin of them were ice cubes that flashed from the red dress to the roof.
Mile by mile along the Charles she danced past the benches of lovers, past the dogs pissing on the benches.
She had on a red, red dress and there was a small rain and she lifted her face to it and thought it part of the river.
And cars and trucks went by on Memorial Drive.
And the Harvard students in the brick hallowed houses studied Sappho in cement rooms.
And this Sappho danced on the grass.
and danced and danced and danced.
It was a death dance.
The Larz Anderson bridge wore its lights and many cars went by, and a few students strolling under their Coop umbrellas.
And a black man who asked this Sappho the time, the time, as if her watch spoke.
Words were turning into grease, and she said, "Why do you lie to me?" And the waters of the Charles were beautiful, sticking out in many colored tongues and this strange Sappho knew she would enter the lights and be lit by them and sink into them.
And how the end would come - it had been foretold to her - she would aspirate swallowing a fish, going down with God's first creature dancing all the way.


by Dorothy Parker | |

Song Of One Of The Girls

 Here in my heart I am Helen;
I'm Aspasia and Hero, at least.
I'm Judith, and Jael, and Madame de Stael; I'm Salome, moon of the East.
Here in my soul I am Sappho; Lady Hamilton am I, as well.
In me Recamier vies with Kitty O'Shea, With Dido, and Eve, and poor Nell.
I'm of the glamorous ladies At whose beckoning history shook.
But you are a man, and see only my pan, So I stay at home with a book.


by Erica Jong | |

Dear Colette

 Dear Colette,
I want to write to you
about being a woman
for that is what you write to me.
I want to tell you how your face enduring after thirty, forty, fifty.
.
.
hangs above my desk like my own muse.
I want to tell you how your hands reach out from your books & seize my heart.
I want to tell you how your hair electrifies my thoughts like my own halo.
I want to tell you how your eyes penetrate my fear & make it melt.
I want to tell you simply that I love you-- though you are "dead" & I am still "alive.
" Suicides & spinsters-- all our kind! Even decorous Jane Austen never marrying, & Sappho leaping, & Sylvia in the oven, & Anna Wickham, Tsvetaeva, Sara Teasdale, & pale Virginia floating like Ophelia, & Emily alone, alone, alone.
.
.
.
But you endure & marry, go on writing, lose a husband, gain a husband, go on writing, sing & tap dance & you go on writing, have a child & still you go on writing, love a woman, love a man & go on writing.
You endure your writing & your life.
Dear Colette, I only want to thank you: for your eyes ringed with bluest paint like bruises, for your hair gathering sparks like brush fire, for your hands which never willingly let go, for your years, your child, your lovers, all your books.
.
.
.
Dear Colette, you hold me to this life.


by Bliss Carman | |

I Loved Thee Atthis in the Long Ago

 (Sappho XXIII)
I loved thee, Atthis, in the long ago,
When the great oleanders were in flower
In the broad herded meadows full of sun.
And we would often at the fall of dusk Wander together by the silver stream, When the soft grass-heads were all wet with dew And purple-misted in the fading light.
And joy I knew and sorrow at thy voice, And the superb magnificence of love,— The loneliness that saddens solitude, And the sweet speech that makes it durable,— The bitter longing and the keen desire, The sweet companionship through quiet days In the slow ample beauty of the world, And the unutterable glad release Within the temple of the holy night.
O Atthis, how I loved thee long ago In that fair perished summer by the sea!


by Bliss Carman | |

If Death be Good

 (Sappho LXXIV)
If death be good,
Why do the gods not die?
If life be ill,
Why do the gods still live?
If love be naught,
Why do the gods still love?
If love be all,
What should men do but love?


by George (Lord) Byron | |

The Isles of Greece

 The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus
sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.
.
.
The mountains look on Marathon-- And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone, I dreamed that Greece might still be free; For standing on the Persians' grave, I could not deem myself a slave.
A king sat on the rocky brow Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; And ships, by thousands, lay below, And men in nations--all were his! He counted them at break of day-- And when the sun set, where were they? And where are they? And where art thou? My country? On thy voiceless shore The heroic lay is tuneless now-- The heroic bosom beats no more! And must thy lyre, so long divine, Degenerate into hands like mine? 'Tis something, in the dearth of fame, Though linked among a fettered race, To feel at least a patriot's shame, Even as I sing, suffuse my face; For what is left the poet here? For Greeks a blush--for Greece a tear.
.
.
.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! Our virgins dance beneath the shade-- I see their glorious black eyes shine; But gazing on each glowing maid, My own the burning teardrop laves, To think such breasts must suckle slaves.
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, Where nothing, save the waves and I, May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; There, swanlike, let me sing and die: A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine-- Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!


by George (Lord) Byron | |

Isles of Greece The

 The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus
sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.
.
.
The mountains look on Marathon-- And Marathon looks on the sea; And musing there an hour alone, I dreamed that Greece might still be free; For standing on the Persians' grave, I could not deem myself a slave.
A king sat on the rocky brow Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis; And ships, by thousands, lay below, And men in nations--all were his! He counted them at break of day-- And when the sun set, where were they? And where are they? And where art thou? My country? On thy voiceless shore The heroic lay is tuneless now-- The heroic bosom beats no more! And must thy lyre, so long divine, Degenerate into hands like mine? 'Tis something, in the dearth of fame, Though linked among a fettered race, To feel at least a patriot's shame, Even as I sing, suffuse my face; For what is left the poet here? For Greeks a blush--for Greece a tear.
.
.
.
Fill high the bowl with Samian wine! Our virgins dance beneath the shade-- I see their glorious black eyes shine; But gazing on each glowing maid, My own the burning teardrop laves, To think such breasts must suckle slaves.
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, Where nothing, save the waves and I, May hear our mutual murmurs sweep; There, swanlike, let me sing and die: A land of slaves shall ne'er be mine-- Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!


by Robert Burns | |

249. Sappho Redivivus: A Fragment

 BY all I lov’d, neglected and forgot,
No friendly face e’er lights my squalid cot;
Shunn’d, hated, wrong’d, unpitied, unredrest,
The mock’d quotation of the scorner’s jest!
Ev’n the poor súpport of my wretched life,
Snatched by the violence of legal strife.
Oft grateful for my very daily bread To those my family’s once large bounty fed; A welcome inmate at their homely fare, My griefs, my woes, my sighs, my tears they share: (Their vulgar souls unlike the souls refin’d, The fashioned marble of the polished mind).
In vain would Prudence, with decorous sneer, Point out a censuring world, and bid me fear; Above the world, on wings of Love, I rise— I know its worst, and can that worst despise; Let Prudence’ direst bodements on me fall, M[ontgomer]y, rich reward, o’erpays them all! Mild zephyrs waft thee to life’s farthest shore, Nor think of me and my distress more,— Falsehood accurst! No! still I beg a place, Still near thy heart some little, little trace: For that dear trace the world I would resign: O let me live, and die, and think it mine! “I burn, I burn, as when thro’ ripen’d corn By driving winds the crackling flames are borne;” Now raving-wild, I curse that fatal night, Then bless the hour that charm’d my guilty sight: In vain the laws their feeble force oppose, Chain’d at Love’s feet, they groan, his vanquish’d foes.
In vain Religion meets my shrinking eye, I dare not combat, but I turn and fly: Conscience in vain upbraids th’ unhallow’d fire, Love grasps her scorpions—stifled they expire! Reason drops headlong from his sacred throne, Your dear idea reigns, and reigns alone; Each thought intoxicated homage yields, And riots wanton in forbidden fields.
By all on high adoring mortals know! By all the conscious villain fears below! By your dear self!—the last great oath I swear, Not life, nor soul, were ever half so dear!


by Emily Dickinson | |

A precious -- mouldering pleasure -- tis

 A precious -- mouldering pleasure -- 'tis --
To meet an Antique Book --
In just the Dress his Century wore --
A privilege -- I think --

His venerable Hand to take --
And warming in our own --
A passage back -- or two -- to make --
To Times when he -- was young --

His quaint opinions -- to inspect --
His thought to ascertain
On Themes concern our mutual mind --
The Literature of Man --

What interested Scholars -- most --
What Competitions ran --
When Plato -- was a Certainty --
And Sophocles -- a Man --

When Sappho -- was a living Girl --
And Beatrice wore
The Gown that Dante -- deified --
Facts Centuries before

He traverses -- familiar --
As One should come to Town --
And tell you all your Dreams -- were true --
He lived -- where Dreams were born --

His presence is Enchantment --
You beg him not to go --
Old Volume shake their Vellum Heads
And tantalize -- just so --