The Sapphic stanza, named after Sappho, is a poetic form spanning four lines. The form is three hendecasyllabic lines of trochee, trochee, dactyl, trochee, trochee and a concluding line of dactyl, trochee, known as the Adonic or adonean line. Using "-" for a long syllable, "u" for a short and "x" for an "anceps" (or free syllable):
A Sapphic Stanza is a type of poem that is typically an Aeolic verse that spans four lines. However, more properly three lines in the poetry of Sappho as well as Alcaeus where there is often no word end before the Adonean. This style of poem was created and formed by Sappho though later was also used by his contemporary Alcaeus.
This style of poetry would later be adapted for English use and eventually arrived at the form we know today. This type of poem could be written about any subject the poet wishes to write about. As long as the poem follows the verse law and line rule, the finished piece would be considered Sapphic Stanza. Many literature majors enjoy studying this type of poetry, as its roots in Latin and Greek add to the general theme and feel of such poems. This style of poetry allows more to be conveyed in a way that isn't typically seen with modern poetry styles.
Sapphic Stanza Poem Example
The Sapphic stanza was imitated in English by Algernon Charles Swinburne in a poem he simply called Sapphics:
- Saw the white implacable Aphrodite,
- Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandalled
- Shine as fire of sunset on western waters;
- Saw the reluctant. . .
Allen Ginsberg also experimented with the form:
- Red cheeked boyfriends tenderly kiss me sweet mouthed
- under Boulder coverlets winter springtime
- hug me naked laughing & telling girl friends
- gossip til autumn