Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece

Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece

Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece

Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece


Sappho sang her poetry to the accompaniment of the lyre on the Greek island of Lesbos over 2500 years ago. Throughout the Greek world, her contemporaries composed lyric poetry full of passion, and in the centuries that followed the golden age of archaic lyric, new forms of poetry emerged. In this unique anthology, today's reader can enjoy the works of seventeen poets, including a selection of archaic lyric and the complete surviving works of the ancient Greek women poets--the latter appearing together in one volume for the first time.

Sappho's Lyre is a combination of diligent research and poetic artistry. The translations are based on the most recent discoveries of papyri (including "new" Archilochos and Stesichoros) and the latest editions and scholarship. The introduction and notes provide historical and literary contexts that make this ancient poetry more accessible to modern readers.

Although this book is primarily aimed at the reader who does not know Greek, it would be a splendid supplement to a Greek language course. It will also have wide appeal for readers of' ancient literature, women's studies, mythology, and lovers of poetry.


Thanks mostly to Horace, some of the spirit and much of the letter of Greek lyric, though not the lyrics themselves, had both fame and influence in European culture even before the Greek language and its extant literature were recovered for Western Europe. Its favored motifs, its rhetorical strategies, its dynamics of transition, modulation, and “sequences of aspects,” its spectrum of appropriate masks and the plausible situations of sung discourse, all the formal and thematic materials that Greek lyric poets had developed, were passed on by Horace to his medieval heirs (admittedly in ways that the Latin language and the Roman poet’s genius had inevitably deformed and transformed) and thus entered into the lyric traditions of Europe even before the fall of Byzantium and the return of Greek to Rome. Thus even before the Renaissance something of Greek lyric had begun to be domesticated, and during and after the Renaissance that process of appropriation steadily flourished until, by the time Romantic Hellenism was in full swing, Greek lyric was familiar to Europe, had come to seem to be not merely the origin of Western lyric but also its enduring core, of its essence. There is not a little truth to this version of the place of Greek lyric in the lyric of the West, but that truth tends to obscure other aspects of Greek lyric that are no less important for its appreciation.

The verses in this volume are distinct from other collections of lyric poetry in numerous ways, but in two particular ways they are especially dif-

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