Most helpful positive review
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2009
The introduction is excellent covering the little that is known of Sappho's life, the incredible way the fragments of her poems survived (in documents used to stuff mummies, inscriptions on pottery and the like) and the historical context. It is a good read in its own right.
What works superbly well in the main text is the fact that the extensive and informative notes are on the facing page to the poems to which they refer. This is infinitely better than having them hidden at the back of the book, or squashed into footnotes. It makes it easy to choose how you read the poems (poem first then notes, notes then poem, ignore the notes altogether) and has a lot to recommend it.
The translations are at least OK, but not knowing Greek I don't feel confident to say more. Sappho was considered a pre-eminent poet by the Greeks and Romans, and was revered by Catullus and Horace; her reputation has endured over thousands of years. It is going to be hard to create a translation that begins to accurately reflect her originals. Including the original Greek would have been welcome (and feasible given the tiny amount of Sappho's verse that survives) but maybe that was thought to be too daunting and/or useless without a vocabulary to support it?