I was intoruduced to Sappho whilst I was at university, during my English studies. This first introduction was only of one particular fragment, but it had me captivated and I longed to go off and try and find more of this poetess. My search then led me to Bliss Carman's translation / interpretations and I was delighted. I was able to find the fragment that I had first discovered in the lecture room, but I also discovered that other fragments were equally as good.
From the little I know about Sappho, this collection does a superb job at conveying the overall tone of her work. Love is the ever present theme here, with all of its manifestations making an appearance - jealousy, desire, passion that verges on obsession and longing. Nature is made use of to create imagery and metaphor to an exquisite standard. Greek gods and goddesses are also incorporated into some of the fragments, adding more depth to the words. What I especially love about this collection is how spirituality an religion is also drawn upon to illustrate the power of the feelings being described. One does this fabulously:-
"Heart of mine, if all the altars Of all the ages stood before me, Not one pure enough nor sacred Could I find to lay this white, white Rose of love upon.
I who am not great enough to Love thee with this mortal body So impassionate with ardour, But oh, not too small to worship While the sun shall shine,-
I would build a fragrant temple To thee, in the dark green forest, Of red cedar and fine sandal, And there love thee with sweet service All my whole life long. . ." (No.xxx11, p.40-41)
The idea of her love being too pure, too spiritual to have any altar in all of the ages speaks volumes. Instead, nature is turned to as the place where she feels that she would be able to celebrate and honour her feelings for her lover. It is truly a beautiful piece, and one of my favourites out of all the poetry anthologies I have.
Carman has done a wonderful job here. Although I cannot comment on the particular edition listed on Amazon (my edition was published in 1921 by Chatto & Windus), what matters is the poetry itself. As an introduction to the work of Sappho, you could not do better.
my 1st read of Sappho... so not sure how well it has been translated etc in this version... but the poems flow and its difficult to put the kindle down read almost all of book in first sitting.. ... will definitely be looking for more info on this lady. Great to have this as a free starter.