Sappho of Lesbos

Little is known of Sappho but that she lived on the island of Lesbos, wrote lyric poetry that was honoured and praised by Plato and played the lyre. Very little of her poetry remains, and that which does is usually found only in fragments. Her name has leant itself to `lesbian' and `Sapphic', because of her surviving poetry which concerns itself with romantic love between women. Here is one of her poems.


He seems to me an equal of the gods—
whoever gets to sit across from you
and listen to the sound of your sweet speech
so close to him,

to your beguiling laughter: O it makes my
panicked heart go fluttering in my chest,
for the moment I catch sight of you there’s no
speech left in me,

but tongue gags—: all at once a faint
fever courses down beneath the skin,
eyes no longer capable of sight

a thrumming in the ears,

and sweat drips down my body, and the shakes
lay siege to me all over, and I’m greener
than grass, I’m just a little short of dying,
I seem to me;

but all must be endured, since even a pauper . . .

By Sappho of Lesbos