An experiment in combining visual art with translations of Sappho

2015.10.09 | By Gregory Nagy

Glynnis Fawkes has generously agreed to supplement with her visual art my working translations from the “newest Sappho” as posted 2015.10.08. While she is preparing her pictures for posting, I offer here a preview of her earlier work relating to the songs of Sappho. What we see here is her interpretation of two texts:

Text A

δέδυκε μὲν ἁ σελάννα | καὶ Πληϊάδες, μέσαι δὲ | νύκτες, παρὰ δ’ ἔρχετ’ ὤρα· | ἐγὼ δὲ μόνα καθεύδω

The moon has set beneath the horizon | And the Pleiades as well. It is the middle of the | Night, over and over. Time [(h)ōrā] goes by. | But I sleep alone.

Sappho (PMG Fragmentum Adespotum 976)

Note by G.N., for background: when the moon-goddess Selene sets beneath the horizon, she goes to sleep with her lover Endymion. For a persuasive demonstration that this song should be attributed to Sappho, see Clay 2011. See also p. 41 of Nagy 2007,


Text B

ἔγω δὲ φίλημμ’ ἀβροϲύναν, … τοῦτο καί μοι | τὸ λάμπρον ἔρωϲ ἀελίω καὶ τὸ κάλον λέ[λ]ογχε.

But I love delicacy [(h)abrosunē] [… ] this, | and passionate love [erōs] for the Sun has won for me its radiance and beauty.

Sappho F 58.25–26 V = Π2 25–26

Note by G.N., for background: H24H Hour 5 Text I. On the reading ἔρωϲ ἀελίω instead of ἔροc τὠελίω, see Nagy 2010. In terms of the first reading, ἔρωϲ ἁελίω, the Sun is the objective genitive of erōs, ‘passionate love’. In terms of the second reading, ἔροc τὠελίω, the translation would be … ‘Passionate love [erōs] has won for me the radiance and beauty of the Sun’.



BFO = Burris, Fish, and Obbink 2014.

Bierl, A., and Lardinois, A., eds. 2015. The Newest Sappho (P. Obbink and P. GC Inv. 105, frs. 1–5). Leiden.

Burris, S., J. Fish, and D. Obbink. 2014. “New Fragments of Book 1 of Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 189:1–30.

Clay, D. 2011. “Sappho, Selanna, and the poetry of the night.” Giornale Italiano di Filologia 2:3–11. A rewriting of his 1970 article, “Fragmentum Adespotum 976.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 101:119–129.

Nagy, G. 2010. “The ‘New Sappho’ Reconsidered in the Light of the Athenian Reception of Sappho.” The New Sappho on Old Age: Textual and Philosophical Issues (ed. E. Greene and M. Skinner) 176–199. Cambridge MA and Washington DC.

Nagy, G. 2015. “A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho.” Ch. 21 in Newest Sappho. A longer version is available online.

Newest Sappho = Bierl and Lardinois 2015.

Obbink, D. 2014. “Two New Poems by Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 189:31–50.

Rayor, D., and Lardinois, A. 2014. Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge UK.

West, M. L. 2014. “Nine Poems of Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 191:1–12.

This post edited by Keith Stone.