“In the vast treasury of the myths, the (Greek) poet chose in turn the legend more adapted to the ceremony he wanted to celebrate”—so Bruno Gentili in a study of 1966 with the title “Poeta—committente—pubblico.” The example of Helen as cause of the Trojan war through the abduction by Paris gives the best opportunity to illustrate the adaptation of the heroic narrative to the circumstances of enunciation with poems by Alcman, Sappho, Alcaeus and Stesichorus. In these poetic recreations gender plays an essential role.
Further thoughts on the singing of songs of Sappho, inspired by the collegial conversations and shared research that led to the earlier posts by Gregory Nagy and Andromache Karanika and to the more recent post by Ioanna Papadopoulou.
As the words that Sappho puts into the mouth of Aphrodite indicate, the goddess of love intervenes in this melic poem in a performative fashion. The deixis that accompanies her poetic intervention corresponds to the pragmatic form of the whole song.
We are very pleased to present here the full text of two poems written by the poet George Wallace for the occasion of SapphoFest 2015 and performed there by him on December 12, 2015.
Epigram 55 of Posidippus, a poet who flourished in the third century BCE, refers to the songs of Sappho. That is what I argued already in my postings for 2015.11.19 and 2015.12.03. This epigram, as we can see from those postings, is about a girl named Nikomakhe whose happy young life was sadly interrupted by a premature death. Nostalgically, the words of the epigram recall the happy times when this girl together with her girlfriends were singing the love songs of Sappho, sung one after another. In the present posting for 2016.01.07, I will argue that the poet pictures the singing of Sappho’s songs by these girls as a recurrent event that is simultaneous with their weaving at the loom.
Horace’s imitations of Sappho in Ode 4.1 and of Pindar in Ode 4.2 show his deep understanding of archaic Greek lyric poetry. Particularly striking is his visualization of Icarus in Ode 4.2 as a negative model for such poetry. The artificial wings of Icarus are seen as a foil for the natural wings of the swan, the sacred bird of Apollo, who is god of lyric poetry. Apollo’s swan thus becomes the ultimate model for the lyric poet.