Sappho Revisited: Favorite Fragments Sewn Together



This post is for someone who might be a lover of ancient poetry as well as new. I thought you might appreciate the transcendent quality of random Sappho fragments.  Sappho lived over 2,600 years ago in Greece and only portions of her poems exist: fragments.  Socrates, Plato and a host of other biggies, thought she was amazing.  She was know as the greatest poet and songwriter of her time.  But only scraps of parchment exist with phrases of her ancient Greek words.  So there are large gaps in the poetry.  

Anne Carson is a genius. Her translation titled If Not, Winter is beautiful and the work of a poet as well as artist.  The gaps are filled by using brackets [   ] and the spacing and layout is as important as the words.  The space within the space creates incredible understanding and beauty.  

As I read her poetry, I grabbed my favorite fragments – remember that no complete poems exist.  I believed that they could be formed into a contemporary poem simply by stringing them together; the space within the space filled in – sewn together.  Below are 27 favorite fragments, in fragment order, formatted as a new poem. The title comes from the final two fragments 177/187.  Amazing: 2,600 years later.    Thank you, Sappho and Anne Carson.

Transparent dress of the Muses

You came and I was crazy for you
And you cooled my mind that burned with longing
Gathered longing sweat

Might accomplish
I want to hold, said
Not desire, but all at once
Blossom desire too delight

Me more sweetly
And you yourself know
Forget you someone would say

And yes I shall love
As long as there is in me
Will be a care
I say I have been a strong lover

Of all the stars the most beautiful
Cloth dripping
Just now goldsandaled Dawn
I used to wear crowns

May you sleep on the breast of your delicate friend
But me you have forgotten
Or you love some man more than me
Eros the melter of limbs (now again) stirs me –

Sweet bitter unmanageable creature who steals in
I conversed with you in a dream
With what eyes?
Do not move stones

Moon has set
And Pleiades; middle
Night, the hour goes by,
Alone I lie.


If not, Winter by Anne Carson – translation from ancient Greek – kronn favorite fragments as a poem:

48, 74a, 74b, 74c, 76, 78, 88b, 104b, 119, 123, 125, 126, 129a, 129b, 130, 134, 145, 146, 147, 150, 153, 157, 158, 162, 168, 177, 187

Good people divided by politics and religion make our county weak.


Our bias binds us and blinds us.  You can start by testing your morals online – just be prepared for the results.

There reason I bring up morals is that most people think that their morals are true, the highest, the best.  I’m not here to disagree, but I challenge you to consider walking in someone else’s morals occasionally.

There is an enormous social and economic divide in the US.  And it’s getting worse.  Everyone is to blame because everybody is sure that their side is right.  The current stalemate threatens our country, undermines our moral high ground and economic standing in the world.  Even more importantly the real threat is at home, here in these great United States.  We need to strengthen our economic engine by developing and integrating a social contract that makes our growth sustainable.  But first we need to share values.

Jonathan Haidt, moral psychologist, explains why liberal Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WIRED) arguments are weak and conversely, why conservatives don’t listen in the incredible new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. The summary is linked.  Or, I’ll lend you my copy (email me at if you promise to read it and return it. Or, you can buy your own. OR, If you can’t afford your own copy, I’ll buy you a copy. (Limited to the first 100 or so…50 liberals and 50 conservatives, please.)

If we respect other’s point of view, we can renew our social contract and keep our country great.  We all recognize that Media hypes the social divide just as reality TV creates conflict to make it interesting.  But the problems of economic and social justice are real and directly connected to our future.  An interesting side effect of all the shouting is that the real problem with hyperbole and rude interrupting is that you and I end up preaching to or listing to the same choir.

Both sides of an argument need to be articulated well so others listen, not just our own believers.  Haidt does a great job of providing a framework for construction of strong arguments on both sides.  His 6 pillars force a point of view to consider a broader and potentially more balanced argument.

It’s possible BOTH sides are right.

Bobby Kennedy used to say that one-fifth of the people are against you all the time.  He was right. It takes compromise from the 80% in the middle.  The radical 10% will never change.  So it is up to the majority of us to be the change.

Recognize your own bias and practice listen first.   Be respectful and be ready to change your mind – They just may have a valid point or two.  Only then we can begin to move back together – e plurbius unim – one from many.  Once we are understanding each other, we can rebuild the social and economic contract that will keep the United States strong and prosperous for all citizens.

The alternative is failure as a county.

Here is Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk if you need a quick start.

I’m taking book orders.