Sappho: Poems

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Sappho: Poems

In her work “Let’s Not Pretend,” Sappho juxtaposes opposite ends of the spectrum of being, using life and death, black and white, mortality and immortality, old-age and youth, but not in a nostalgic theme. She cites her current old age, and seems to be relatively acceptant of the fact that life is indeed waning, and that she, unlike so many who she has seen, will not simply be stuck in the quest for eternal beauty. She writes “No, no one can cure it; keep beauty from going/And I cannot help it.” Part of her acceptance of age is that there is no cure for it: “God himself cannot do what cannot be done.” To accentuate the point, Sappho cites Tithonos, who, as the “lover of Dawn… was granted eternal life but not eternal youth.” This is part of her understanding that old-age is itself eternal, that each one is carried away past beauty, into age, at some point. She completely understands that life, beauty, age, and death are corporate: “Yes, for me,/Glitter and sunlight and love/Are one society.”

In “Very Well, Charaxus,” Sappho explains the dangers of becoming egocentric: “If you must flutter around the steps of the great and/Not of the noble and true, and say good-bye to/Al your friends and get so swollen-headed/You hurt me and say I am.” To leave what is noble and true seems to be entering to an egocentric society. It seems that by mentioning “… flutter[ing] around the steps of the great…” is meaning that the object of the poem has forgot what is important. It does not seem that “the great” in this case would be those individuals of stature, as nobility would infer some sort of high status, but “the great” meaning the great in ego. Perhaps this person, who she is obviously very angry at, has caused her pain simply by his/her leaving, but, it seems that there is a more psychological aspect involved. It seems that Sappho is dealing with personal anguish with the subject of the poem. This leads rather well into “Poem I.”

In “Poem I,” Sappho is...
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