Here are Sappho’s songs and poems as English poems, all her famous pieces, all the fragments that can make connected sense, and all the discoveries of 2004 and 2014. These translations set out to be good English poetry first and foremost, and succeed well beyond other current versions. They have been made directly from Sappho’s Greek, by a poet with three collections to his credit, and are relatively close to the Greek. Each piece has a concise footnote that explains references and allusions, and suggests critical appreciation. A substantial Afterword says much more about Sappho’s themes, her art and style, and her historical setting.
Sappho is one of the greatest poets of the west-ern world. She lived on the Greek island of Lesbos around 600 BCE, near the very beginning of western literature, and composed 300 or so poems and songs. Her poems create a woman-centred world in which women and relationships are highly valued, a world of beauty and grace, love and loss, sandals and hairbands, all sometimes exalted and idealised. She opposes women’s values to those of the dominant male society around her, and is the first to do this in the western canon. She was famous in her lifetime and has been deeply admired ever since.