Sappho: To an Unlettered Woman (From Greek)

Someone asked if I'd do one of Sappho's poems. So here's a short one. It's not a love poem (which is what she's famous for) so much as, well, a hate-poem, displaying a side of Sappho so at odds with her amatory lyrics that some have questioned its authenticity as Sappho's work. However, it's not obviously spurious in the way a couple of other poems attributed to her are.

To an Unlettered Woman With No Appreciation for Poetry 1
By Sappho
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

When you die you will lie dirt-dumb and leave no memory of you,
No mourner who wanted you while you lived. You eschew the Muse, eschew
Her roses, her home. Into Hell as on Earth you'll pass unnoticed, fade
Away from us, dithering with the dead in nethershade.

1- The title of the poem describes the woman as ἀμούσος, literally "museless"- but semantically closer to things like "uncultured, inelegant, rude" etc. Here, though, the implication has to do with poetry more specifically.

The Original:

Πρός ἀμούσου γυναῖκα

Κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσῃ οὐδέ ποτα μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ' οὐδὲ πόθα ὔστερον· οὐ γὰρ πεδέχῃς βρόδων
τὼν ἐκ Πιερίας, ἀλλ᾿ ἀφάνης κἀν Ἀίδα δόμῳ
φοιτάσῃς πεδ᾿ ἀμαύρων νεκύων ἐκπεποταμένα.

1 comment:

  1.  "fade/ ..... dithering with the dead in nethershade" sounds pretty good to me. 
    I know there was a belief that those not properly buried could not pass over Acheron. Did this extend to those not properly eulogised, or is the poet creating this implication for the purpose of this poem?


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