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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

A New Sappho Poem Comes to Light

By June 25, 2005

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In ancient Greece, the poems of Sappho were universally admired, so much so that she was called “the poetess” (as Homer was “the poet”) and Plato suggested she should be honored as one of the Muses, more than human, a goddess of poetry. Her legend persists despite the fact that we have only a very few bits of her poetry to read today: quotations and references in the work of other ancient authors, and torn scraps of papyrus which have yielded 264 fragments of lines and only three complete poems. Now scholars working on papyrus recovered from the wrappings of Egyptian mummies have announced the discovery of a new, nearly complete poem by Sappho, a 12-line lyric meditation on aging:

“This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.”
(trans. Martin West)
from The Times Literary Supplement (UK):
A new Sappho poem,” translated by Martin West

from The Guardian Unlimited Books (UK):
After 2,600 years, the world gains a fourth poem by Sappho

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