Barnard takes exactly the opposite tack from Miller, presenting the poem as a unified whole. She further accomplishes this goal by adding a title ("To an army wife, in Sardis") that is not present in the Greek, to help provide a possible context, and also rearranges Sappho's five four-line stanzas into seven three-line stanzas. The result is a very effective translation, allowing the reader directly to confront Sappho's bold poetic move in contrasting traditional epic male objects of admiration and eros with a female model of eros for a beloved.
Barnard accomplishes similar feats with all of the fragments of Sappho she has collected and translated. Poem after poem, her reader is grateful that she relied less on her Greek lexicon and more on her poetic instincts to resuscitate the fragments of Sappho and make them live as poetry. A final example of Barnard's moving translations is a fragment in which Sappho describes her sadness at a departed beloved:
I have had not one word from her
Frankly, I wish I were dead.
When she left, she wept
a great deal; she said to
me, "This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."
I said, "Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love
"If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared
"all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck
"myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them
"while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring with-
out song. . . ."
Walter G. Englert III, Omar and Althea Hoskins Professor of Classical Studies, has taught at Reed since 1981. A dedicated teacher and scholar, his research interests are primarily in hellenistic philosophy. His last article for Reed was "Translating across times and cultures," August 1997.
Poems from Sappho: A New Translation by Mary Barnard, University of California Press, 1958.
Recent studies of Sappho include Williamson, M. Sappho's Immortal Daughters (Cambridge, MA, 1995); Greene, E. ed. Reading Sappho: Contemporary Approaches (Berkeley, 1996); Greene, E. ed. Re-reading Sappho: Reception and Transmission (Berkeley 1996); Wilson, L.H. Sappho's Bittersweet Songs (London, 1996); Snyder, J.M. Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho (New York, 1997); and Prins, Y. Victorian Sappho (Princeton, N.J., 1999).