Friday, February 14, 2014


The Old Sappho

Everyone is excited, and rightly so, about the new Sappho. But let's not forget about the old Sappho, in particular one of the first fragments ever printed, i.e. fragment 168b Voigt (tr. Kenneth Rexroth):
The moon has set,
And the Pleiades. It is
Midnight. Time passes.
I sleep alone.
The Greek as preserved by Hephaestion:
δέδυκε μὲν ἁ σελάνα
καὶ πληϊάδες· μέσαι δὲ
νύκτες, πάρα δ' ἔρχεθ' ὥρα·
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.
On the fragment see Paula Reiner and David Kovacs, "ΔΕΔϒΚΕ ΜΕΝ Α ΣΕΛΑΝΝΑ: The Pleiades in Mid-Heaven (PMG Frag. Adesp. 976 = Sappho, Fr. 168 B Voigt)," Mnemosyne 46.2 (May, 1993) 145-159, who reconstruct it as follows (at 153):
δέδυκε μὲν ἀ σελάννα,
καὶ Πλείαδές <εἰσι> μέσσαι [δὲ],
νύκτος δὲ παρέρχετ' ὤρα.
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.
The reconstruction of Reiner and Kovacs could be translated thus (I borrow some of their phrasing from p. 154):
The moon has set,
And the Pleiades are in mid-heaven,
The night season is passing.
I sleep alone.

Thanks to Joel Eidsath for correcting a misprint in this post.

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