Not much is known about Sappho's life or works, most likely because she lived in the ages before year 0 A.D. She was born in 613 B.C. on the island of Lesvos, Greece, either in Mytilini or Eressos. She was orphaned when she was six years old, but she did name her daughter after her mother, Cleis. Her daughter's father was possibly Cercylas, who was probably Sappho's husband and died at age 35. Sappho was also exiled to Sicily, most likely from her political activities. But probably what she is best known for is her sexual preference: she preferred females, but was, in fact, bisexual.
The other thing Sappho is best known for is her poetry. It was written for her friends, usually women, and she used an Aeolic dialect and numerous meters, one which was named the Sapphic stanza after her. She also composed and performed songs and poems called epithalamiums that are usually sung about marriage. But whether epithalamiums or not, Sappho's principal idea in her writing was love.
In the second and third centuries before Christ (B.C.), Aristophanes and Aristarchus put Sappho's works into nine books, organized by meter. These works not only influenced Roman poets, but also other readers and scholars. However, Sappho's writings were left out in 500 A.D. when others were being reproduced. It wasn't till the 1890's that her poems were collected as much as possible. In 1925, the first modern collection of Sappho's works was published by Oxford University Press. Most of her works are in fragments. Her most complete poem is thus:
Come to me now, if ever in the olden days
you did hear me from afar, and from the
golden halls of your father fly with all speeding
unto my pleading.
Down through mid-ether from Love's highest regions
swan-drawn in car convoyed by lovely legions
of bright-hued doves beclouding with their pinions
Earth's broad dominions.
Quickly you came; and, Blessed One, with
smiling countenance immortal, my heavy heart
beguiling, asked the cause of my pitiful condition-
why my petition:
What most I craved in brain-bewildered yearning;
whom would I win, so winsome in her spurning;
"Who is she, Sappho, so evilly requiting
fond love with slighting?
"She who flees you soon shall turn pursuing,
cold to your love now, weary with wooing,
gifts once scorned with greater gifts reclaiming
unto her shaming."
Come thus again; from cruel cares deliver;
of all that my heart wills graciously be giver-
greatest of gifts, your loving self and tender
to be my defender.
Sappho died in 570 B.C., the first known woman author and the individual who founded women's literature. She was called the "tenth muse" by Plato and is recognized as the muse of lesbian lovers today.
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