Sappho's Poem

It was you, Atthis, who said:

"Sappho, if you will not get
up and let us look at you
I shall never love you again!"

"Get up, unleash your suppleness,
lift off your Chian nightdress
and, like a lily leaning into

a spring, bathe in the water.
Cleis is bringing your best
purple frock and the yellow

tunic down from the clothes chest;
you will have a cloak thrown over
you and flowers crowning your hair..."

"Praxinoa, my child, will you please
roast nuts for our breakfast? One
of the gods is being good to us:

today we are going at last
into Mitylene, our favorite city,
with Sappho, loveliest

of its women; she will walk
among us like a mother with
all her daughters around her

when she comes home from exile..."

But you forget everything.

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 without song...’

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