A Desire in My Little Maddened Heart

Sappho, fr. 1 [1 D. H. Comp. 23 (vi 114ss. Usener–Radermacher) (+P. Oxy. 2288)]

“Fine-throned, Immortal Aphrodite,
Trick-weaving child of Zeus, I beg you,
Don’t overcome my heart, Queen
With foolishness and pain

But come to me, if ever in days gone by
You heard my voice as you listened from afar
then left your father’s golden home
And came–

Once you readied your chariot and
Your beautiful swift sparrows carried you
As they flew with fast beats around the dark earth
Midway beneath the sky–

They arrived quickly. Then you, goddess,
Grinned in your deathless way
And asked what’s wrong with me now and
Why I was calling again

And what I really wanted in my little maddened heart
To happen. ‘Whom shall I cajole this time
To accept you back into her love? Who hurt you

If she avoids you, she’ll chase you soon enough.
If she won’t take your presents,  she’ll send some soon.
If she doesn’t love you now, soon she will love
Even if she is reluctant.’

Come to me now, too! Free me from my hard
Worry. Bring to pass all the things
My heart clings to. And you–
By my ally yourself.”

ποικιλόθρον᾿ ἀθανάτ᾿ Αφρόδιτα,
παῖ Δίος δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
μή μ᾿ ἄσαισι μηδ᾿ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
πότνια, θῦμον,

ἀλλὰ τυίδ᾿ ἔλθ᾿, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα
τὰς ἔμας αὔδας ἀίοισα πήλοι
ἔκλυες, πάτρος δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χρύσιον ἦλθες

ἄρμ᾿ ὐπασδεύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ᾿ ἆγον
ὤκεες στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύκνα δίννεντες πτέρ᾿ ἀπ᾿ ὠράνωἴθε-
ρος διὰ μέσσω,

αἶψα δ᾿ ἐξίκοντο· σὺ δ᾿, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιαίσαισ᾿ ἀθανάτῳ προσώπῳ
ἤρε᾿ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δηὖτε κάλημμι,

κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλᾳ θύμῳ· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
ἄψ σ᾿ ἄγην ἐς ϝὰν φιλότατα; τίς σ᾿, ὦ
Ψάπφ᾿, ἀδικήει;

καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει·
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ᾿, ἀλλὰ δώσει·
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει
κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.

ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον· σὺ δ᾿ αὔτα
σύμμαχος ἔσσο.

Dionysus of Halicarnassus: “The elegance and beauty of this selection resides in how it fits together and the fluidity of its connections.” ταύτης τῆς λέξεως ἡ εὐέπεια καὶ ἡ χάρις ἐν τῇ συνεχείᾳ καὶ λειότητι γέγονε τῶν ἁρμονιῶν.

Inside of a cup, white background. Image of a female figure riding a swan
Attic white-ground red-figured kylix of Aphrodite riding a swan (c. 460 BCE) found at Kameiros (Rhodes)

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