The four-line stanzas were in fact part of a schema she is said to have invented, called the “sapphic stanza.” To clinch the identification, two names mentioned in the poem were ones that several ancient sources attribute to Sappho’s brothers.
The text is now known as the “Brothers Poem.”Remarkably enough, this was the second major Sappho find in a decade: another nearly complete poem, about the deprivations of old age, came to light in 2004.
Now the first English translation of Sappho’s works to include the recent finds has appeared: “Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works” (Cambridge), with renderings by Diane J.
The greatest problem for Sappho studies is that there’s so little Sappho to study.An anecdote from a later classical author about the Athenian legislator Solon, a contemporary of Sappho’s and one of the Seven Sages of Greece, is typical: Solon of Athens, son of Execestides, after hearing his nephew singing a song of Sappho’s over the wine, liked the song so much that he told the boy to teach it to him.When someone asked him why he was so eager, he replied, “so that I may learn it and then die.”Plato, whose attitude toward literature was, to say the least, vexed—he thought most poetry had no place in the ideal state—is said to have called her the “Tenth Muse.” The scholars at the Library of Alexandria enshrined her in their canon of nine lyric geniuses—the only woman to be included.The last is a particularly loaded issue, given that, for many readers and scholars, Sappho has been a feminist heroine or a gay role model, or both.“As far as I knew, there was only me and a woman called Sappho,” the critic Judith Butler once remarked.So much of Sappho was circulating in antiquity that one Greek author, writing three centuries after her death, confidently predicted that “the white columns of Sappho’s lovely song endure / and will endure, speaking out loud . As with much of classical literature, texts of her work existed in relatively few copies, all painstakingly transcribed by hand.