Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite" - A New English Translation

April 20, 2020

Immortal Aphrodite, throned in splendor!
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, enchantress, and beguiler!
I implore you, dread mistress, discipline me no longer
with love's anguish!

But come to me once again in kindness,
heeding my prayers as you did before;
O, come Divine One, descend once again from heaven’s
golden dominions!

Your chariot yoked to love's consecrated doves,
their multitudinous pinions aflutter,
you came gliding from heaven's brilliant heights
to this dark earth.

 

Swiftly they came and vanished, leaving you,
O my Goddess, smiling, your face eternally beautiful,
asking me what unfathomable longing compelled me
to cry out.

Asking me what I sought in my hopeless, bewildered desire.
Asking, "Who has harmed you, why are you so alarmed,
my poor Sappho? Whom should Persuasion
summon here?"

"Though today she flees love, soon she will pursue you;
spurning love's gifts, soon she shall return them;
tomorrow she will woo you,
however unwillingly!"

Come to me now, most Holy Aphrodite!
Release me from my heavy heartache and anguish;
grant me all I request, be once again my
ally and protector!

 

Loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Visit our YouTube page to hear Sappho's Hymn out loud and bold.

 

Original

 

Ποικιλόθρον᾽ ὰθάνατ᾽ ᾽Αφροδιτα,
παῖ Δίοσ, δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε
μή μ᾽ ἄσαισι μήτ᾽ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
πότνια, θῦμον.

 

ἀλλά τυίδ᾽ ἔλθ᾽, αἴποτα κἀτέρωτα
τᾶσ ἔμασ αύδωσ αἴοισα πήλγι
ἔκλυεσ πάτροσ δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χρύσιον ἦλθεσ

 

ἄρμ᾽ ὐποζεύξαια, κάλοι δέ σ᾽ ἆγον
ὤκεεσ στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶσ μελαίνασ
πύκνα δινεῦντεσ πτέῤ ἀπ᾽ ὠράνω
αἴθεροσ διὰ μέσσω.

 

αῖψα δ᾽ ἐχίκοντο, σὺ δ᾽, ὦ μάσαιρα
μειδιάσαισ᾽ ἀθάνατῳ προσώπῳ,
ἤρἐ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δἦγτε κάλημι

 

κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλᾳ θύμῳ, τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
μαῖσ ἄγην ἐσ σὰν φιλότατα τίσ τ, ὦ
Πσάπφ᾽, ἀδίκηει;

 

καὶ γάρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέωσ διώξει,
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ ἀλλά δώσει,
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει ταχέωσ φιλήσει,
κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.

 

ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλεπᾶν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμοσ ἰμμέρρει τέλεσον, σὐ δ᾽ αὔτα
σύμμαχοσ ἔσσο.

 

Michael R. Burch is the editor of The HyperTexts, on-line at www.thehypertexts.com, where he has published hundreds of poets over the past twenty years. His poetry has been translated into eleven languages and set to music by three composers. A five-time Pushcart nominee, his poems, translations and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary journals, including Light Quarterly, The Lyric, Measure, Iambs & Trochees, Blue Unicorn, The Chariton Review, The Chimaera, Able Muse, Lucid Rhythms, Poem Today, Asses of Parnassus, Writer’s Digest—The Year’s Best Writing and The Best of the Eclectic Muse.

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