Paul Verlaine: Poems

The Adaptation of Sapphic Aesthetics and Themes in Verlaine's "Sappho Ballad"

Several aspects of classical lesbian poet Sappho's work would come to be admired and built upon by the Decadent poets of the nearly two and a half millennia after her time. The mixing of gender aspects and themes of masculine power and feminine desire in "To Anaktoria" and "Seizure" nearly prefigured the radical combinations of worldly imagery and metaphysical meaning of Decadent works--in particular, Verlaine's explicit homage, "Sappho Ballad." In addition, Sappho's position as a classical lesbian poet made her an appealing ancestor to a genre so concerned with voiding social mores and finding unique ways to express a modern form of desire. "Sappho Ballad" heavily incorporated female homosexual love in its expression of male heterosexual love through its unique utilization of the language of lesbianism, a sexual orientation the Decadents felt was particularly appealing for its perceived purity and position outside the commonly accepted morality of society.

Sappho's lyric poem "To Anaktoria" features many of the literary qualities that would come to define Decadent poetry. The work begins with a series of military images with a masculine aspect:...

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