Sappho Fragment 31

Sappho Fragment 31 Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

First-person speaker, present tense

Form and Meter

Sapphic stanzas composed of two hendecasyllabic lines and a third longer line with an additional five syllables.

Metaphors and Similes

"He seems to me equal to gods that man"
The speaker uses simile to draw a parallel between the man and a god.

"it puts the heart in my chest on wings"
The speaker uses metaphor to compare the quick beating of her heart to the flapping of a bird's wings.

"fire is racing under skin"
The speaker compares the feeling of her skin to fire.

Alliteration and Assonance

"He seems to me equal"
Repetition of "ee" sound

"sweet speaking"
Repetition of "s" sounds

"lovely laughing"
Repetition of "l" sounds

"grips me all, greener than grass"
Repetition of "g" sounds

"a person of poverty"
Repetition of "p" sounds


The speaker's desire for her beloved ironically makes it impossible for her to speak with her, or even, by the end of the poem, to look at or think about her.


archaic Greek lyric, love poetry


Nebulous, but somewhere where a man and a woman have a conversation while another woman watches from afar.


melodramatic, hopeful

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is the speaker.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between the speaker and her own inability to perceive or interact with the world around her, despite her overwhelming desire to do so for the sake of love.


The climax of the poem occurs in lines 15-16, when the speaker's intense emotion reaches a crescendo and she feels herself to be almost dead, but is suddenly able to perceive herself.


The first line of the poem foreshadows the climax, "He seems to me" paralleling "I seem to me"



Metonymy and Synecdoche

"Tongue breaks"
Tongue stands in for the capacity for speech


"Cold sweat holds me and shaking grips me"

Cold sweat and shaking become characters who interact with the speaker.


"when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking is left in me"

"thin fire is racing under skin"

"in eyes no sight"

"I am and dead"