Sappho prays to the goddess Aphrodite, asking for relief from heartbreak. The poem focuses on the intimate relationship between the poet and the goddess, and the history they share together.
The speaker prays to Aphrodite, pleading with her to come to a beautiful grove dedicated to worshipping the goddess. Eventually, Aphrodite does arrive, surrounded by festivities and pouring out nectar for the women who fill the grove to worship her.
“Fragment 16” is an extended argument for the importance of love. The speaker draws on the examples of Helen of Troy and her own departed lover to argue that what one loves is more beautiful than any display of military strength, regardless of the dominant male perspective on the matter.
See “Fragment 31” ClassicNote.
“Fragment 44” recounts the marriage of Andromache to Hektor, the Trojan war hero. It borrows from epic style and imagery while rejecting its dismissal of romantic love, describing the celebration which fills Troy to commemorate their wedding.
In “Fragment 58,” the speaker mourns her own aging. She describes her changing body and contrasts it with the joys and bounty of youth. Yet she also acknowledges that its impossible to remain young forever. She proves her point by referencing the myth of Dawn and Tithonos, in which the goddess Dawn attempts to prevent her mortal lover Tithonos from dying, but he ends up aging forever. The speaker accepts her aging while embracing the dynamic possibilities of love and desire throughout life.
“Fragment 94” depicts the parting of Sappho and a lover. Sappho attempts to sooth her beloved by inviting her to remember the love that they shared, even when they are far away. It depicts memory as something that exists in the present, rather than merely a link to the past.
In “Fragment 96,” the speaker attempts to sooth her companion Atthis, who mourns for a beloved who has left her for Sardis, a wealthy Lydian city. Although the beloved is more beautiful than ever before in this new place, the speaker imagines her as still longing for Atthis and the love they shared. Although they cannot reunite, memory and desire provide a way to be together.