Essays

Sappho's view on love

by marisal

“Love shook my heart/ Like the wind on the mountain/ Troubling the oak-trees” (Sappho). Sappho held love as the strongest force of all, with the strength to move trees and change mountains. It has the ability to change the world for the better. From her lyrics, one can find that she knows that beauty does not just appear when it is desired, but has to be found. Love, the greatest beauty of all, is the most sought after, some spending their whole lives to find it. She cherishes love and beauty in her poems, and contributes these ideas to today’s culture. “The stars around the beautiful moon/Hiding their glittering forms/Whenever she shines full on earth…./Silver….”(Sappho). Sappho was a great Greek lyrist, born in Myilene on the island of Lesbos. She spent most of her life in Mytilene, by the Aegean Sea. Sappho was the only daughter out of three sons. Her brothers were not successful as she, ending up being wine bearers and merchants. She married a wealthy man named Cercylas and they had a daughter named Celis. Being one of the few female poets to be known was not a coincidence. She was born into a wealthy family, and because of this, she was able to study art where she pleased, and she chose the Isle of Lesbos. In her lifetime, Sappho created a large amount of poetry, enough to fill nine books. Although she was very popular, and even had a statue built for her in Syracuse, her fame did not last (North). The Catholic Church disregarded her because of her sinful sexual views and therefore many of her poems were destroyed. The Isle was a cultural center and got much attention from the rest of the world. Because the Isle of Lesbos was more liberal than the other islands, women were ranked higher, and Sappho had a chance to be known. “Aeolians allowed women freedom of movement and association” (Hoffman). They mixed freely with the male society and were not subject to rigorous discipline like the Spartans or confined to the harem like Ionians. At this time, between the 7th and 6th century, the style of Greek poetry was changing, and Sappho fit the ideals perfectly. No longer were poems ideally epic, concerning heroes and gods. Now, choral songs, to be sung and danced by a choir were written. “Sappho’s lyrics were intended to be sung by a chorus of maiden members of her sisterhood” (Hoffman). Sappho’s poems, which were originally songs, eventually evolved into poems. These poems concentrated on the inner feelings and motivations, and Sappho’s lyrics fit this agenda the best. She was widely popular in her lifetime; her legacy has lived on throughout the Western Culture. Sappho’s poetry is perhaps most famous for its celebration of lesbian love. In this time, humans were seen as natural creatures and having these views and opinions were not chastised or punished. “Her style was sensual and melodic … she nurtured these women, wrote poems of love and adoration to them” (North). Sappho freely wrote about these ideas and was cherished and honored for her wonderful poems. Although homosexuality was acceptable in the beginning of Sappho’s time, that stopped, leading to the burning of Sappho’s work. In the 1970’s, her work sparked the feminist movement, and, tired of being treated as second class citizens, many married another woman. The lifestyle of many women changed because of Sappho. Her poems suggest that although it is more socially correct to marry the opposite sex, your true love may by any gender that the gods have chosen. Love is the greatest force of all, and it is not based on gender. After Sappho’s poems, women were viewed differently. She helped to let sexuality to be seen in an intimate, beautiful way. Sappho, living on the Island of Lesbos, was unrestrained by public opinion and passionate to write about love and beauty in any way she wanted. She was not confined to only the scientific side of art, with the standard meter, rhyme or rhythm. In fact, Sappho contributed her own style of poetry to the Western culture, made up of any number of four line stanzas, called the Sapphic. The Sapphic was used by European poet Horace, and by the modern poets Ezra Pound, John Fredrick Nims, and Anne Carson. Although Sappho wrote many poems of love and lust towards women, she was married to a man. This quote “coming off heaven/throwing off/his purple cloak” shows how Sappho still wrote poems about the love of a man. She was not all about lesbian love, but about any love, as long as it was true. She didn’t have the idea that only men and women could be together, or that only two women could be together; she was open and realized that with love, anything could happen. The mystery of love is left to the gods, and they are the ones that pick and chose soul mates.

This lyricist from the Isle of Lesbos greatly impacted Western culture with her lyrics. Her thoughts have been imprinted into the minds of Westerners. Just as she thought that love was the greatest beauty of all that is the same idea that developed in Western culture. Love, says Sappho, is the force that moves all things. In order to start a new life, love is needed. For that child to prosper, they must be loved and learn to love. Love isn’t only for the lucky or the strong, but can be found by everyone. Her poems are all about beauty, love and sacrifice. Sappho's world is based on love; love of friends, lovers, gods and goddesses, family, and the beauty of the world and the things in it. Sappho impacted the Western world in a positive way. Sappho’s views of the world have shaped the minds of many. For example, she introduces the idea that for each person is a half and they must find their other half, their true love. In her lyric to Venus, the daughter of the goddess of love, she begs for the goddess to help her with her love life. “O Venus, daughter of the mighty Jove,/Most knowing in the mystery of love,/Help me, oh help me, quickly send relief,” (Sappho). Sappho pleads to the Venus to not let love break her heart and to stop her suffering. All she wants to find is her true love. This is the view of the western culture. Life is a fairy tale, and finding the beauty true love is the most important thing. Though not much is known about Sappho, the great Greek poet from the Island of Lesbos, she has lived on though the Western culture. Many of her poems were destroyed and only two are fully intact, but her message from these poems is still clear. “Some say horsemen, some say warriors,/Some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest/Vision in this dark world, but I say it’s/What you love” (Sappho). Sappho thought that beauty was something to be sought out, and she states here that love is the most beautiful thing of all. Love is blind; it doesn’t care about anything besides what is inside. Her thoughts and ideas had a powerful impact on the development of Western culture. She was referred to as The Tenth Muse, meaning the tenth daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, by Platon and she was to be compared to Socrates and referred to as "The Poetess". In her own day she was highly praised and her image was even seen on the coins of the island. At her death the citizens even paid homage to her as to a royal person. As the great Sappho states in one of her many poems, "The muses have made me happy in my lifetime and when I die, I shall not be forgotten."

mariodv commented, on February 22, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.:

A Beautiful Insight

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