Saturday, 31 July 2010


“Love is a cunning weaver of fantasies and fables” - Sappho

A quiet day today and an even quieter evening tonight. For Music Saturday, something old and new at the same time. Something exotic and something indigenous… A curious mixture of the genuine and the imagined. A Greek progressive music group of the 1990s that took inspiration from ancient poems and imagined ancient music. The group is called “Avaton” and here is their rendition of one Sappho’s poetic fragments:

Αεριων επεων αρχομαι αλλ’ονατων [ε] γω το καλλος επιτ[μεζον]…
οφθαλμοις δε μελαις νυκτος αωρος και ποθηω και μαομαι ουκ οιδοττι θεω
διχα μοι τα νοηματα κατ’ εμον σταλαχμον
ου τι μοι υμμες ας θελετε υμμες [ο] ττινας
γαρ ευ θεω κηνοι με μαλιστα παντων σινοντα[ι]
εγω δ’εμ’[αυται τουτο συ]νοιδα
μη κινη χεραδος ου γαρ θεμις εν μοισοπολων οικιαι
θρηνων εμμεν
ου κ’αμμι ταδε πρεποι
ΣΑΠΦΩ (≈620 BC - 570 BC)

I start my song with ethereal soft words. In my life I served beauty.
Along the night, when dark sleep captures my eyes and desire burns me and excites my body,
I know not what to do: my mind is divided drop after drop the pain within me…
No, it’s not you who for me, as much you want it,
For they whom I benefit injure me most...
Yes, I have placed this deep in my mind and I know it.
Leave the pebbles and don’t mix them up. Lamentations are not be heard into poets’ homes.
Such things are not appropriate for us.
SAPPHO (≈620 BC - 570 BC)


  1. Nothing Sapphic about the way those chick's eyes are eating-up that gorgeous boy. I wish he would materialise before me as I type.
    Thanks for the joy

  2. What a wonderful song! I am off to search Youtube for more of this group's work...

  3. May I ask you where you found those lyrics? I am curious because they are a mishmash of fragments that aren't even all by Sappho, and that translation only kinda matches the original (and it couldn't match it without being as disconnected as the original is), and one of the fragments is deformed with respect to the source, which is a papyrus. Here are the details as to this deformation and as to where the fragments smashed together here are to be separated: (Also, did you realize those lyrics don't match the video at all?)

  4. For the record, here is the actual translation of those lyrics:

    I begin with airy but good-to-hear words | I the beauty ?? [bigger]… |
    Black sleep of the night onto the eyes | I wish and crave | I don't know what to think
    My thoughts are split into two | concerning my weeping
    Ye are nothing to me | as long as ye wish | For those whom
    I care the most for those more than all hurt me |
    And I know [this] my[self] |
    Don't move the jetsam | For it is not appropriate in the house of one who serves the Muses
    To make lamentations
    Such a thing wouldn't befit us.

    The |s (not the linebreaks) split the fragments. The "??" is an incomplete and unintelligible word which, if ἐπὶ τ[ὸν βίον μου is the correct completion, means "in my life". I'll be trying to figure out whether μέζον can somehow be construed as meaning "served", but I am skeptical.