Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Newest Sappho’s Two Minds


Classics Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


One of the two new poems of Sappho published in 2014, the so-called Kypris poem, is neither an entirely new fragment nor unlike Sapphos other known love poems. According to Obbink, the Kypris poem substantially augments Sappho fr. 26 Voigt (as previously known from P. Oxy. 1231 fr. 16), previous reconstructions of which it corrects as it invites new ones. As such, it can be seen to exhibit some of the motifs and language familiar from Sapphos love poetry elsewhere in book 1... (2014, 37). This paper focuses on the similarities to fragments 1 and 31, and particularly on the way that fr. 26 presents contradictory expressions of love. The language of the Kypris poem certainly shows verbal and thematic overlaps with fr. 1 and thematic repetitions with fr. 31 regarding the paradoxical nature of passion, in which the speaker is full of life and close to death, experiencing pain and desire. All three poems present a specific moment for the speaker, at the same time clarifying with words of repetition (such as again, repeatedly, whenever) that the moment is not unique. The three also present general statements on desire by not naming the beloved, or (in fr. 26 and fr. 31) not giving the gender of the beloved, who is indicated in fr. 26.2 as whomever one loves. Fr. 1 and fr. 26 directly address Aphrodite, requesting that she not inflict pain (both using the same word). Obbinks translation of the first three lines (2014, 49) aligns the Kypris poem with others of Sapphos that recall the beloveds absence (such as frs. 16 and 94): How wouldnt anyone feel anguish repeatedly, Kypris, Queen, and especially wish to call Back, whomever one really loves? In my paper, however, I argue that the word and phrase order of the Greek present a more complex idea of passion, in which love causes pain and even so desire for the beloved: How could someone not repeatedly feel pain, Queen Kypris, by that person, whomever one loves and wishes most of all to call back? Or in Rayors translation (2014, 41): How can someone not be hurt and hurt again, Queen Aphrodite, by the person one loves and wishes above all to ask back? In this fragment, absence of the beloved does not cause anguish, but rather the loved one her or himself. The paradox is that even with the repetition of pain, the speaker wishes most of all to seek that persons return. In the Kypris poem, both the presence and the absence of the loved one cause pain. As is frequently true in Sappho s songs, the order of information matters in hearing the subtlety of her two minds (fr. 51). Bibliography Burris, S., Fish, J., Obbink, D. New Fragments of Book 1 of Sappho, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 189 (2014) 1-28. Obbink, D. Two New Poems by Sappho, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 189 (2014) 32-49. Rayor, D. and A. Lardinois. Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge, 2014.

Conference Name

111th Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Boulder, Colorado

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