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Her personal reputation is another matter entirely. As Reynolds' formidable literary detective work demonstrates, whenever Western men and women have clashed over how the female of the species should conduct herself, sooner or later Sappho's name gets thrown around. Ovid, for example, mocked the poet as unduly confident in her fame and her lesbian paramours, only to be brought down by the devastating masculine splendor of Phaon.

Hunchbacked English poet Alexander Pope who translated Ovid's Sappho poem showed just how flexible Sappho references could be when he got into a terrible feud with famous intellectual beauty Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in the 18th century. He had once adored her and compared her verses to Sappho's. The precise nature of their quarrel remains a mystery, but he began to revile her in the press, accusing Lady Mary of being "greasy," syphilitic and a whore -- all under the name of Sappho, although it seems that everyone who read these attacks knew exactly whom he was talking about.

Lady Mary displayed an ambivalence toward Sappho common in women of literary ambition: She countered the insults but didn't disavow the sobriquet -- it was flattering after all to be likened to the greatest female poet of all time, even if that meant also assuming the mantle of infamy that came with it.


As often as not, even those who didn't quite understand the precise nature of Sappho's sexual inclinations still believed her to be a sexual deviant of some kind. She was frequently portrayed as a heterosexual prostitute, or as an unattractive older woman chasing after a gorgeous boy. One of the delights of Reynolds' "Companion" is that it collects all sorts of not necessarily sterling but nevertheless fascinating ephemera along with the work of major writers.

Besides veiled slanders, like Pope's, directed at various well-known literary ladies by men who owed them money or had been romantically spurned, there are librettos for lurid and sentimental stage productions in which lovers titillatingly recline on bowers and everyone dies in the end by preposterous means. In the 19th century, the Romantics, who loved a towering, rocky, gloomy cliff -- especially with a thinly clad woman at the brink of it -- had more sympathy for Sappho and her terrible, if entirely mythical, doom.

Disheveled, with her now-useless lyre emblem of her art cast thoughtlessly aside, she was the embodiment of the passions' toll on the sensitive spirit.

Around the same time, a book called "La Nouvelle Sapho" became a perennial bestseller in the booming underground pornography market; it offered a confidential account of a lesbian cult that conducted their "unnatural" rites under a bust of the poet who gave their sexual orientation its name. The decadents, particularly Baudelaire and Swinburne, loved Sappho, whom they saw as a sublimely immoral voluptuary. Poet George Moore wrote a verse drama in which she is a heartless dominatrix who permits a girl who is in love with a youth who is himself in love with Sappho to impersonate her in order to spend one night with the man; the condition is that the girl must first sleep with Sappho and, second, agree to kill the youth in the morning.

Both of these images of Sappho -- the victim of love and the titillating libertine -- were preferred by men; women tended to see her as an inspiring, if also cautionary, figure. Yet some of the most sensational depictions of Sappho do have a seed in her writings.

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She is a poet of desire, who nakedly voices both its delights and its pains. She describes love as a "limb-loosening King," and in perhaps her most famous fragment, in which she watches with keen envy the young man who sits next to her beloved at a feast, she suffers what has since become the prototypical case of lovesickness:.

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in my limbs; my eyes are blinded and my ears thunder. Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts me down. I grow paler than dry grass and lack little of dying. That translation is William Carlos Williams', and surely Winterson's Sappho cannot fairly accuse the modernist poets of the early 20th century of neglecting her verse. Ezra Pound idolized her poetry, and H. If the Lesbian poet has since become too crude a symbol of female homosexuality Winterson, a Sapphic sexual outlaw herself, was probably jeering at this p.

In the end, her poems are the one constant thing, and they've already proven themselves immortal. Buy Now, Pay Later. Already a Subscriber? Log In Here. Please sign in with Facebook or Google below:. If you have an older Salon account, please enter your username and password below: sign in Forgot Password? Log Out. In this innovative blend of personal reflection and cultural history Margaret Reynolds illuminates Sappho's genius, her life, her sexuality, and the extraordinary influence she has had across centuries.

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Built on key themes, this book features a rich offering of poems, plays, essays, and stories by leading writers that bring Sappho's legacy to life. The ways in which this sparkling, unexpected anthology will be classified in libraries and bookstores--lesbian studies; classical studies--will strike anyone who reads it as absurd. The only book that compares to The Sappho Companion in its breadth and imaginative vigor is Charles Sprawson's lyrical book on swimming, Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero , in which the swan-diving Sappho makes an appearance.

A beautifully illustrated anthology of works inspired by Sappho combined with fragments of the poet? Born about 2, years ago on the island of Lesbos, Sappho is now regarded as the greatest lyrical poet of ancient Greece. Her work survives only in fragments, yet her influence extends throughout Western literature, fueled by the speculation and romances which have gathered around her name, her story and her sexuality.

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This collection demonstrates how Sappho? Convert currency. Add to Basket. Compare all 6 new copies. Martin's Griffin, Softcover. Book Description Palgrave, Condition: New. Seller Inventory M More information about this seller Contact this seller.

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