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If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,333 Ratings  ·  231 Reviews
Of the nine books of lyrics the ancient Greek poet Sappho is said to have composed, only one poem has survived complete. The rest are fragments. In this miraculous new translation, acclaimed poet and classicist Anne Carson presents all of Sappho’s fragments, in Greek and in English, as if on the ragged scraps of papyrus that preserve them, inviting a thrill of discovery an ...more
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published (first published -600)
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Fragment 147:

Someone will remember us
I say
even in another time

Even the fragments are beautiful and haunting. Excellent use of epithets. Take, for example 'sweetvoiced', or 'sweetbitter unmanageable creature', or 'goldsandaled dawn'. What poet was this, that even the tattered pieces mark her as one of the best ever?
I love this book so much that I copied out some of the best lines in thick sharpie onto a shirt that I wore so often it's now terribly stained and faded and rather hard to read. An interesting cyclical thing, sort of, given the flimsiness of what remains of Sappho's works.

Also, I once had a writing teacher who said we should follow the "Sappho rule": every word of your writing should be so good that if there was a great flood or conflagration and only snippets of lines survived, there would sti
Michael Alexander
I took high-school Latin, as perhaps a couple of my recent reviews have mentioned. The first poem they ever had us translate in our AP Catullus/Horace class was Catullus' half-translation ("inspired by?") of the second-most-complete Sappho lyric I think we have: Sappho 31. It's perfectly preserved as far as it goes, because it's in someone else's book and quoted in full in Greek, except that it very likely cuts off suddenly.

As Carson translates the original, it begins "He seems to me equal to g
Liz Janet
Apr 03, 2016 Liz Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-buy
"Someone will remember us
I say
even in another time"

Sappho was an ancient Greek poetess from the island of Lesbos, but little is known of her life, with mostly fragments of her work surviving, and which are often not taken as biography. So little of her works survives, that it is known she was exiled from Lesbos after the rise of Pittacus, but very little of her political standing has been discovered.

“yet if you had a desire for good or beautiful things
and your tongue were not concocting some ev
and neither any[ ]nor any
holy place nor
was there from which we were absent

no grove[ ]no dance
]no sound

(view spoiler)a voice(view spoiler)heard. Time,(view spoiler)o(view spoiler)rator.

someone will remember us
I say
even in another time
Apr 21, 2016 laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beautiful, poems, strange
the difference between four stars and five is something categorically different from all other star-number differences. the move from 'i really liked it' to 'it was amazing' is a move away from the the realm of sheer personal pleasure, and toward something externaler.

this book was often a pleasure, but that's not why it gets five stars. i could have enjoyed it more. it took me a little while to get into it. at the beginning especially i sometimes found myself flipping through inattentively, min
This marvelous collection of the extant fragments of verse attributed to Sappho is a glorious spur to the imagination. Sappho was a lyricist, a poet, a musician. It is unknown whether or not she was literate in reading and writing, but her work was collected in writing, and reprinted, but little has survived the centuries. Only one full poem, the ode to Aphrodite, survives whole at twenty-eight lines.

Sappho was known and lauded throughout the ancient world for the beauty of her poems accompanied
Jun 30, 2009 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
In this place you Kypris taking up
in gold cups delicately
nectar mingled with festivities:


Evening you gather back
all that dazzling dawn has put asunder:
you gather a lamb, gather a kid,
gather a child to its mother.

Useful front- and end-notes.
Sep 03, 2007 Maggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anne Carson, poet and Classicist, presents all we have of Sappho in the original Greek and in English translation. Carson indicates with brackets where the papyrus has simply fallen apart or is incomprehensible, which gives a curious flow to most of the fragments. When I read this, I heard some of the lines with pauses; some of the lines overlapped as if multiple voices were speaking, breaking in and over the voice before it.

As you sift through chance lines, half-expressed thoughts, you begin to
Apr 14, 2016 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm fine, I'm not fucked up over this or anything.
Nov 09, 2015 Sassy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even fragmented Sappho's poetry is absolutely beautiful and profoundly moving. Trying to pick a favourite would be impossible, so I will just go with one of the final extracts that I adored:

'spangled is
the earth with her crowns'

Short, dismantled, and yet still wonderful.
I finished this last Thursday, but I've had a hard time thinking of something to put down, since very idea of assigning Sappho a star rating makes me feel dirty. Sappho really has some fantastic bits in here, but since only one poem remains in its entirety, it's hard to judge her quality of writing and ideas. Poem 69, for example, just reads "Sinful", since that's the only word that survived. It would feel wrong to assign any value to something so poorly preserved.

That being said, Sappho has som
Dec 04, 2014 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction, poetry
Sappho was a musician, her lyric poetry was composed to be song. She lived in the city of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos from 630 B.C. It is assumed that due to political affiliations she was exiled to Sicily between 604 and 595 B.C.

The Greek philosopher and historian Strabo said of Sappho, 'Sappho an amazing thing, For we know in all of recorded history not one woman who can even come close to rivaling her in the grace of her poetry'. She was called 'the tenth muse' by Plato. One poem has sur
It makes me uneasy to be underwhelmed by a book the rest of the planet rates very highly, but underwhelmed I was. I am neither a Greek scholar nor have I read Sappho previously, so maybe this was the wrong place to start.
There were definitely some good fragments in the book, but a lot of the time I was having an emperor's-new-clothes experience. For example, one page has the fragment:


Another page says -

]but different

The ]s represent places in the original Sappho where the papy
Jun 08, 2010 owl marked it as to-read
Shelves: owl, ebook
‘He’s equal with the Gods, that man’

He’s equal with the Gods, that man
Who sits across from you,
Face to face, close enough, to sip
Your voice’s sweetness,

And what excites my mind,
Your laughter, glittering. So,
When I see you, for a moment,
My voice goes,

My tongue freezes. Fire,
Delicate fire, in the flesh.
Blind, stunned, the sound
Of thunder, in my ears.

Shivering with sweat, cold
Tremors over the skin,
I turn the colour of dead grass,
And I’m an inch from dying.


‘Stand up and look at me, face to
Jan 17, 2016 Ingrid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry, lgbt
“someone will remember us
I say
even in another time”

Very beautiful. Carson's choice of formatting emphasized the verse and made it all the more profound.
Johan Thilander
Redan i titel, undertitel och omslag är det tydligt att Carson har hängett sig åt det fragmentariska hos Sapfo, eller som hon själv skriver: ”Brackets are exciting”. Till skillnad från den förra översättningen jag läste så markerar denna alltså förlorad text med klaffar, men det är ändå en lika postmodern tolkning som William-Olssons/Papageorgious. Carsons röst hörs tydligt bakom Sapfos:
… But you, O blessed one,
smiled in your deathless face
and asked what (now again) I have suffered and why
(now a
Jun 04, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I don't normally read poetry: I don't really understand it, or most of what I've read has just been sub-par (or both). I wish we had more of Sappho's work, because it is definitely something else.

This book presents fragments as they are available, with missing portions outlined in [] to show where the papyrus has been degraded or lost. The missing portions are almost as interesting as the words that are present, because it makes you wonder what Sappho was really writing about. What did she mean
Jason Gignac
(Original Review)
This is the sort of book that strikes me cleverness dumb. So I will simply begin by telling you what the book is.

If Not, Winter is a collection of all of the known works of Sappho - almost entirely fragments. Sappho was, in ancient Greece, considered one of the two greatest lyric poets, alongside Pindar. However, probably in part because she was a woman and in part because she appears to have been bisexual (her home was Lesbos, and the words lesbian and sapphic come from her), o
Jun 02, 2013 Isaac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greek-classics
Sappho is a phenomenal poet, even in fragments.

"... of desire
... for when I look at you
... such a Hermione
... and to yellowhaired Helen I liken you
... among mortal women, know this
... from every care
... you could release me
... dewy riverbanks
... to last all night long

" will remember
for we in our youth did these things..."

She seems to like the color violet.

Here's one of my favorites:

you burn me


Eros shook my
mind like a mountain wind falling on oak trees

One more:

Phoebe (UnapologeticallyBookish)
Such grace in her words.
Jonathan Williams
If I call a piece of writing “pretentious,” I may only mean that it isn’t for me, or that for whatever reason it put me off. Is it too much of something, or not enough of something else? I don’t know if I could ever fairly use the word as a measure to distinguish one kind of tone, style, or diction, high, low, or otherwise, from another.

I still try to look for examples of it, though, and Anne Carson’s Sappho gave me a new one.

In the fragment numbered 130, Carson uses the word “sweetbitter” — “E
Eylül Çetinbaş
Feb 27, 2015 Eylül Çetinbaş rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-greek
So beautiful.. It is a grand idea to put the original verse which is in Ancient Greek and its translation together, side by side..That is how everyone should read Sappho and the other Classical Greek or Latin works. Only the English translation gives benefit to no one.
Mar 13, 2016 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me

no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead - or almost
I seem to me.

Being unable to fully understand the scope and/or context of Sappho's writing both heightens the experience and engenders a sense of longing and curiosity that can be frustrating at times. However, even though we are only able to read a m
Jan 05, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like an ancient Greek ee cummings. Concupiscent and sumptuous.
Aug 24, 2012 Lily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal-library
Utterly beautiful.
May 22, 2015 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting thing occurred to me while looking up Sappho on Tumblr: there are so many quotes taken out of context. I kept seeing them and saying to myself, “No, that’s not what that means! You can’t just take the first half off and keep the second half! It changes the meaning!” Well, in the middle of this verbal rant to myself I realized that since most of what we have from Sappho is fragments, this is entirely what scholars have to deal with in the study of her poetry. There’s so much that w ...more
I love that Anne Carson takes into account the fact that the poems are fragments. I think it makes them more beautiful.

Some of my favorite poems/pieces of poems:

]to give
]yet of the glorious
]of the beautiful and good, you
]of pain [me
]you take your fill. For [my thinking
]not thus
]is arranged
all night long] I am aware
]of evildoing
]blessed ones




]flesh by now old age
]flies in pursuit
]sing to us
the on
May 10, 2011 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2000s, poems, antiquity
Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter (2002) is a very beautiful book that makes a flattering frame for the relics of Sappho’s enigmatic verse. Both a musician and poet, Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos 2,600 years ago. Her music has perished, but fragments of her lyrics – wedding songs, hymns to Aphrodite, pleas to her brother, plaints for the loss of lovers, a song for her daughter, all infused with great passion and feeling – survive in tattered papyri and ancient commentaries. Of her nine books o ...more
Jan 20, 2015 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Neither for me honey nor the honey bee" (Fragment 146)

I didn't know anything about Sappho before reading this translation by Anne Carson. Carson presents the fragments as they are, using brackets to represent illegible breaks in the damaged papyrus. The few longer extant fragments were nice, but reading poems torn in half vertically is mysterious and thrilling. I can't imagine reading Sappho any other way.

On, a commenter named Robert Rorabeck writes, "(4/14/2005 3:17:00 PM) does
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Goodreads Librari...: Exact original pub date unknown 6 20 Feb 14, 2016 08:08AM  
What is your favorite Sappho poem, line or fragment and why? 3 12 Sep 14, 2015 01:32PM  
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Sappho (Σαπφώ or Ψάπφω) was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. In history and poetry texts, she is sometimes associated with the city of Mytilene on Lesbos; she was also said to have been born in Eresos, another city on Lesbos. Her birth was sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and great ...more
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“their heart grew cold
they let their wings down”
“you came and I was crazy for you
and you cooled my mind that burned with longing”
More quotes…