Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sappho: A New Translation” as Want to Read:
Sappho: A New Translation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sappho: A New Translation

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,375 ratings  ·  197 reviews
These hundred poems and fragments constitute virtually all of Sappho that survives and effectively bring to life the woman whom the Greeks consider to be their greatest lyric poet. Mary Barnard's translations are lean, incisive, direct--the best ever published. She has rendered the beloved poet's verses, long the bane of translators, more authentically than anyone else in ...more
Paperback, 124 pages
Published December 8th 1999 by University of California Press (Berkeley) (first published -600)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sappho, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sappho

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,375 ratings  ·  197 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A little over a decade ago, I arrived at college. I was crazy about poetry, in the way that many teenage girls are crazy about poetry. My sentiments toward poetry were similar to the sentiments Horace expresses toward the sea god Poseidon in his "Ode to Pyrrha": I felt that poetry had, in a very personal and somewhat obscure way, saved my life, saved my sanity. To me, poetry was a sort of magnanimous taciturn Greek god who had ripped me out of the teeth of a hurricane and carried me to safety, a ...more
anna (readingpeaches)
i like how simple & clear this translation is but what i don't understand is why mary felt the need to make up titles for each fragment to "make the context clearer" like relax im gay i get the context
Louise Anne
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
Sappho’s lyrical poems are interesting since they often make clear allusions to events in Homer’s version of the Trojan cycle of myth, but the focus is shifted away from the traditional thematic concerns like honour and duty. Sappho places the importance of eros over kleos. In addition, physical pleasure is not derived from domination of her supposed lovers but is instead –at times- a result of their mere presence. And finally, her relationships with other women do not always seem to have defini ...more
Alice Lippart
Intimate, sensual and lovely. Loved it.
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
With his venom
and bittersweet

that loosener
of limbs, Love

strikes me down

Sappho. Her style was a sensual melody of love and yearning.

Sad to say, with the exception of a single poem available in its entirety, today we're left with only fragments of her original work. (view spoiler) Even sadder to say, this is -at least in part- down to the censorship of dick-headed close-minded scholars and church leader
Daniel Chaikin
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
61. Sappho : A New Translation by Mary Barnard
with an introduction and notes by Dudley Fitts
composition: c ~612-570 bce,
translation 1958
format: 115 page paperback, University of California press, 2012
acquired: library
read: Oct 9
rating: 5

I had three hours to kill in a coffee shop - and The Argonautika, 3/4 done, was NOT calling. I picked this up instead to glance through and was first struck by fragment 6:
"I love that
which caresses
me. I believe

Love has his
share in the
Sun's brilliance
and virtu
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You may forget but

Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

Beautiful, painful, evocative, sensual and lush are a few ways to describe Sappho's poetry. Even if we only have incomplete and broken fragments of her poetry, there is no absence of emotion.
Michael Finocchiaro
We know relatively little about Sappho from the island of Lesbos in Greece. Her poetry is not explicitly homosexual despite her name being intimately associated with female homosexuality. That being said there is a delicious sensuality to her writing that transcends time and still can speak to use today. It is full of desire and love and beauty. What I like is how it brings alive the life in ancient Greece. Take for example the fabled Grecian urn which of course Keats wrote about in 1819. Here i ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The nightingale’s

The soft-spoken
announcer of
Spring’s presence”
“Awed by her splendor

Stars near the lovely
moon cover their own
bright faces

when she
is roundest and lights
earth with her silver”

Despite the incomplete fragments, Sappho’s poems are still brimming with emotion. Her words are beautiful, evocative, and intimate and she did not shy away from baring her mind and soul in her writing, instead, offering her prayers to A
Alma Q

If rumors are to be believed: the perfect pocket-size Sappho - and it is very sweet and compact. I like how cleanly Bernard has ordered and presented the poems, whether or not "cleanliness" is a quality that is actually consistent with the originals. Elegant and just lyric enough, it is not hard to believe these do convey us something of Sappho's voice.

I am curious about Anne Carson's renditions, though - but perhaps more so for her distinctive translational philosophy than the ancient cont
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not wild about poetry--I like people to say what they mean. And Sappho does just that, beautifully. Her poetry I can get behind.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Float in lesbian Greece.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
simple, rich, and deeply emotive.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sappho walked so u-haul lesbians could run
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fox by: Carolyn
Shelves: poetry, 2017
When I was younger I read a lot of poetry and fell deeply in love with the lyricism of it all. I fell out of the habit of reading it, for what reason I do not know, but as luck would have it I befriended a beautiful poet and lover of the craft. She leant me a variety of books of poetry, among which was this one. Sappho I've heard about a great deal, but never actually read. This book was, while a great introduction to her poetry, also a great introduction to the mystery of the woman behind it. S ...more
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: verse

I confess that upon first encountering this volume I only thought the smaller fragments little nothings:


Rich as you are

Death will finish
you: afterwards no
one will remember

or want you: you
had no share in
the Pierian roses

You will flitter
invisible among
the indistinct dead
in Hell’s palace
darting fitfully

(Barnard’s note reads: “Stobaeus, anthologist. E(dmonds) 71. Plutarch tells us that this fragment was written to a “wealthy woman” of “no refinement or learning.” My text, from Quasimodo, 58.”)

Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I’d be lying if I said that love isn’t one of my favorite subjects.

It’s obvious that Sappho is a wonderfully gifted poet. I wish that I could read the poems in their entirety, but sometimes the mystery of what is lost adds to their beauty. Who cannot wonder of what she speaks of in this fragment?:

“That was different.

My girlhood then
was in full bloom
and you—”

This is all we have, but it already speaks bounds of what it means to be young and in love.

Reading Barnard’s footnote, I may disagree with
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of poetry that could turn a lady queer. That is to say, if poetry had that power. Only fragments exist of her poems, and yet the translator has managed to carry across the simple beauty of the essential lyric across quite well. Brava.

Both the foreword and afterword allude to the many rumors surrounding the Lesbian poet, although none about her disputed...lady-like tendencies, which reduced the material to yet another cold, straight reading.

"But Joey --" you begin, loosening yo
Marla Haasz
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, poetry, favourites

I was going to leave this just at 4 stars in hopes that one day we will find complete poems by Sappho, conclusions to some of the fragments, meanings behind fragments but I instead decided that the beauty of Sappho's writing is the mystery and elusive phrasing. What did Sappho mean by X, what was Y about, who was Z about, and so on and so forth. I kind of like not knowing, it allows me to create and theorise on my own.

Barnard's translation was plain and easy to read, but I may pick up Anne
You may forget but

Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

What a fantastic introduction to Sappho. In truth, I did not mind the highly fragmented nature of her poems; given the nature of modern poetry, I think we are in a better state of mind that any other time in history to appreciate the slightly disjointed and lyrical simplicity of her words. Marvelous.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry enthusiasts, romantics, wlw crowd,

You may forget but

let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

This really is the year of me learning the Greeks may have been onto something with this literature thing, huh? It's completely wrecked my y-axis on publication date stats, I can tell you that. So long, 19th-century accuracy:


I'm currently in the process of writing a research paper on the wonderfully obscure, decadent, belle époque lesbian poet Renée Vivien. My thesis is simple: how Vivien viewed her sexuality in a
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
More like 2 and a half. I think it was more interesting to read about Sappho than to actually read her work. While some of the fragments or poems I did like, overall I felt disconnected from them. I think if I had read this say in a context of a course about Greek poetry or Anceint women writers, something along those lines, it may be different or if it was within an anthology that addressed that, or if there was more of a balance of information on who she was or how she made an impact or legacy ...more
Marjorie Jensen
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is my third time reading Sappho. Last year, I read the Barnstone translation, and I don't remember which translation my Greek art and poetry professor included in our course reader way back in the early 2000s. I enjoy comparing different translations; for instance, Barnstone translates one passage as: "Eros loosener of limbs once again trembles me, / a sweetbitter beast irrepressibly creeping in" while Barnard's translation reads: "With his venom / Irresistible and bittersweet / that loosen ...more
May 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Greek mythology buffs, poetry people, people with little time to read
These poems are fabulous tiny nuggets. Very lyrical. I can't speak for the translation, never having read another translation, but I will say that I was impressed by how densely packed the poetry was, given that it's translated.

Here's a favorite:

I was so happy

Believe me, I
prayed that that
night might be
doubled for us

And also this one:

With his venom

and bittersweet

that loosener
of limbs, Love

strikes me down

And here's one I think everyone can relate to:

Sappho, when some fool

Kate Lansky
I'll be honest - by and large, I prefer Latin poetry over Greek, at least when we're talking shorter works like these. This may in part be due to the fact that I studied Latin for years, and if you give me a book with Latin-English side-by-side, I will love you forever. It's a math puzzle in word form and it gives me tingles.

But Sappho is required reading for anyone interested in the Classical period. Now, it's been a while since I read Sappho, but the writing is beautiful - as long as you get
Jori Richardson
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I first flipped through this short book of Ancient Greek poetry, I was struck by a vague feeling of wary doubt that I would enjoy it. All of the poems were so short, and most that I glanced over seemed vague and pointless. However, I decided to read the entire book aloud to myself one day... And found myself swept away by the beautiful, delicate, femininely classical style of Sappho's writing.
I found that many of the short, fragmented poems were related to other poems that had come previous

What, Sappho, can
you give one who
has everything,
like Aphrodite?


Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us
Jason Kirk
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Barnard's translation of nearly all the extant poetry of Sappho still serves well, from its delicate fragments to the occasional onomatopoetic synaesthesia. Sappho, for those who aren't devotees (I even named a dog Sappho once), was the most famous poet and prodigal daughter of Lesbos, a Greek island whose etymological legacy has since been claimed by women who love women.

In his foreword, Dudley Fitts calls this work "exact translation." We've learned, in the half-century since its original
Jun 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
87 We know this much

Death is an evil;
we have the gods'
word for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing

88 Say what you please

Gold is God's child;
neither worms nor
moths eat gold; it
is much stronger
than a man's heart.

94 You remind me

Of a very gentle
little girl I once
watched picking flowers

100 I have no complaint

Prosperity that
the golden Muses
gave me was no
delusion: dead, I
won't be forgotten.
Lou Last
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poems

For her sake

We ask you
to come now

O graces O

God's daughters


Day in, day out

I hunger and
I struggle


I taught the talented

And furthermore, I did
well in instructing
Hero, who was a girl
track star from Gyara


Really, Gorgo,

My disposition
is not at all
spiteful: I have
a childlike heart


If you are squeamish

Don't prod the
beach rubble

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • 7 Greeks
  • The Odes of Horace
  • Heroides
  • The Complete Poems
  • Greek Lyrics
  • The Eclogues
  • Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hô Xuân Huong
  • Idylls
  • Euripides V: Electra / The Phoenician Women / The Bacchae
  • Four Plays: The Clouds/The Birds/Lysistrata/The Frogs
  • The Deleted World
  • The Selected Poems of Tu Fu
  • The Odes
  • Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
  • Women Poets of Japan
  • The Blue Estuaries
  • Helen in Egypt
  • The Sixteen Satires
See similar books…
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
“Sweet mother, I cannot weave –
slender Aphrodite has overcome me
with longing for a girl.”
“The evening star

Is the most
of all stars”
More quotes…