Sappho Poetry Reading
“Neither for me the honey nor the bee” Sappho wrote this ages prior to my existence, yet, despite the numerous possible interpretations, I felt a great and important and relevant connection to this poem. One translation of this uses certain language that, although not very lengthy or complicated in terms of linguistics, the meaning can change entirely in just the addition of a single word.
“I need neither the honey nor the bee.” I find ‘need’ to be the most significant word in this interpretation, because it drastically changes the intent I interpreted from the original. I find the more vague aspect of the original translation to allow for a number of possible interpretations. Without the word need, this poem could easily be read as describing the longing of desire of something in which Sappho is lacking. This could be taken literally or figuratively, in that of the honey and the bee, or their representing of something different. If metaphorical, I viewed the bee and the honey as potentially a statement on patriarchy, in that of the phallic qualities of a bee, or the reproductive associations with pollination and the producing of pollen into honey, or even simply the desire of honey as a sweet commodity. If the word ‘need’ is involved, it is speaking from a place of independence, potentially abstaining from indulging in sexual desire or supposed resources a man could typically provide a woman in a hetero-normative, misogynistic type of relationship. This triumph of will that Sappho could be writing about is only one interpretation, but could be the reason that ‘need’ is necessary to include in a translation, so as to evoke feelings of triumph.
I also see the possibility of an entirely different reading on this poem, in relation to desire for what she does not have: the honey nor the bee, or rather a man and the benefits of such a relationship. Seeing as the way in which women were regarded at the time in ancient Greece, and how highly regarded men were, it would come as no surprise to find hints of patriarchal submission in Sappho’s poetry. Because she is one of the very few women of this time whose work was regarded at all, I can understand the potential of her writing poetry about refraining or rising above the patriarchal standards and not needing a man (bee) to do so.