Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sappho Poetry Reading Response

In the beginning stanza of Sappho’s poem, It Seems to me, Sappho begins mid-scenario speaking of two people she is watching. After my first read through, I got the impression Sappho was speaking of two people, one man and the other a woman. Sappho commonly writes poetry about or relating to lesbians, Sapphic poetry, and the woman seems to be the object of Sappho’s affection within the poem. Sappho first refers to the way in which the woman “seems” to feel about the man she is with as “equal to the gods,” relating her look as one of devotion and adoration. She then describes that the man this woman adores, “sits within the scope of [her] sweet voice and of [her] laughter which stirs the heart within my breast.” From this first stanza it is made clear the woman Sappho is watching is an object of Sappho’s affection. Even before the definitive line “which stirs the heart within my breast,” there are references to Sappho having some sort of affection towards the woman. The language Sappho uses such as “sweet” to describe the woman’s voice generates a sensual tone of taste or smell to her speech. Her laughter being mentioned also symbolizes an importance of sound and queues the audience of the poem to it being something specific for Sappho about this woman.
The next stanza reveals more of a distance between Sappho and this other woman, “Seeing you like this, even for a second, stops the sighs within me.” The translation punctuations create a pause as written text giving emphasis to these lines. Sappho seeing this woman pauses her pain. However in the next stanza she begins with “Yet,” turning her emotions and following with, “my tongue freezes and beneath my skin a fire rages and… my eyes are empty but my ears are full.” She no longer is lovingly descriptive but instead describe a heat of rage coming over her. A feeling she describes as a “torrent of sweat and wild tremor”.

She ends the poem with a shorter stanza, “I’ve turned the colour of drying grass just before death,” creating imagery of passing and fading. The transition of grass becoming lifeless mirrors her transitions of emotions. She is jealous of the man receiving the affections of the person who “stirs the heart within [her] breast” and describes the fleeting moment of love for someone as she also is filled with a burning rage of jealousy. I take her final lines as her comparison of death as a metaphor for her heartbreak in this seeming moment.

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