Sunday, October 10, 2010

How to Write an Essay: Sapho of Lesbos

On her native island, Lesbos -the Greek lyric poetess-formed a sort of reading club of girls interested in poetry and music. From all available information, she seems to have dedicated her life to the group, though she was married and had a daughter named Cleis.
Besides a handful of facts little is known about life. However, over the years many a legend has been invented to depict her as a woman-lover -in today's parlance: a gay lesbian- who initiated her girls into a kind of a cult.

Illustration from the cover of Christina Rosse...Image via WikipediaSappho (born c. 615 B.C.).
Sappho's poems are songs for a sin­gle voice that contain a single theme-love.
Not only are the songs sweet, unique, and lyrical, but also expressive of love for woman that is lyrical, intense, and at times gushy and torrential, as in her Ode to Aphrodite:
Throned in splendor, immortal Aphrodite,
Wile-weaving child of Zeus, I supplicate you,
Break not my heart with suffering and sorrow .... "
What has fueled the legend that she was a gay-lesbian is perhaps this spirited expressiveness. Yet, the poems also express beauty for nature and the world around her.
Although some songs seemed to be complete, many are but fragments.
Because the songs were written as monodies (for a single voice), and perhaps to be accompanied by flutes and harps, they are difficult to translate from Greek into other languages; especially English. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (the Pre-Raphaelite) managed to produce a felicitous translation of a stanza:
Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
A-top on the topmost twig, which the pluckers forgot somehow
Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it till now.
Without a doubt, the simile ‘Like the sweet apple’ refers to one of her girls, a maiden girl whom, by the tenor of the poem, she had been cultivating till the ripe moment of love.
In this brief article I want to point out to students and aspiring writers alike how to write an essay or how to write a college essay by remarking on how I open my sentences. You will see that I do not follow the pattern ‘subject—verb—object.’
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