Friday, April 24, 2009

Sappho celebrates LOVE - LESBIAN LOVE - and we celebrate with her for National Poetry Month!

Sappho Portrait from Pompeii

There are those who say
an array of horsemen,
and others of marching men,
and others of ships, is
the most beautiful thing on the dark earth.
But I say it is whatever one loves.

It is very easy
to show this to all:
for Helen,
by far the most beautiful of mortals,
left her husband
and sailed to Troy
giving no thought at all
to her child nor dear parents
but was led...
[by her love alone.]

Now, far away, Anactoria
comes to my mind.
For I would rather watch her
moving in her lovely way,
and see her face, flashing radiant,
then all the force of Lydian chariots
and their infantry in full display of arms.

(LP 16; Groden 7)

I found this poem on page 225 of "Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love" by Christine Downing. Christine's commentary on this piece is really powerful. It reads, in part:

"Valuing personal love above heroic glory separates Sappho not only from the epic tradition but from her only important lyric predecessor, Archilochus. The first woman poet is the first poet to give love this central place. Though she takes the figure of Helen from the epic tradition, she refuses to castigate her as the woman who betrayed her husband. Rather, she honors her as a woman strong enough to be led by love, by her own feeling."

And I believe in this day it is being true to ourselves and our queer love that is OUR heroic glory.

For me, this poem is all about honoring our loves. Sappho, and her place as the "Tenth Muse" as Plato called her, is perhaps so famous due to this shift she pioneered, of daring to put love (including her own queer love) above all the other wonders of the world.

Truly a poem, and a woman, to celebrate!

1 comment:

Kelly Polark said...

I agree that the most beautiful thing on earth is what one loves.
Thanks for sharing, I had not read Sappho before!