Sappho Of Lesbos Analysis

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Desire, passion, and sensuality are among the richest of human emotions, having the ability to evoke a wide range sensations and emotional responses. Sappho of Lesbos captures well the intensity and variety of sexual desire in her lyric poems, demonstrating the many ways in which it can alter the human psyche. In two specific lyrics, “He seems to me equal to gods” and “I simply want to be dead,” Sappho describes the emotions evoked by desire with appealing imagery and impassioned locution, which may, upon first inspection, seem to suggest they always remain similar. However, closer inspection reveals this similarity in style and subject does not extend to the manner in which the desire affects the writer’s emotions, instead evincing how it …show more content…
In both cases Sappho is presented with a situation in which it is not possible for her to fulfill her sexual desires, yet the resulting feelings she experiences vary greatly based on the situation. In “I simply want to be dead,” Sappho is separated unwillingly from her lover (4-5), and, as a result, attempts to “to remind [her lover]” of “beautiful times [they] had” (10-11). She gives a nostalgic recount of the passion the two shared, thereby attempting to overcome the sadness of her future inability to act on her desires through the recollection past joys. Her emotional response to this inability is quite different in “He seems to me equal to gods,” however. In this lyric, in which another person monopolizes the interest of her object of desire (1-4), she is overwhelmed by her emotions, with “no speaking… left in [her]” (7-8) and a number of physical symptoms of uneasiness (9-14). She makes no attempt to improve her mood as in the previous lyric, instead telling only how she laments her fate. Hence, each lyric describes a situation with the same basic theme--the inability of Sappho to fulfill her sexual cravings--yet her reaction in each is unique because of the specifics of the situation. This confirms that the way in which Sappho represents her emotional response to matters involving sexual desire does not remain constant, but rather, …show more content…
Although the first maintains a positive mood throughout the work, the tone of the second lyric changes rapidly when Sappho shifts the focus of her writing from the object of her desire to herself. Thus, the manner in which Sappho describes the emotions she experiences as a result of her sexual desires is not a consequence of the tenor of work as a whole, but rather a product of the emotions inspired by her desire in the particular context. Were it a result of the mood of the work as a whole, the change in atmosphere in “He seems to me equal to gods” would not be possible—her depiction of the emotions she experiences would have to be positive as well. Instead, she represents the object of her desire and the emotional impact of this desire in divergent manners. Also, the differences in the manner in which she describes this impact between the two lyrics rule out the possibility that the use of a standard representation explains this shift in mood. Taken together, these points indicate the manner in which Sappho relates her emotions involving desire to the reader is the result of the various circumstances surrounding her, not of any particular literary or

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