‘Fragment 31’ by Sappho

Fragment 31

Sappho (translated by Chris Childers)

He seems like the gods’ equal, that man, who
ever he is, who takes his seat so close
across from you, and listens raptly to
your lilting voice

and lovely laughter, which, as it wafts by,
sets the heart in my ribcage fluttering;
as soon as I glance at you a moment, I
can’t say a thing,

and my tongue stiffens into silence, thin
flames underneath my skin prickle and spark,
a rush of blood booms in my ears, and then
my eyes go dark,

and sweat pours coldly over me, and all
my body shakes, suddenly sallower
than summer grass, and death, I fear and feel,
is very near.

sappho 2
Sappho. (Photo: John William Godard)

Sappho (c. 630 BC – c. 570) was an Archaic Greek poet that lived on the island of Lesbos and wrote tens of thousands of lines of poetry, often referred to as the female Homer. While much of her poetry is lost to modern readers, the surviving “fragments” are still the subject of extensive Classical scholarship to this day.