Aristotle and Sappho II
Sappho and Alcaeus
Scene: Sappho with a lyre in Mytilene
The fairest of all stars thou, rambling
The jars of wine on Athenian youth pouring
O joyous evening, O earth for the austere
Barefooted, lofty a mind a soul
For in the men’s affairs, underneath
Thine music is solid cold, cold as stone
The sculpted god, bent, your Politics
Till today, the argument goes on, you
The pupil, with the dexterity of a fox
A lion’s heart and having
Ordered all the papyrus by the ship from
Egypt. Every utterance, without meter
Without lyric, not even iambic.
My word like air set ablaze by a fire
Hadst it not been so,
Why would then he the knowing say,
“Some say the Muses are nine: how careless!
Look, there's Sappho too, from Lesbos, the tenth.”
Alcaeus of Mytilene:
More full-throatedly singing
Why wait we for the torches' lights?
Now let us drink while day invites.
In mighty flagons hither bring
The deep-red blood of many a vine,
That we may largely quaff, and sing
The praises of the god of wine,
The son of Jove and Semele,
Who gave the jocund grape to be
A sweet oblivion to our woes.
Fill, fill the goblet- one and two:
Let every brimmer, as it flows,
In sportive chase, the last pursue.
Although they are breathe
The words I command are immortal,
The knightly spirit of Adonis
On the shield, yet your shield
Not alive, a mother to the Greek
A young man may return dead
Or victorious. Your vines
Grapes would produce an enchant,
The love’s tempest is mightier
Mightier is the defeat’s bitter woes
In the festival, bringeth
Lute and lyre, sweet song
A tale on the seas, a battle’s dust
Of the posterity is known little
A judge, immoral on a moral scale
A poet, like Horace, a heart in love
From fragments may, discover
Like all human misery in self styled
A philosopher king or inspired by heaven
A praise your way, a song you make.
Alcaeus of Mitilyene:
Choral, O muse, a daughter of goddess
From a sweet tongue, a honeyed smile
I found the poor fisherman
To the invitation I sang the abandon
Wine before the sun goes down
Cup on cup; sporting a lyre.
The men would on earth and
Hereafter, remember nothing but women.
End of Act II
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Poet's Notes about The Poem
This painting completed in 1881, depicts Sappho and her companions listening as the poet Alcaeus plays a 'kithara', on the island of Lesbos (Mytilene) .
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