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A woman sought after by poetry

Poetry found the female poet Sappho in the 7th century BC at a time when Greek women were relegated to the Gynaeceum, an abode reserved only for women.

 

 

mujer  poesía 5Armando Orozco Tovar

 

Sappho was black and small, as evidenced in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, so did not conform to the standard of beauty of western civilisation based on Helen of Troy. According to Théodore Reinach, Sappho had a lovely character and was a devoted lover.

The poet, from the city of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, was recognised by Socrates as a beautiful being because she possessed the grace and delicacy of all that is exquisite, as well as having an outstanding, creative intelligence.

The fatherhood of Sappho is unknown and the only evidence of her mother, Cleïs, dates from the time of the 42nd Olympiad (612-609 B.C). Sappho married the wealthy Cercylas, from the island of Andros, and it is said that they had a daughter for whom she composed a poem.

mujer  poesía 9The poet has always been associated with lesbianism, having been born on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. It has constantly been said that she had a great fondness for girls: Atthis, Telesippa and Megara being the first of those who received the most passionate expressions of her love. However, her preferred students in the fields of dance, music and poetry were Anactoria of Miletus, Gongyla of Colophon, and Eunica of Salamis (not from Salamina in Caldos, Colombia, but from Salamis in Greece), all of whom appear in her romantic and erotic poems.

Sappho was not a woman indifferent to the political conflicts of her time. She became involved in the fight against the dictator Pittacus, just as today many women in Colombia and the world  fight for their rights which for centuries, since before the far-off times of the poet from Mytilene, have been flouted and trampled on..

María Mercedes Carranza
María Mercedes Carranza

Some authors have described the poet’s death as suicide, just like the death of Maria Mercedes Carranza that occurred thirteen years ago on 11th June. Carranza was the author of “I am afraid” and other works, including “Song of the flies”, in which she wrote about the narcoparamilitary massacres committed by the Castaños brothers. This is what the French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) recounts in his poem Lesbos:

To find out if the sea is indulgent and kind,

It will bring back one evening to Lesbos, that forgets,

The body of Sappho, who departed.

Of  Sappho who died sullied and who blasphemed

When insulting religion,

She gave her body to the sea as a food supreme.

 mujer  poesía 3Since that time a great sorrow has overwhelmed Lesbos,

And although the earth renders her most precious homage,

It gets drunk at night with the roar of the waves

Which lift toward the sky its desolate shores.

Since that time a great sorrow has overwhelmed Lesbos.

As a great poet, Sappho broke new ground in poetry creating the Sapphic stanza, consisting of four verses. This black poet was also recognised by Plato.

mujer  poesía 2The date of her death is unknown, but it seems as though she has not yet died because she carries on living through the many poems that she wrote, of which only fragments remain. As she once said: “I know not what to do, my mind is divided”.

  (Translated by Martin Relph – Email: manurelph@btinternet.com)

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