Sappho was a poet and a singer whose works were meant to be sung and accompanied by music. In one of her most famous poems, “Fragment 31,” Sappho uses imagery, such as “sweet speaking” and “lovely laughing,” to describe the narrator’s fascination with the woman observed from a distance (63). The intensifying feelings are expressed through such phrases as “tongue breaks,” “in eyes no sight and drumming fills ears” (63). Sappho briefly mentions the man at the beginning, but it is clear that the woman is the center of the narrator’s attention. “Fragment 31” describes a bitter-jealous relationship and feels almost modern due to the poet’s way of depicting the narrator’s feelings.
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Sappho’s Writing Style
Sappho’s poems are characterized by a passionate, vivid, and personal touch. Her background and experience as a woman living in ancient Greece, the city of Mytilene on Lesbos, were reflected in her poems (Finglass and Kelly 66). They focus on sensuality, romance, and feelings, challenging the persistently patriarchal Greek world revolving around war and power. In her famous “Ode to Aphrodite,” Sappho portrays the goddess as a powerful and terrifying force of the universe with a “deathless face” (3). Her poetry changed throughout her life as she turned from epic poetry and hymns to gods to lyric poetry and personal narratives full of imagery.
Egyptian Love Poems
Egyptian poetry provides insight into human nature, love, and desire. Egyptian love poems were composed during the New Kingdom era and were accompanied by music and women’s dancing (Rashwan 26). They were written in the lyrical style, used rich imagery, and were composed in informal language, for example: “My heart flutters hastily, / When I think of my love of you” (“Egyptian Poems”). The prevailing themes included love, lust, passion, desire, heartache, and praise of the lover.
Writing Style in Egyptian Love Poems
As for the background of Egyptian love poems, they were performed at banquets and were accompanied by music and dances. They were passionate and erotic, depicting the nature of human desire and love. Unlike Sappho’s poetry, Egyptian love poems praised a duet of female and male lovers, while the poet celebrated the feminine perspective. Egyptian poetry was direct about love and used metaphors, imagery, and repetition to depict passion and lust.
“Egyptian Poems.” Humanistic Texts, Web.
Finglass, Patrick J. and Adrian Kelly. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho. Cambridge University Press, 2021.
Rashwan, Hany. “Literary Genre as a Theoretical Colonization by Modernism: Arabic Balāghah and its Literariness in Ancient Egyptian Literature.” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2021, pp. 24-68. JSTOR, Web.
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Sapho. If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho. Translated by Anne Carson, Vintage, 2003.