If you don’t know, Sappho is the ancient Greek lyric poet from the Island of Lesbo’s. Basically, she’s the queen of all lesbians. And while little is known of her personal life, she shared so much inspiration and beauty through her poetry. She was known to write over 10,000 lines of poetry, but today, only about 650 lines survive. These 650 lines of poetry have been highly debated in the world of literature — mainly, straight theorists love to come up with explanations for her love of women that aren’t related to being lez AF.
Some have posited that she was a schoolteacher, hence her passion for ‘girls.’ But in 1959, Denys Page stated that Sappho’s lyric fragments portray “the loves and jealousies, the pleasures and pains, of Sappho and her companions.” If that doesn’t sound like a web of romantic lesbian entanglements, I honestly don’t know what does. Early translators of Sappho’s love poems even took it as far as to rewrite her narrative to have heterosexual love interests. In 1711, Ambrose Philips’ translation of the “Ode to Aphrodite” portrayed the object of Sappho’s desire to be a man, and after that every other translator upheld that narrative until the twentieth century when the true lez nature of the poem was rediscovered.
It’s believed by legend that much of Sappho’s poetry was destroyed because the church disapproved of her morals — Roman Empire Pope Gregory VII made an effort to publicly burn original copies of her sapphic love stories. She was described as a “sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness,” by one theologian. Same.
But from the remains that are left of her incredibly heart-wrenching work stands as some of the most inspiring and romantic prose of all time. Sappho had a way of writing that was pure and honest and incredibly vulnerable. She let her truths fall from the tip of her pen for the world to bear witness to. And still, centuries later, we are digesting her intimate words. Her LEZ words.
Here are 10 of our favorite sapphic lines written by the one and only Sappho. You go girl.
1. Every lesbian breakup ever.
Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, she wept
a great deal; she said to me, “This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly.”
2. Why don’t my dates describe me like this?
And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.
And the beautiful dew is poured out
and roses bloom and frail
chervil and flowering sweetclover.
3. In the poem where she basically says f*ck homophobia.
So Anactoria, although you
being far away forget us,
the dear sound of your footstep
and light glancing in your eyes
would move me more than glitter
of Lydian horse or armored
tread of mainland infantry
4. The most beautiful mourning.
Now you are a broken seal:
A scarlet stain upon the earth.
5. Lonely nights spent Tinder swiping.
it is midnight,
and the time is passing,
but I sleep alone.
6. Even prolific poets get distracted by heartbreak.
Come to me now thus, Goddess, and release me
From distress and pain; and all my distracted
Heart would seek, do thou, once again fulfilling,
Still be my ally!
7. Nothing like a good old fashioned existential crisis.
How often I lament these things
But what can you do?
No being that is human can escape old age.
8. Sappho understands our first date anxieties.
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
9. The poem I want read to me after sex.
You came and I was longing for you
You cooled a heart that burned with desire
10. Every writer’s goals.
May I write words more naked than flesh,
stronger than bone, more resilient than
sinew, sensitive than nerve.