A Prayer to Aphrodite
On your dappled throne, Aphrodite—deathless,
Ruse-devising daughter of Zeus: O Lady
Never crush my spirit with pain and needless
Sorrow, I beg you.
Rather come—if ever some moment, years past,
Hearing from afar my despairing voice, you
Listened, left your father’s great golden halls, and
Came to my succor,
Yoking sparrows, lovely and swift, to drive down,
Leaving heaven, chariot sailing mid- sky
Over black earth, feather-thick wings densely
Beating the clear air,
Quick arrival. You, O my Blessed Goddess,
Ageless lips then beautifully smiling at me,
Asked me what had caused me such pain and made me
Cry out again now:
“What’s the secret wish of your crazy, wild heart?
Whom must Love compel with Her wily ruses
Back into the glittering net of your arms?
Sappho, who hurts you?
“If she flees, she’ll follow you soon as I say;
If she snubs your gifts, she will give you much more;
If she loves you not, then I swear she will love…
Come to me now, free me from bitter worry,
All I long for, deep in my spirit— do it!
You yourself be, here on this field of battle,
Sappho’s lone ally.
—Sappho (the only poem preserved in its entirety that was written by her. It was quoted in full in Literary Composition by the Greek rhetor Dionysos of Halikarnassos). Translated by David Bowles.