Phaínetaí moi kênos ísos théoisin
émmen' óner, óttis enántiós toi
isdánei kai plásion âdu
phoneísas upakoúei

kai gelaísas iméroen, to m' ê man
kardían en stéthesin eptóaisen,
os gar és s' ído brokhe', ós me phónais'
oud' en ét' eíkei,

alla kam men glôssá m'éage, lépton
d' aútika khrôi pûr upadedrómeken,
oppátessi d' oud' en óremm',
epirrómbeisi d' akoúai,

kad dé m' ídros kakkhéetai, trómos de
paîsan ágrei, khlorotéra de poías
émmi, tethnáken d' olígo 'pideúeues
phaínom' ém' aútai.

alla pan tólmaton, epei kai péneta

transcription: e is eta, o is omega

Perhaps the most loved of Sappho's poems. One of only three poems of any size that survive, though the fragmentary last line shows that it is not complete as we have it. (Not all translators use that line.) Its Lobel-Page number is 31. The ancient commentator Longinus (or Pseudo-Longinus) used it as an example of the sublime in his work On the Sublime.

Here is Byron's version, from Hours of Idleness, 1807, his first collection.

TRANSLATION FROM CATULLUS

AD LESBIAM

Equal to Jove that youth must be --
Greater than Jove he seems to me --
Who, free from Jealousy's alarms,
Securely views thy matchless charms.
That cheek, which ever dimpling glows,
That mouth, from whence such music flows,
To him, alike, are always known,
Reserved for him, and him alone.
Ah! Lesbia! though 'tis death to me,
I cannot choose but look on thee;
But, at the sight, my senses fly;
I needs must gaze, but gazing, die;
Whlist trembling with a thousand fears,
Parch'd to the throat my tongue adheres,
My pulse beats quick, my breath heaves short,
My limbs deny their slight support,
Cold dews my pallid face o'erspread,
With deadly languor droops my head,
My ears with tingling echoes ring,
And life itself is on the wing;
My eyes refuse the cheering light,
Their orbs are veil'd in starless night:
Such pangs my nature sinks beneath,
And feels a temporary death.

Bliss Carman (1861-1929) wrote a book Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics (Chatto and Windus, 1907) not of translations but of fanciful re-creations of the lost lyrics, taking inspiration from the existing fragments. However, as this poem is better preserved, his version partly counts as a translation.
Peer of the gods he seems,
Who in thy presence
Sits and hears close to him
Thy silver speech-tones
And lovely laughter.

Ah, but the heart flutters
Under my bosom,
When I behold thee
Even a moment;
Utterance leaves me;

My tongue is useless;
A subtle fire
Runs through my body;
My eyes are sightless,
And my ears ringing;

I flush with fever,
And a strong trembling
Lays hold upon me;
Paler than grass am I,
Half dead for madness.

Yet must I, greatly
Daring, adore thee,
As the adventurous
Sailor makes seaward
For the lost sky-line

And undiscovered
Fabulous islands,
Drawn by the lure of
Beauty and summer
And the sea's secret.

Catullus translated it, in his poem 51, beginning Ille mi par esse deo videtur. I haven't got the Latin original of that (ah, thank'ee evilrooster for posting it below), but here is Peter Whigham's translation (Penguin, 1966) of Catullus. This and the next two translations are copyright so I'll only include the part corresponding to the striking third stanza:
... tongue numbed; arms, legs
melting, on fire; drum
drumming in ears; head-
lights gone black.
F.L. Lucas (1894-1967) calls it The Beloved in his Greek Poetry (Everyman, 1966):
Helpless halts my tongue; a devouring fever
Runs in flame through every vein within me;
Darkness veils my vision; my ears are deafened,
Beating like hammers;
Josephine Balmer translates it like this (Sappho: Poems and Fragments, translated by Josephine Balmer, Bloodaxe Books, 1992, quoted by permission):
It seems to me that man is equal to the gods,
that is, whoever sits opposite you
and, drawing nearer, savours, as you speak,
the sweetness of your voice

and the thrill of your laugh, which have so stirred the heart
in my own breast, that whenever I catch
sight of you, even if for a moment,
then my voice deserts me

and my tongue is struck silent, a delicate fire
suddenly races underneath my skin,
my eyes see nothing, my ears whistle like
the whirling of a top

and sweat pours down me and a trembling creeps over
my whole body, I am greener than grass,
at such times, I seem to be no more than
a step away from death;

but all can be endured since even a pauper...

Other translators have included Addison, Smollett, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Lowell.

To supplement Gritchka's excellent write-up, here is the original Latin of Catullus 51.

Ille mi par esse deo uidetur,
ille, si fas est, superare diuos,
qui sedens aduersus identidem te
spectat et audit

dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
*missing line1*

lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures, gemina teguntur
lumina nocte.

otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
perdidit urbes.2


  1. Since we know the content of the missing line, various attempts have been made to "restore" it. The best effort is vocis in ore. Although this is plausible, we will never know the true text.
  2. Not all scholars accept that the last verse is part of this poem. Although it is in sapphic metre, like the rest of the text, its meaning strays from the original Greek text. It may be a fragment of an otherwise lost poem.

Source: Oxford Classical Texts

My dear, my dear, I know
More than another
What makes your heart beat so;
Not even your own mother
Can know it as I know,
Who broke my heart for her
When the wild thought,
That she denies
And has forgot,
Set all her blood astir
And glittered in her eyes.

- W.B. Yeats, 1919.

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