By Sappho


Hey there! 🌟 Let’s embark on a fascinating journey through the timeless verses of Sappho, particularly her work known as “Fragments.” Sappho, who lived around 630-570 BC on the island of Lesbos, Greece, is often hailed as one of the greatest lyric poets of ancient times. Her poetry, characterized by its emotional depth and lyrical beauty, mainly explores themes of love, passion, and the relationships between people.

“Fragments,” as the name suggests, are pieces of her work that have survived through millennia, mostly preserved through quotations in other ancient texts. This collection isn’t a single poem but rather snippets—literally fragments—that give us glimpses into Sappho’s world and her expressive poetic voice. These pieces vary widely in length and completeness, from mere scraps of lines to whole stanzas, offering a mosaic of lyrical intensity that has influenced many generations.

Sappho’s poetry was originally composed for musical accompaniment by a lyre, categorizing it under the genre of lyric poetry. Despite the fragmentary nature of these texts, their impact on the literary and cultural fields is profound, inspiring countless poets and writers to adopt her themes and stylistic devices. Let’s explore these beautiful remnants of ancient thoughts and feelings, shall we? 😊

Meaning of Fragments

Understanding the Echoes of Sappho’s Verse

Opening Section
In the opening sections of her fragments, Sappho often sets the tone and mood of the poem. For example, one fragment begins with, “He seems to me equal to gods that man…” Here, she expresses the intense emotions of love and admiration, immediately drawing the reader into her deeply personal and passionate world.

Mid Section
Mid sections of the fragments typically delve deeper into the emotional or thematic elements introduced at the beginning. For instance, Sappho might expand on her feelings of love with phrases like, “when I look at you, even for a moment, no speaking is left in me.” This line beautifully captures the overpowering effect that the beloved has on the speaker, a common thematic exploration in her work.

Concluding Section
The concluding parts of Sappho’s fragments often leave the reader with a poignant, lingering emotion or a reflective thought, such as, “but all is to be dared, because even a person of poverty…” This line could be seen as a reflection on the risks and sacrifices one is willing to make for love, underscoring the universal relevance of her themes.

These snippets, though brief, are rich in meaning, offering insights into not only Sappho’s personal feelings but also the social and cultural context of her time.

In-depth Analysis

Dissecting the Layers of Sappho’s Lyricism

  • Stanza 1
    • Literary Techniques: Use of similes and direct addresses to the audience.
    • Syntax and Diction: Simple yet powerful choice of words, creating a rhythmic melody that mimics the strumming of a lyre.
    • Figurative Language: Extensive use of personification and metaphor, such as equating a loved one with divine figures.
  • Stanza 2
    • Literary Techniques: Repetition of key phrases to emphasize emotional intensity.
    • Syntax and Diction: Short, clipped sentences that convey urgency and passion.
    • Figurative Language: Imagery that evokes the senses, particularly visual and tactile sensations.

… and so on for each stanza.

Poetic Devices used in Fragments

Top 10 Poetic Devices in Sappho’s Fragments

Device NameExample
Alliteration“Sweetly speaking” — enhances the musical quality of the verse.
Anaphora“I love … I fear …” — repetition at the start of phrases.
ApostropheAddressing someone absent as if they were present.
Chiasmus“A man he seems to gods, to me he seems.” — reversal in structure.
EnjambmentLines that continue beyond the break, enhancing flow.
Hyperbole“He seems to me equal to gods.” — exaggeration to express feeling.
Metaphor“You burn me” — comparing love to a physical burn.
Paradox“A sweet-bitter embrace.” — contradictory terms combined.
Personification“The moon has set…” — giving human qualities to the moon.
Simile“As beautiful as delicate Gorgo.” — direct comparison.

Fragments – FAQs

Q: What is the significance of Sappho’s use of first-person narrative in Fragments?
A: Sappho’s first-person narrative adds a personal and intimate dimension to her poetry, making her emotions and experiences more relatable and vivid to the reader.

Q: How does the fragmented nature of Sappho’s work affect its interpretation?
A: The fragments prompt readers to fill in the gaps with their imagination, creating a unique, personal interaction with her poetry. This can lead to multiple interpretations and a deeper engagement with the text.

Q: What themes are prevalent in Sappho’s Fragments?
A: Common themes include love, desire, beauty, the passage of time, and the relationships between individuals, particularly from a female perspective.

Q: How did Sappho influence later poets and writers?
A: Sappho’s lyrical style and themes have been echoed in the works of many later poets and writers, who admire her ability to convey deep emotion and her innovations in lyrical poetry.

Q: Why is Sappho often associated with the concept of “lesbian” love?
A: The term “lesbian” derives from Lesbos, Sappho’s home island. Her poetry often explores her affection for women, though her exact sexual orientation is a subject of historical debate.

Fragments Study Guide

Identifying Poetic Devices in a Verse of Sappho

Verse Provided: “He seems to me equal to gods that man who sits opposite you and listens close to your sweet speaking and lovely laughing—oh it puts the heart in my chest on wings.”

Exercise: List all the poetic devices used in the above verse.


  1. Simile – “He seems to me equal to gods”
  2. Enjambment – The sentence flows beyond one line into the next without a syntactic break.
  3. Alliteration – “lovely laughing”
  4. Hyperbole – “puts the heart in my chest on wings”
  5. Personification – The heart is given the ability to fly.

This exercise helps students recognize how Sappho crafted her poetry using various poetic devices to enhance the emotive power and lyrical beauty of her words.