Hymn to Aphrodite | Study Guide

Sappho

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Hymn to Aphrodite | Quotes

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1.

Slay me not in this distress and anguish, / Lady of beauty.


Sappho

Sappho begs the goddess Aphrodite to hear her pleas because rejection from the goddess would crush her spirit. Sappho uses this tactic and the words "slay," "distress," and "anguish" to establish her depth of feeling.

2.

Hither come as once before thou camest.


Sappho

Sappho reminds the goddess that she has called upon Aphrodite before and has met with success.

3.

Heard'st and camest, leaving thy glorious father's Palace golden.


Sappho

With this line Sappho sets the stage for a contrast of light and dark by showing that Aphrodite lives in a divine palace of gold in the heavens and now is descending into the dark realms of mortals.

4.

Yoking thy chariot. Fair the doves that bore thee.


Sappho

Sappho uses the symbol of doves. In some interpretations of this poem, sparrows are also used. Both birds represent Aphrodite and her strength despite appearances. Sappho builds on the prevalent assumption that Aphrodite as the goddess of love is weak and pliable. Male gods in comparison to female gods were always shown to be strong. Aphrodite is associated with love, and the assumption that she is capable of warlike notions would have been a novel idea in Sappho's time. Both sparrows and doves are unassuming birds often associated with peace and love. Sappho uses them to pull a chariot which indicates that even though they are small and associated with love and peace, they are capable of going to war when needed.

5.

Swift to the darksome earth their course directing, / Waving their thick wings from the highest heaven / Down through the ether.


Sappho

With these lines Sappho establishes a lowering of the goddess as she leaves her immortal realm and enters the realm of mortals. The use of "darksome" is notable as it represents a movement away from light toward darkness. This move toward the dark indicates an emotional and intentional move from peaceful intentions to intervention on behalf of Sappho.

6.

All in smiling wreathed thy face immortal, / Bade me tell thee the cause of all my suffering.


Sappho

Aphrodite has heard Sappho's petition and asks why she has been summoned.

7.

Whom, thou criest, dost wish that sweet Persuasion / Now win over and lead to thy love, my Sappho?


Aphrodite

Aphrodite has responded and wishes to know who has wronged Sappho. The use of "my Sappho" indicates Aphrodite is well-acquainted with Sappho's requests. It suggests a relationship between them.

8.

For, though now he flies, he soon shall follow.


Aphrodite

Aphrodite indulges Sappho and states that the unnamed lover will soon follow her rather than run away.

9.

Soon shall be giving gifts who now rejects them.


Aphrodite

Aphrodite comes to Sappho's aid and tells her that the unnamed lover will be more receptive to Sappho's gifts.

10.

Even though now he love not, soon shall he love thee / Even though thou wouldst not.


Aphrodite

Aphrodite offers an additional intervention, but this one comes with a warning. Sappho's desires will be made possible although she no longer desires them.

11.

Come then now, dear goddess, and release me / From my anguish.


Sappho

Sappho does not care about Aphrodite's warnings. The warning that she may not want what she is asking for lands on deaf ears. Sappho begs Aphrodite to continue the intervention and make her reluctant lover turn back to her.

12.

All my heart's desiring / Grant thou now.


Sappho

Sappho's desperation to regain the affections of the unnamed lover shows that she recklessly wants Aphrodite's help. Sappho wants Aphrodite's help regardless of the consequences.

13.

Now too again as aforetime, Be thou my ally.


Sappho

In the final line, Sappho reminds Aphrodite of their connection and how the goddess has rescued her before. She asks that Aphrodite give her the desire of her heart and bring her lover back to her. The use of the word "ally" invokes the inference of war. Sappho is asking Aphrodite to go to battle for her and win her lover back for her.

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