Last week I suggested to my fellow TNB poetry editors a lark: I would post a Sappho poem for the week's feature, and a faux-self-interview as the poetess. April Fool's week might have been best for that, but I figured, what the heck, and my other editors liked the idea, so I set to work.I had decided from the start that I would work on my own translation, and I thought it would be best to take on the Tithonus lyric, woefully incomplete until archaeologists found that famous strip from an Egyptian mummy wrapping in 2004. Based on the translations I'd seen so far, I thought it was perhaps worth it to go for a fresh take. I spent some time feverishly revising my Homeric Greek, knowing full well that even brushed-up Homeric or Attic comprehension would struggle with Sappho's Aeolic, but I had the Perseus on-line word study tool to get me further, and Google when I really needed a sniper shot. The result is "Sappho and Old Age".
On another, more well-known dispute, I claimed a bit more poetic authority. I went with the "ἰο κόλπον" of Prof. West's own reconstruction, rather than the "ἰο πλόκων" or "violet-wreathed" that West swapped in for his translation. The latter is a more conventional epithet, but as others have pointed out with the famous modulation of the Homeric "Ἠὼς ῥοδοδάκτυλος" ("rosy-fingered Eos/dawn") to the Sapphic "βροδοδάκτυλος σελάννα", ("rosy-fingered Selene/moon",) Sappho has always infused such allusions with her own originality. Like everyone, I've heard before that Plato lauded Sappho the tenth Muse, but I went looking for the citation, and all I could find was the mention I already knew, put by Plato into Socrates mouth in Phaedrus 235c.
νῦν μὲν οὕτως οὐκ ἔχω εἰπεῖν: δῆλον δὲ ὅτι τινῶν ἀκήκοα, ἤ που Σαπφοῦς τῆς καλῆς ἢ Ἀνακρέοντος τοῦ σοφοῦ...
I cannot say, just at this moment; but I certainly must have heard something, either from the lovely Sappho or the wise Anacreon... (Fowler translation)
I also put together a faux-self-Interview with Sappho to meet TNB feature convention. The second and third question (on general preference for women), and the last two (on "lyric" versus "poetry") were contributed, with answers by Milo Martin, which I edited for flow, and to match the voice I'd established for Sappho. The question "So which contemporary woman best embodies the idea of love, and why?" and the two following that were contributed by Rich Ferguson, to which I wrote the answers.
It was fun revising that bit, though, as it led me to Prof. Pender's Sappho and Anacreon in Plato’s Phaedrus, but that can't be it. Can anyone shed better light on the "tenth Muse" laud?