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Comparison between Sappho’s work to later Western Poetry
Sappho’s poem has had a great influence on western love literature and medical lore. Her
style of wringing has been adopted by some writers who also wanted to influence society.
Sappho is a great Greek lyrics poet who is admired by many people because of the beauty in her
writing style. She is highly ranked because of her ability and sense of impressing the readers
with the lively sense of her personality (Toohey and Peter 5). The language she uses in her poem
contains some Aeolic vernacular speech and poetic tradition. She uses direct and precise phrases
while creating a picture of what she is talking about in the mind of the readers. Therefore, from
the poem, it can be said that Sappho’s can judge critically her ecstasies and grief while her
emotions remain evident.
In a nutshell, Sappho gives a vivid description of love as an affliction with the attendant
symptoms of bad fever. Among the key symptoms which she gives of love, sickness includes
drumming ears, cold sweat and shaking. The lines in the poem successively allude to the
physical response of people after falling in love. This work is considered to have had great
influence in western love literature and medical lore for some reasons. First, this poem was
among the first Greek literature to address the question of sexuality concerning homosexuality
(Toohey 266). Sappho in a combative way addresses the issue of lesbianism, and according to
the words she uses in the poem, she appears as if she is in an acceptable lesbian relationship.
Therefore, her poems have been instrumental in shaping the debate on love and the issue of
sexual orientation. She shows in her poem that love is like a sickness and people can love each
other irrespective of their sexes. On the other hand, her poem has been influential in the medical
lore because when she alludes to the physical reaction of falling in love, this argument has been
taken by the medical practitioners. Those working in the observation and diagnosis take Sappho’s
description to suggest that love can cause a spike in the pulse rate.
Elements of the Poem
Sappho’s poem “He’s equal with the Gods, that man…” has several elements which
make it popular. First, the poem has clarity of thoughts and the simplicity of the language used.
Through the poem, one can easily understand what she is trying to communicate as the thoughts
are clear and organized and communicated in a simple language. For instance, in what makes her
look like a lesbian she addresses the issue of love to women in an as concise manner. She uses
clear language to describe general love and beauty in women. The description of the symptoms
of love as captured in the poem as precise and easy to understand. The other element which I
believe makers Sappho’s poem popular is because it helps to form a clear image of the people
and things in society. One can understand the words used in the poem easily by trying to form a
picture of the whole scenario described in the poem. For instance when Sappho’s says that “He’s
equal with the Gods, that man” when describing the man seated next to a woman one can easily
figure out her feeling of jealousy (Sappho line 1). Sappho is exploring how the effects of dealing
with passionate lovers manifest themselves in people’s lives. She uses her daily experience and
observations to describe the manifestations.
Besides, Sappho’s poem is popular because of the way she quotes direct words in either
real or imaginary quotes making them have immediacy. For instance with the particular
immediacy of the lyric using the first person she expresses a distressing reaction to the sight of a
man and women seated together taking. When the circumstance in which she is writing is
emotional, she displays a sober control of her emotions especially in the choice of her words. She
chooses the words carefully which makes her poem musical. For instance, in her poetic
fragments, Sappho carefully innovate the metaphor of love as a disease. Her lyrics focus mainly
on the mind of the person which has been attacked by love.
How Later Poets and Medical Writers appropriated the Poem
Catullus in his poems writes about his great love the lesbo and his friends. He also writes
about Homosexuality and gives condolences to his friend who has lost his life. Most of the
Catullus writings are focused on the things happening around him as well as the people who
surround him. When he is writing about Lesbia and his great love for her, it brings pout
contradictory feelings (Toohey 268). This is because in his poem sometimes he appears to
express his great love for Lesbia, in other instances, he sounds sarcastic, and in others, he is
disappointed by her. This poem has got some great influence on western love literature and
medical lore. The poem seems to explore the issue of love in society to be beyond sexual
orientation or gender.
“51 – An Imitation of Sappho”: to Lesbia
One of the features in the poem which I find interesting is the beautiful examples which
are given to show what love is. Catullus writes a love letter to Lesbia. The writing to the lesbian
show that the writer is indeed in love with her and it is one of those moments he wishes they
lasted forever. The author says that. “You delight in idleness, and too much posturing: Idleness
ruined the kings and the cities of former times” (Catullu line 13-15). I believe that this phrase
makes the poem appear times although it was written centuries ago. The way the author brings
out the message, makes the poem appear beautiful and memorable even today. The other reason
why I find the poem more popular is the way it appeals to emotions and its very touching
message. Catullus explores the theme of love as developed by Sappho when he writes about the
death of his brother whom he appears to have been close to.
Comparing Sappho and Catullus poems reveals some similarities and differences which
are intertwined. First Catullus and Sappho demonstrate emotions ion their poems. Their poems
are marked by the feelings of compassion, jealousy, and sufferings. However, the way each of
them expresses their feelings in the poem differs. The language and the tone used in the poems
differ, but the overall personal feelings they are trying to bring out is very clear. It is important to
note that the work of Sappho inspired Catullus to write. Catullus seems to have written with
much passion than even the master. His poems are angry and passionate, and the reader can
relate to his feelings. For instance, if the reader starts reading poem with the line, “who sitting
over against you, endlessly sees you and hears you,” they can easily understand how Catullus
feels about the things and people around him (Catullu line 3-4). The feelings which are evident
in Catullus writings probably have been experienced by the readers, and they can easily
understand and relate with.
On the other hand, Sappho also writes with a lot of feelings. There are a lot of feelings
which one can relate within her poems. Sappho has a unique way of writing about her feelings of
love. In her poem 31, she writes that “he seems to me equal to gods that man whoever he is who
opposite you” (Catullus line 1-2). This statement shows the jealousy she has when she sees a
man standing near a woman whom she loves. The feelings conveyed in the line are clear, and the
reader can be understood easily how she feels. Contrary to Catullus who displays the feeling of
angry in his poems, Sappho writes with some sense of longing. The ambiguity in Sappho’s poem
leaves the reader to think more deeply. The reader can put themselves in the situations as
described by Sappho and in the process enjoy the poem. Catullus writes his poem in a very
straightforward way, and this leaves the reader with little to imagine.
“(Pseudo) Longinus, On the Sublime”
When Sappho’s poem is compared with the Longinus, on the sublime, it is clear that her
poem inspired her work as they imitated her directly. However, although he moves to talk about
the theme of love as described by Sappho, he adopts a moralist approach to deal with the issue.
Actually, in his attempt to criticize Sappho’s work, he ends up expressing empty feelings and
perhaps arousing the emotions of the audience. For instance, in the poem, he refers to the power
of God when he says that “I deem that man divinely blest” (Pseudo 1). From an ideological
perspective, the message in the poem lacks rationality, alienates the audience from reality by
alluding to the creation process and arouses the deep feeling of emotions of pleasure mixed with
exaltation. The work of Sappho’s inspires this work but the authors attempt to criticize did not
make sense from my point of view. However, the author in this poem successfully appropriated
Sappho’s poem where he successfully when he unites the powerful features she uses to the writer
in a precise and concise manner.
Other Applications of the Work in Later Poets and Medical Writers
Most of the poets have ended up adopting the literary style which has been adopted by
Sappho’s. The preciseness and figurative language which she uses to convey her message are
evident in many works. Among the key features of Sappho’s works which have been widely
adopted and influenced the poetic works over the decades is the simplicity of thought and clarity
of language. Second, most poets have adopted Sappho’s sense of careful choicer of words to
create images in the mind of the audience on the subject matter of discussion. Her work has been
applied by the poets when expressing the situations which are full of emotions. Most of them
have ensured that when the subject is emotional, they have demonstrated full control of how they
are expressed. Finally, the poets have applied for Sappho’s works by ensuring that they choose
the words for their sheer melody. This has helped to maintain the musicality of the poems.
In the medical writers, Sappho’s work has been applied by those who writer more on the
observation and diagnosis of the sick. Her expression of the love sickness has been embraced and
applied to write more on the possibility of the pulse rate being affected by love. This is based on
the explanation which Sappho’s gives about the physical effects of love. The medical authorities
have to a great extent expressed the idea that pulse rate is affected by love. Although both men
and women are affected by the physical ailments which are related to love, some medical writers
have applied the argument by Sappho’s to advance the ideas that women are more vulnerable.
The medical writers also have argued that the pulse rate of the sick people increases when their
love mates are near.
In conclusion, as discussed above, there have been many explanations which have been
made about the nature of the situation described by Sappho’s in the poem. However, in these
cases, the analysis has been based on love as a disease. The way Sappho’s describes this aspect
has had a great impact on western love literature and medical lore. She addresses the question of
sexuality in with simplicity and clarity of thoughts. He also touches on the physical effects of
love. These aspects have been applied in poetry and medical writing respectively. Key elements
on how she organizes the works, use of language and organization of thought has made her work
popular. These elements have been very useful to her to bring out the symptoms of the love
sickness in her work.
Catullu. 51 – An Imitation of Sappho: to Lesbia
Pseudo. Longinus, On the Sublime
Sappho. “He’s equal with the Gods, that man…”
Toohey, Peter G. “Love, Lovesickness, and Melancholia.” Illinois Classical Studies 17 (2) 1992
Toohey, Peter G., and Peter M. Toohey. Melancholy, love, and time: boundaries of the self in
ancient literature. University of Michigan Press, 2004.
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