Tom (goliard) wrote,

a fragment of Sappho

Katthánoisa dè keísēi oudé pota mnāmosúnā séthen
esset' oudè póthā eis ústeron. ou gàr pedékhēis bródōn
tn ek Pīeríās, all' aphánēs kān Aídā dómōi
phoitāsēis ped' amaúrōn nekúōn ekpepotāménā.

"You will lie dead, and there will not ever [pota] be any memory of you nor longing [póthā] for you thereafter. For you have no share in the roses of Pieria [home of the Muses], but unseen even in the house of Hades you will roam about [phoitāsēis] with the shadowy dead, having flitted away [ekpepotāménā]."

Four variants of the syllables pota in the four surviving lines of this fragment (55). This can't be ordinary poetic assonance - it must be a deliberate play on something. My first thought was that these are puns on the name of the boorish woman to whom the poem is addressed (assuming it is; or was Sappho writing to herself in a moment of despair?), but I can't find any suitably similar name attested. Unless they dig up a papyrus containing the entire poem, we'll probably never know what's going on here. Oh Plutarch and Clement of Alexandria, if only either of you had found it in him to quote more than a measly four lines!

(I should say that the second póthā is an editorial emendation, since the text is garbled at that point, but it seems to be a widely accepted one and better than other suggestions.)
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