Recommendations for an English translation of Sappho?

Gamblingbear

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Coming up soon in my quest to remedy large holes in my reading life is to read Sappho's poetry. Unfortunately I can't read Greek so I'm looking for a translation. My first choice is English, but French or German would be fine.

So far I'm leaning toward either If Not, Winter translated by Anne Carson or the Penguin Classic's Stung with Love translated by Aaron Poochigian. Amazon's look inside function is rather lacking for both of the books, at least for someone with almost no experience with Ancient Greek texts.

Does anyone have an opinion on either version? Or can you recommend a different version?

thanks
 

Callaina

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You should consider learning Ancient Greek! ;) It's quite rewarding.

Barring that, I really don't know anything about translations of Sappho, sorry. :(
 

Gamblingbear

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You should consider learning Ancient Greek! ;) It's quite rewarding.
Ha! I'm sure it is!

I think it'd be a while before I'm up to the level of reading poetry in Ancient Greek. I don't want to wait that long.

I'm learning Latin right now, and maybe I'll tackle Greek after that. I'm considering going back to university next year and for one of the programs I'm considering, Ancient Greek is a degree requirement.
 

Callaina

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Ha! I'm sure it is!

I think it'd be a while before I'm up to the level of reading poetry in Ancient Greek. I don't want to wait that long.

I'm learning Latin right now, and maybe I'll tackle Greek after that. I'm considering going back to university next year and for one of the programs I'm considering, Ancient Greek is a degree requirement.
Cool! What program? Which university (if you don't mind me asking)?
 

Gamblingbear

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I'm in Vienna so it would probably be the University of Vienna. The University of Graz is also a possible option. I'm thinking about either Archaeology or Assyriology. I'm most interested in Archaeology that focuses on the Near East (maybe something like Assyrian Archaeology, if that exists). The university of Vienna's archaeology program is a classical one though that focuses on Ancient Greece and Early Christentum in Europe. Hence the Ancient Greek requirement to graduate. Latin is a requirement to even start classes. The Assyriology program seems to be more of a literature based program and not so much archaeology, but I could be wrong though.

I'm planning on talking to some professors in both departments later this month to see what exactly the two programs offer.

The other big problem: my undergraduate degrees have nothing to do with either Archaeology or Assyriology. There is no way they'd let me directly into a Master's program without doing the bachelors first. Since a PhD also seems necessary for a career in either field, I'm looking at a lot of years of study. Ah decisions, decisions.

You mention a midterm on your profile page. What are you studying?
 

Callaina

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I'm in Vienna so it would probably be the University of Vienna. The University of Graz is also a possible option. I'm thinking about either Archaeology or Assyriology. I'm most interested in Archaeology that focuses on the Near East (maybe something like Assyrian Archaeology, if that exists). The university of Vienna's archaeology program is a classical one though that focuses on Ancient Greece and Early Christentum in Europe. Hence the Ancient Greek requirement to graduate. Latin is a requirement to even start classes. The Assyriology program seems to be more of a literature based program and not so much archaeology, but I could be wrong though.

I'm planning on talking to some professors in both departments later this month to see what exactly the two programs offer.

The other big problem: my undergraduate degrees have nothing to do with either Archaeology or Assyriology. There is no way they'd let me directly into a Master's program without doing the bachelors first. Since a PhD also seems necessary for a career in either field, I'm looking at a lot of years of study. Ah decisions, decisions.
Indeed! But the programs sound wonderful. Are these programs you mention (the ones that require Ancient Greek) Master's or Bachelor's? (To require Latin even to start an undergraduate degree seems rather demanding!)

You mention a midterm on your profile page. What are you studying?
Classics! :) I'm doing a BA in Classics (graduating next year) to be followed, if all goes well, by a MA and Ph. D. My goal is to become a prof (tricky in today's academic climate, I know, but I'll never know unless I try...) :)
 

Callaina

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Oh, and what career do you hope to end up in? Do you want to do field work in archaeology?
 

Gamblingbear

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(To require Latin even to start an undergraduate degree seems rather demanding!)

Both BA & MA. Latin is taught in many Austrian gymnasiums so it's not unusual to have some Latin pre-undergraduate. But only degrees like classics, archaeology, I think law & medicine actually require it to start. I went to high school in the US though, and the closest I ever got to Latin was a poem that had the phrase tempus fugit in it.

Classics must be so interesting! Is there any particular area you're interested in researching?

There's a youtube channel of a young Scottish woman that I watch every now and again. She reviews books, but as she's a classics student (or maybe just Ancient Greece) a lot are books on Ancient Greece and Greek culture. I had never thought much about the classics before stumbling upon her channel some years ago.

Career wise I'd hope to be a professor or maybe work in a museum. I think then, I'd have the ability to do field work, just not all the time. Plus I can imagine field work in Iraq, Syria, etc. isn't so easy these days.

Good luck on your path. Getting an academic job is difficult, but I'm sure rewarding!
 

Callaina

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Both BA & MA. Latin is taught in many Austrian gymnasiums so it's not unusual to have some Latin pre-undergraduate. But only degrees like classics, archaeology, I think law & medicine actually require it to start. I went to high school in the US though, and the closest I ever got to Latin was a poem that had the phrase tempus fugit in it.
Haha!! Yeah, we didn't have Latin in my high school either. It was one of those things that I always wanted to study (at one point I did a few chapters of Wheelock's Latin on my own, but lost interest) but never got around to until for some reason I picked it up about a year ago, and then couldn't get enough of it. :)

Classics must be so interesting! Is there any particular area you're interested in researching?
Either literature or philosophy, I think. Historical linguistics would also be fascinating. :)

Career wise I'd hope to be a professor or maybe work in a museum. I think then, I'd have the ability to do field work, just not all the time. Plus I can imagine field work in Iraq, Syria, etc. isn't so easy these days.

Good luck on your path. Getting an academic job is difficult, but I'm sure rewarding!
Thanks, and to you too! :)
 
You should consider learning Ancient Greek! ;) It's quite rewarding.
Though didn't Sappho write in some non-Attic dialect? So I'm not sure how far Attic would get you.

Ah, Wikipedia says, "Sappho's Aeolic Greek dialect is a difficult one".

Haha!! Yeah, we didn't have Latin in my high school either. It was one of those things that I always wanted to study (at one point I did a few chapters of Wheelock's Latin on my own, but lost interest) but never got around to until for some reason I picked it up about a year ago, and then couldn't get enough of it. :)
How did you end up learning, then, Callaina? If you don't mind my asking.

Did you go back to Wheelock's Latin? Or find something else? A mix of resources?
 

Callaina

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Did you go back to Wheelock's Latin? Or find something else? A mix of resources?
A mix of resources indeed! :D I picked up the basics (I mean the very basics, like conjugations, declensions, etc.) from The Great Courses Latin 101. But I learned far more from just hanging out here on the LatinD forums (reading what got posted here, playing various games, writing things and having them critiqued, etc...)

As I've said before, I might be the only person ever, or at least the only classicist (well, classicist-in-training; I'm currently doing a Bachelor's, hopefully to be followed by graduate work and a career in the field) who learned Latin primarily from hanging out on an Internet forum. :D
 
As I've said before, I might be the only person ever, or at least the only classicist (well, classicist-in-training; I'm currently doing a Bachelor's, hopefully to be followed by graduate work and a career in the field) who learned Latin primarily from hanging out on an Internet forum. :D
Wow! Nifty :)

And well done, and congratulations!
 

Gamblingbear

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Thanks Nooj. I'm going to read the Poochigian one first just because I already own it, but if I find myself liking Sappho, Anne Carson will be my next purchase. The write-ups on the book make it seem fascinating.
 

Nooj

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yes Sappho was the reason why I learned greek and in fact I think she's done a fantastic job. she's a poet as well and so perfect, no dusty old classicist whos never written a line before, but a classicist-poet.
 

Gamblingbear

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Well, I read the excerpted Poochigian version, and I was very disappointed. I had to read things several times to even figure out what was going on - it sounds beautiful when I read it out loud, but it wasn't evocative of any emotion because I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. I also wasn't clear where a poem (fragment) started and another began or if a break was just another verse of the previous poem. Maybe it's different experience when reading the complete Poochigian version.

I did compare the poems to some translations online (there was a New Yorker article that was great), and I found the journalist's translations so much better and things he pointed out about repetition and mirroring that were just not there in the Poochigian version.

Since I really enjoyed the poems I found online, I've ordered the Anne Carson book to give Sappho a fair chance. It may be unfair to judge Poochigian because it was just an excerpt and anything on Sappho is an excerpt to begin with, but it wasn't for me.

Here's to hoping Anne Carson is better.
 

Gamblingbear

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To follow up for anyone else who might be looking for an English translation of Sappho:

I've now read Carson's If Not, Winter; several times in fact. I can't speak to the quality of the translation as I don't read Ancient Greek, but I found it an extremely enjoyable experience. For those who do read Ancient Greek, the book presents the Greek on the left with Carson's translations on the right.

The language is simple, yet evocative and Carson has made the fragmentary nature of Sappho's poems into a positive. The brackets noting missing parts, in translation, actually add to the poems structure as do the blank spaces on the page.

One of my complains about Poochigian's version (or at least the abridged version I had) was that it wasn't always clear when a new fragment started or if it was just a new stanza in a longer piece. There's none of that confusion in Carson's edition.

There are also some differences in how the two translators decided how to structure their poems: Carson's don't have end rhymes and the way thoughts are continued from one line to the next give the poems a rhythm (Carson says she kept the word order the same as Sappho's Greek). Poochigian on the other hand uses end rhyme and seems to have imposed a sort of traditional English poem structure onto the poems. Poochigian's version isn't horrible, just not to my taste. I'll post an excerpt from both so that everyone can get a taste of the two, because tastes are different.

Carson's version also has a good introduction where she explains her intentions as a translator and there are notes for many of the fragments in the back that point out why she made a particular choice over another or to give you some background on where the fragment came from. For an in-depth scholar, these notes won't be enough, but I found them very interesting and informative. Or you can choose to just sit back and enjoy the poems on their own. Penguin books also usually have good introductions and notes. Mine didn't, but I'd be surprised if the unabbridged edition didn't.

Just FYI: In 2012, a new Sappho fragment was discovered and so Carson's If Not, Winter is no longer a complete Sappho collection. It looks like the Cambridge edition is the most complete as of now.
 
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