Sappho’s Supermoon

A few days ago, I posted a piece about a Homeric passage that the recent supermoon reminded me of.  But I’ve just realized that there is a description by Sappho, in a short poem not entirely complete, that I like even better.  The original text is below, with a translation of my own after it.

Sappho, Poem 34

Ἄστερες μὲν ἀμφὶ κάλαν σελάνναν
ἂψ ἀπυκρύπτοισι φάεννον εἶδος,
ὄπποτα πλήθοισα μάλιστα λάμπῃ
γᾶν … ἀργυρία …

Stars near the moon hide
when she causes earth to glow
in lovely silver. …

Yeah, it’s a haiku, I know, so that’s a little cheesy.  But Greek lyric poetry strikes me as having the same sort of oblique quality that can be found in a good haiku.  I fooled a little with the photo (the original of which I found here), but I like the moonlit ruin, since it picks up on the content as well as the fragmentary nature of the poem.

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Astronomical, Classics, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sappho’s Supermoon

  1. I think you’ll find that lampe is a conjugated verb that governs rather than is governed by gan.

    What makes you think this text refers to anything other than an ordinary full moon? For a start does any ancient text even mention the concept of the ‘super moon’? I seriously doubt it since its not noticeable to the naked eye and the Greeks could hardly have calculated the moon’s elliptical orbit to figure out when one would occur.

    • Many thanks for your comment. I don’t know if the Greeks in general knew about supermoons, but Sappho surely knew about a very full one (πλήθοισα μάλιστα). As to λάμπῃ, I translated it actively, though I’ll admit it may be over-translated as “causes earth to glow.” The most egregious problem is transferring κάλαν to silver from moon, I think. Again, thanks for having a look at my post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s