Home > 3. My Poetry & Translations > After Sappho, Fragment 16

After Sappho, Fragment 16

File:1877 Charles Mengin - Sappho (cropped).jpg

The surviving words of Sappho (c. 620-550 BC) are so few that scholars eagerly search out more among the ruins of ancient life. Fragment 16 is certainly one of the poet’s most celebrated surviving works, and in particular, its opening stanza:

A troop of horse, the serried ranks of marchers,
A noble fleet, some think these on black earth
most beautiful. For me naught else but
my beloved.

(adapted from Edwin Marion Cox, 1924)

And RT was also struck by a description of the sack of Nineveh contained in the Babylonian Chronicle, which includes the royal wives and concubines being led from the palaces, clawing and tearing their breasts, thus ensuring a short life of drudgery. Nineveh was sacked while she was a child; the story of its destruction and burning must have remained current during her life.

Here is RT’s brief poem, inspired by these two passages:



in the rich, black earth

the banks of assyrian rose play

no longer;


their bright petals fly like foam.

face swollen with grief,

ripped and ragged their breasts.


how come you here, untouched,

your beauty so great,

strongest of shields?


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Sappho; 2) Stephane Mallarme, Apparition


Painting: Sappho (1877); Charles Mengin. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


  1. Kev
    September 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I like the way you capture the essence of this picture with your words. Well done!

  2. September 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Kev: thanks for your enthusiasm…it helps mightily! RT

  3. September 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    A light alliterative touch, to accompany lyre and perfumed air…..

  4. September 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    shl: thanks, as always, for your appreciation! RT

  1. September 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

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