"Some say..."

(Sappho, Fragment 16)

translated by Peter Saint-Andre

Some say an army of horsemen or footmen or rowers
Is the most beautiful thing over the coal-black earth,
But I say it is that thing, whatever it is,
That one loves and desires.

All easy it is to make this clear to anyone,
For Helen, far surpassing all mortals in beauty,
Leaving behind the best of all men,
Departed, sailing for Troy —
And not at all did she remember
Parents, nor love of children,
But passion drove her.

Now my Anactoria too is gone, and
I would rather see her supple walk
And the bright sparkle of her face
Than all the chariots of Lydia
And foot-soldiers in arms.

Peter Saint-Andre > Writings > Ancient Fire