Sappho: Midnight Poem (Fragment 48)

The Temple of Poseidon at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Temple of Poseidon at night. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in the winter of 570 BC or thereabouts, on the island of Lesbos, an elderly Greek woman wrote:

Δέδυκε μεν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδες, μέσαι δὲ
νύκτες πάρα δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα,
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.

Which has been translated as (one of the many translations):


The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads’ light;
It is midnight,
And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie.

(Translated by J.A. Symonds, 1883)

The old woman’s name was Sappho and she’s mostly famous for her love poetry – in consequence of which her island gave its name to the lesbians.

Unfortunately, Sappho’s poetry only survives in fragments; this little gem above is Fragment 48, occasionally referred to as the Midnight Poem.

You might also like:Astronomers Crack the Secret of This Gorgeous Poem by Sappho: a highly enjoyable article about this poem, some astronomers (and some other poets who mentioned the Pleiades)!
⇒ Para hispanohablantes: versiones españoles de la Poema de medionoche de Safo y algo sobre Safo y astronomía
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3 thoughts on “Sappho: Midnight Poem (Fragment 48)

    1. I have to say that this particular one doesn’t feel like a mere fragment of something longer – it feels complete to me. But yeah, you can only wonder about her lost work… although she’s not the only ancient author you can say that about!

      Liked by 1 person

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