,Martin West.] Michael Gronewald and Robert Daniel announced the identification of a papyrus in the University of Cologne as part of a roll containing poems of Sappho. This text, recovered from Egyptian mummy cartonnage, is the earliest manuscript of her work so far known. It was copie d early in the third century bc, not much more than 300 years after she wrote.
Parts of three of her poems are represented. As usual, all are in a fragmentary state. But the second one, it turned out, had been partially known since 1922 from an Oxyrhynchus papyrus of the third century
ad, and by combining the two texts we now obtain an almost complete poem.
When we had only the Oxyrhynchus portion, we had only line-ends, preceded and followed by line-ends of other poems, and it was not clear where one poem ended and the next began; the left-hand margin, where this would have been signalled, was missing.
That question is now settled. We have a poem of twelve lines, made up of six two-line stanzas. The last eight lines are virtually complete. The first four are still lacking two or three words each at their beginnings. But we can make out the sentence structure and restore the sense of what is lost, if not the exact words.
Here is the poem in my own restoration and translation. [The author is
The words in square brackets are supplied by conjecture.
the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre : [ but my once tender ] body old age now
has seized; ] my hair’s turned [ white ] instead of dark; my heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me, that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns. This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.
Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn, love-smitten, carried off to the world’s end, handsome and young then, yet in time grey age o’ertook him, husband of immortal wife."
Guy Davenport! Thou shouldst be living in this hour!