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Fragment 16, Some Say by Sappho


"Some Say" is a poem written by Sappho. It is sometimes referred to as "Fragment 16". In this poem, Sappho compares two "beauties" against one another: soldiers and love/desire. She states that even though the soldiers are considered the most beautiful, she thinks it is love. She says that even Helen left for a man she desired and didn't bother to remember her family. She goes on to say that she knows how Helen felt, because now her love is gone and she only wishes to see her and not chariots.

This poem consists of three stanzas of varying lengths.


Some Say

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 directed 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.

Translated by Peter Saint-Andre

Next: Song of the Rose
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Literary Movement
7th Century B.C.

Beauty, Love

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