Fragment 102 (Sappho)

Γλύκηα μᾶτερ, οὔ τοι δύναμαι κρέκην τὸν ἴστον
πόθ δάμεισα παῖδος ϝραδίναν δι’ Ἀφροδίταν.

Meter: ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ | ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯

γλύκηα (γλυκύς fem. vocative singular) ‘sweet’—in Attic or Ionic we would find γλυκεῖα, both of these reflect earlier *glukéwya, an innovative feminine form of *glukús (since u-stems did not originally distinguish masculine and feminine)—μᾶτερ (μήτηρ vocative singular) ‘mother!’—here we see *ā (Proto-Indo-European *eh₂) preserved, where it has become η in Ionic and Attic. Look for this conservative feature elsewhere in this fragment!—τοι here is the ethical dative of the pronoun σύ.—κρέκην ‘to weave’ is an Aeolic present infinitive, equivalent to Attic-Ionic infinitives in -ειν.—ἴστον ‘loom’; this word (ἱστός in Attic-Ionic) is from *sistós ‘propped up,’ related to the verb ἵστημι. Note the absence of the rough breathing in Aeolic.

In translating κρέκην τὸν ἴστον we may better render the verb as “work” or “ply,” to preserve its transitive nature with respect to “loom”; in English one weaves at a loom, which does not quite capture the sense of the Greek direct object.

δάμεισα (= δαμεῖσα) is the aorist passive participle of δαμάζω: ‘conquered’ or ‘overcome’; this root (PIE *demh₂- ‘build, domesticate’) also underlies tame—The narrator is overcome by πόθος ‘yearning, longing’ for παῖδος ‘boy, child.’ Note that παῖς does not unambiguously refer to a male person.—ϝραδίνν δι’ Ἀφροδίτν—the preposition διά conveys personal agency; “slender Aphrodite” has conquered the narrator, with πόθος as her instrument.

Sweet mother, I just can’t work the loom,
overcome with yearning for the boy because of slender Aphrodite.


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