Did Sappho write about the love lizard?
July 29, 2011 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Did I imagine this Sappho fragment describing love as a "terrible lizard?"

I'm trying to remember a poem/fragment, most likely by Sappho or another Greek poet (this association is shaky and possibly manufactured by my brain--not sure who the author was, and this might be what's impeding my Google-skills) where love was described as a lizard.

All Google will yield to me is a fragment where Sappho describes love as "terrible" using the Greek word δεινος, which sort of has the connotation of dinosaur, terrible, lizard, etc., but I'm holding out hope that the line really exists which has a specific lizard reference, and I'd love to find it. I'm hoping the hive mind has better recall powers than me?
posted by sally onion to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you read If Not, Winter by Anne Carson? She translates a lot of Sappho fragments, sometimes I think a bit freely. It is a pretty amazing book.
posted by mai at 11:26 AM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: This one?

With his venom
and bittersweet

that loosener
of limbs, Love

strikes me down
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:33 AM on July 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Admiral Haddock's looks like a likely candidate, but there's also this (translation by Guy Davenport):

Percussion, salt and honey,
A quivering in the thighs;
He shakes me all over again,
Eros who cannot be thrown,
Who stalks on all fours
Like a beast.

Eros makes me shiver again
Strengthless in the knees,
Eros gall and honey,
Snake-sly, invincible.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2011

I take it back; ours are the same answer. If you have jstor access you can find a bit more about what's doing all this crawling and limb-loosening.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2011

In case it helps, that seems to be Mary Barnard's translation in Admiral Haddock's link.
posted by RogerB at 12:42 PM on July 29, 2011

I'm almost positive she didn't because if Sappho had ever referred to something that could be interpreted as "dinosaur" (terrible lizard) we would never have heard the end of it. It would've been lovely, though.
posted by Kattullus at 7:18 PM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: I think the "snake-sly" or "reptile-like" is definitely what I was looking for. Thank you!
posted by sally onion at 8:34 AM on July 30, 2011

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