To an army wife, in Sardis, by Sappho

[To an army wife, in Sardis…]

BY SAPPHO

TRANSLATED BY MARY BARNARD

To an army wife, in Sardis:

 

Some say a cavalry corps,

some infantry, some, again,

will maintain that the swift oars

 

of our fleet are the finest

sight on dark earth; but I say

that whatever one loves, is.

 

This is easily proved: did

not Helen—she who had scanned

the flower of the world’s manhood—

 

choose as first among men one

who laid Troy’s honor in ruin?

warped to his will, forgetting

 

love due her own blood, her own

child, she wandered far with him.

So Anactoria, although you

 

being far away forget us,

the dear sound of your footstep

and light glancing in your eyes

 

would move me more than glitter

of Lydian horse or armored

tread of mainland infantry