Sappho, “In the spring twilight”

In the spring twilight
Sappho (tr. Mary Barnard)

In the spring twilight

The full moon is shining:
Girls take their places
as though around an altar


Outside, the moon brightened everyone with its silver; the whole town became a park of sorts. It felt the most sacred of moments. Couples outlined with its gentle light, girlfriends and wives in porches making idle chatter. Even children past their bedtime were quiet and busy, treading carefully lest they gain the notice of their parents.

The self-discipline of the children almost entirely enraptured me as I took my walk. Only one thing stood out more: the other women my age, walking about, murmuring to themselves.

N.B. My fan-fiction above is what it is. Obviously, Sappho likely describes the intensity of a cultic ritual, but I felt this fragment opened itself another way. More relevant to any discussion of the above: people claim that in antiquity, this was an especially prized verse. From One Hephaestion cited it as an “example of the metre known as the Ionic a majore trimeter brachycatalectic.” I really like the translation of Edwin Marion Cox, again from

The moon rose full, and as around an altar, stood the women.

Now rose the moon, full and argentine,
While round stood the maidens, as at a shrine.

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