The book "If not winter" refers to the poets written by Sappho and translated by Anne Carson which lays its focus on a big range of human experiences and emotions. Many of the statements in the book are beautiful and also perfect to comprehend. One of the quotes that will be focused on this writing will be found on page 279 which is statement 137.
"I need to talk about a thing but shame averts me yet if you had a wish for decent or attractive matters and your tongue was not creating some sinful to talk about, shame would not avert your eyes but reasonably you would talk about what is impartial".
Primarily I think I was drawn to this fragment because of how informal it feels. By starting the third line with "yet," the second part of the fragment seems to be in response to the statement of the first two lines. The note for this fragment, found on pages 376 and 377, says that this is supposed to be an "interchange between Sappho and the poet Alkaios," and that the first two lines might even be a quote from Alkaios because of the unique meter they are written in (376). If this is true, then the dialogue of the fragment suggests some sort of power and agency on Sappho's part, as she disagrees with Alkaios which I illustrated by the word "yet"
There are also other meanings which come from the translated word "shame by Carson including "reverence, admiration, shamefastness, wonder, sense of honor" (376). Where the word "shame" looks to me to add a negative connotation to the fragment, these other words are much more positive, or at least neutral. By replacing the word shame with a word like reverence, there is a complete change of meaning on the first line. "I want to say something but reverence/respect/awe / prevents me," seems to suggest a less self-reflective attitude (Calista McRae, Pp 279). Instead of not being able to say something because of some sort of personal emotion, the cause is instead something about the person being spoken to. And the notes back this up, saying that the word has to do with sensitivity to "status and mood" (377). However, Carson chose to translate the word as "shame."
By keeping the word as shame, Carson is seen to incline towards the definition as "shamefastness." According to the notes it is defined as "the joint shyness touched by a lover and beloved in a sensual encounter" (377). When used in the sixth line of the poem, it fits very well into the context "shyness would not hold down your eyes," as if this individual is too shy to even look at their lover/beloved. So using this word in this fragment places the speakers (the lover, Alkaios, and the beloved, Sappho?) of the poem in a sensual state. It now seems that Alkaios, or someone he is writing poetry about, is uncomfortable speaking in an intimate encounter with a lover or beloved. Sappho's disagreement with this seems to fit well with our previous discussions of love and beauty.
Though this is just a statement, the different layers of connotation that might have existed within the original poem can be seen. And in these layers of connotation, it seems that there is an authority, at least of appearance, for the woman (or the beloved) in the relationship articulated
McRae, Calista. "A Book of Readings on Anne Carson." Journal of Modern Literature 41.3 (2018): 138-279.
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