Daniel Mendelsohn's Girl, Interrupted: Who Was Sappho

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In Daniel Mendelsohn’s article “Girl, Interrupted: Who was Sappho?” he discusses what is known about poet Sappho, and also what is debated about her history. One of her poems he includes in his analysis is the newly constructed fragment 58, now known as the “Old Age Poem.” In the poem, Sappho seems to upsettingly discuss the idea and natural occurrence of growing old. As for my interpretation of the poem, perhaps Sappho is reflecting values of a time period in which youth and beauty were significant to their culture. From this poem we can learn Sappho’s views on ageing, as well as the tension with this subject within the culture of those of her time period. For instance, the speaker acknowledges the terrifying prospect of ageing, but also that…show more content…
What one person may view as Sappho’s intentions and general reflections on cultural values may be different that another persons. There is no way of knowing for sure what the meaning is because it was written so long ago and there are limited resources available to help interpret it. Additionally, small details pertaining to this primary source can significantly change its meaning. The article mentions how a simple “us” in a lyric instead of “me”, can change the entire interpretation, as it changes the speaker. (Mendelsohn 75) Thus, the issue of translating is important concerning the interpretation of this poem. If there were mistakes in the translation, an inaccurate portrayal would change the way people view the poem. Moreover, in his article Mendelsohn mentions how another version of the same poem had included additional lines that added a “triumphant assertion of the power of beauty, of the “finer things”—of poetry itself” (77) to the poem’s ending. These lines completely change the tone and feel, and give the poem a more powerful and appreciative, up lifting tone. The difference in the ending compared to the new version of “Old Age Poem” displays how small changes in a primary source can influence the audience’s viewpoint. Hence overall, the poem can be interpreted in more than one way depending on the person, and translation is significant to establishing

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