Shifting Helen: An Interpretation of Sappho, Fragment 16 (Voigt)

Classical Quarterly 50 (01):1- (2000)

Denys Page, discussing this poem in his classic Sappho and Alcaeus, seemed unimpressed by its aesthetic merits. In his note on line 7 he says: ‘The sequence of thought might have been clearer.... It seems then inelegant to begin this parable, the point of which is that Helen found O Krλλιστον in her lover, by stating that she herself surpassed all mortals in this very quality’ . His interpretative essay phrases further objections. ‘In a phrase which rings dull in our doubtful ears, she proceeds to illustrate the truth of her preamble by calling Helen of Troy in evidence’ . About the Helen exemplum itself he says: ‘the thought is simple as the style is artless’ and ‘the transition back to the principal subject was perhaps not very adroitly; managed’ . Page's criticism centres on the function of the exemplum of Helen. A close reconsideration of this exemplum, with special attention to the way in which it is embedded in the preceding and following context, will result in a better understanding and appreciation of this poem
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DOI 10.1093/cq/50.1.1
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