Welcome to our Richmond Read-along! We know that many of you are already missing your libraries, so this week we’re starting a virtual read-along. Every day, we’ll post a short piece of literature – for example a poem or short story – here on our blog, and excerpts on our Twitter and Facebook. We’ll also give you a link to some more information as a jumping off point for learning or discussions.

Follow us to take part, check back here every day, and tell us what you think! We’d love to hear your views on the pieces we post, and we’re also open to suggestions for things you’d like to read. Talk to us by commenting on Facebook or replying to our tweets, and talk to each other. Following the advice to stay at a safe distance from others doesn’t mean you can’t stay social and get involved – and get your daily dose of literature as well. Stay safe, stay connected, and let’s get reading!

Day 1 – Sappho

Roman bust of Sappho

We’re starting the Richmond Read-along by going back over 2,500 years to Sappho, a renowned poet from Ancient Greece. Now perhaps most famous for her same-gender attraction – her name gives us “sapphic” and her island home of Lesbos is the root of the word “lesbian” – she was well-respected in her time for her accomplished verse. Despite very little of her poetry surviving, Sappho is known for her directness and her exceedingly beautiful love poems, such as Sappho 31 or “Ode to Anactoria”, which is today’s piece:

“Peer of Gods to me is the man thy presence
Crowns with joy; who hears, as he sits beside thee,
Accents sweet of thy lips the silence breaking,
With lovely laughter;

Tones that make the heart in my bosom flutter,
For if I, the space of a moment even,
Near to thee come, any word I would utter
Instantly fails me;

Vain my stricken tongue would a whisper fashion,
Subtly under my skin runs fire ecstatic;
Straightway mists surge dim to my eyes and leave them
Reft of their vision;

Echoes ring in my ears; a trembling seizes
All my body bathed in soft perspiration;
Pale as grass I grow in my passion’s madness,
Like one insensate;

But must I dare all, since to me unworthy,
Bliss thy beauty brings that a God might envy;
Never yet was fervid woman a fairer
Image of Kypris.

Ah! undying Daughter of God, befriend me!
Calm my blood that thrills with impending transport;
Feed my lips the murmur of words to stir her
Bosom to pity;

Overcome with kisses her faintest protest,
Melt her mood to mine with amorous touches,
Till her low assent and her sigh’s abandon
Lure me to rapture.”

This translation is by John Myers O’Hara and we’ve taken it from Project Gutenberg. You can find the full book, including translations of many other Sappho poems, by clicking here. Select “Read this book online: HTML” to view it in your web browser.

Members of Richmond Borough Libraries can find out more about Sappho from Oxford Reference Online, starting with this overview that gives biographical details and lists a number of relevant Reference entries.

Come back tomorrow for day 2 of our Richmond Read-along!