Voices like that of the Greek poet Sappho that speak across the millennia affirm that no era has a monopoly on love or sorrow . The implication is that we can listen to those voices and hear echoes of our own. Does it work the other way as well? Can we speak to Sappho of our own trials and joys? Let me try: "A hidden egg the color of hyacinths": in spring, I've seen a child find such a thing and giggle with delight. Dear poet of Lesbos, tell Leda that children here in the future are just as beautiful as Helen -- and just as terrifying in their destinies. "The tortoise lyre": alas, we cannot spare our tortoises for song, for they are too few; we forgot to cherish them. Sappho, can you set aside some stanzas to remind us of such lowly creatures? Ah, thank you, dear, I hear that verse now: "The hearts in the pigeons grew cold / and their wings dropped to their sides": How did you know that we use gigawatts to power our technology, but have allowed our heart-fires to die down? Were you in our mean streets when you wrote: "We in the city feel its sharpness, boldness of a man." Did you feel the pain of alienation? We can read on to your prophecy that we may also "remember a fine small voice" and "remember one day those things we did in our youth, many and beautiful" when the world was new and bright. Dear Sappho, take your "saffron blouse and violet tunic from your chest" and set them in the sky that we might look up not with two arms that "could not hope / to touch the sky" by themselves but with billions, interlocked to lift us toward "beauty and light ... for me the same as desire for the sun."
Quotations are from Barnstone, W. (Trans.) (1988). Sappho and the Greek lyric poets. New York: Schocken.