Sappho’s poem, entitled Fragment 16, is of the lyrical style instead of the epic style we are used to in Homer’s Iliad. The lyrical style of poetry got its name because it was usually accompanied by a lyre while it was recited. It also was used to express more emotion rather than telling a story. This form of poetry seems to be more artistic rather than the story telling of epic poetry of the time. In this poem we are able to use the comparison of different imagery to understand a common theme within the poem itself.
The reason for the interesting title of the poem is because most of Sappho’s poetry is now only found in fragmented forms. Most of Sappho’s writing is from 600 B. C. E. As stated, Fragment 16 uses a comparative imagery. This allows the reader to easily understand what is being discussed and is able to relate to it. Sappho really evokes an understanding of love and beauty in this poem. She opens the idea that you find beauty in things because you love them. It’s almost as if she’s trying to get the reader to really think about what they love.
Or what they find beautiful in this world. She gives her own example when she compares the imagery of the armies and the idea of Helen’s beauty and then compares that to Anactoria, who is her own personal icon of beauty. It’s like she’s trying to get her reader to really think about what inspires them. Culturally a lot of readers of the time would probably find inspiration in the imagery of the army, as that is what they held in valuable ideals at the time. This allows to tie the poem to the time period in which Sappho lived and of course found inspirations for her own writing.
For example, this poem gives you a moment to think about the army; the cavalry, the foot soldiers, and even the fleet. To think of these items as beautiful, idealistic. This, of course, is a very constant theme in a lot of art work from the Greek culture. Let’s take a look at the carving on the north frieze of the Parthenon in Athens. This work shows horsemen, who are wearing soldier’s helmets and their horses are in a pose of apparent orderly formation. Perhaps this is what the Greek cavalry looked like riding off to war. This ould be considered the glorification of the warrior or the athlete of the times, which is also shown in vase paintings and sculptor works. Also note that Sappho gives a historical aspect to the poem with mention of Helen, who was considered to be the most beautiful woman ever according to myth. Her beauty is being compared to the beauty of the army in Fragment 16. These are believes that Greeks hold in moral and ideals of their society. I personally love this poem for the idea of love and beauty that is in the eyes of the beholder.
The fact that Sappho ties the culture and their stories of history along with her idea of beauty into one piece allows me to also think about what I might consider beautiful. And that beauty isn’t just beauty but it is love and respect. While I would never find beauty in anything war related I’m sure I’d have a different view if I lived during that time period but I can actually find a relation in myself to the people of Sappho’s time because of her work. I can imagine standing in awe of the army marching away to war as well as being in awe of a beautiful queen. While I find beauty in the ocean I’m sure I’d find beauty in the Greek fleet.