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Sapphic Stanza, Adonic Line, Sapphic Line and Sapphic Ode Sonnet

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Greek Verse, the beginnings.

The Sapphic Stanza is classic Aeolic verse and attributed to the poetess Sappho 6 BC, Greece. Plato so admired her that he spoke of her not as lyricist or poet but called her the 10th Muse. Her poems spoke of relationships and were marked by emotion. In a male dominated era she schooled and mentored women artists on the island of Lesbos and her writing has often been equated with woman-love. "Rather than addressing the gods or recounting epic narratives such as those of Homer, Sappho's verses speak from one individual to another." NPOPP.

Sappho's work has often been referred to as fragments, because only two of her poems have survived in whole with the vast majority of her work surviving in fragments either from neglect, natural disasters, or possible censorship.

The elements of the Sapphic Stanza are:

  1. quantitative verse, measuring long / short vowels. In English we transition to metric measure of stress / unstressed syllables which warps the rhythm a bit but brings it into context the English ear can hear. L= long s = short
  2. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains. This evolved to a quatrain during the Renaissance period from the ancient variable 3 to 4 line stanzas. The quatrain is made up of 3 Sapphic lines followed by an Adonic line which is usually written as a parallel to L3.

    Sapphic line = 11 syllables, trochaic with the central foot being a dactyl

    Adonic line = 5 syllables, a dactyl followed by a trochee

    (see below for more detail on these two components)

  3. The modern Sapphic scansion should look like this (Stressed or Long = L; unstressed or short = s )

    Quantitative Verse (L=long syllable * s=short syllable)

    with substituted spondee

  4. originally unrhymed, in the Middle Ages the stanza acquired rhyme, rhyme scheme abab. Because of the predominant use of trochee and dactyls the rhyme will generally be feminine or a 2 syllable rhyme with the last syllable unstressed.

    a Sappho fragment
    Sweet child, with garlands be thy tresses bound,
    Twine marjoram with woodbine, sprat with spray;
    The gods love those who come with chaplets crowned,
    From those ungarlanded they turn away
    --translated by A. C. Benson (1862 – 1925)

    (note this translation is in rhyme, which was added in the Middle Ages, the original Greek does not appear to be rhymed) I read, in the original Greek, Sappho calls the child by name (capitalized and speaks of Charities rather than using the word "gods").

    The Lamp by Sara Teasdale

    f I can bear your love like a lamp before me,
    When I go down the long steep Road of Darkness,
    I shall not fear the everlasting shadows,
    Nor cry in terror.

    If I can find out God, then I shall find Him;
    If none can find Him, then I shall sleep soundly,
    Knowing how well on earth your love sufficed me,
    A lamp in darkness.

    Transformation by Judi Van Gorder

    Passion, lust, consumed our beginnings fully.
    When did Eros turn without warning, changing
    greed to love? It happened deceptively,
                        tricking emotions.


    Sculptured Heart ~~jvg

    Here are fragments, shards to show bits of myself.
    Writing, I give glimpses into my bared heart,
    With each poem, I place a piece on shared shelf;                
                               life as displayed art.

    Adjustment ~~`jvg

    You choose to leave our home, our love, expecting                                           
    things to be the same whenever you return.
    Time brings change. I am still here but, I’m growing
    we have much to learn.

    Babies Born Here ~~jvg

    She cleans houses for cash, pays rent and feeds her
    children, alone. Surrounding words are strange. Home
    transplanted. Opportunity deferred.
    Sacrifice for them.

    Empty Excuse ~~jvg

    Hollowed out Easter egg, emptiness man-made,
    poked a hole in the end and sucked the egg dry
    leaving a thin shelled brightly painted charade,
    fragile alibi.

  • Adonic line is most often written as a parallel to a previous line. It is the last line of the Sapphic stanza. It is composed in 5 syllables, a dactyl followed by a trochee. It can also be found as a pattern for the refrain in song to honor Adonis, from which it derived its name.

    "death has come near me."
    last line of Like the gods
    . . . by Sappho 4th century BC

    edited by Richmond Lattimore
    Quantitative Verse

    Meaningless prattle. ---jvg

  • Sapphic line -Since the Renaissance period the Sapphic line has been recognized as being a 5 foot trochaic line with the central foot being a dactyl. Prior to the Renaissance period this 11 syllable trochaic pattern was known as the "lesser" Sapphic line and the Sapphic line was a combination of the lesser Sapphic line and an adonic line.

    After Renaissance Sapphic line Ls-Ls-Lss-Ls-Ls :                    
    Passion, lust, consumed our beginnings fully.

    Prior to Renaissance Sapphic line Ls-Ls-Lss-Ls-Ls,- Lss Ls :
    greed to love? It happened deceptively, tricking emotions.

    Apparently, the technical terms of "lesser" Sapphic and Sapphic lines have been corrupted over time.}

Sapphic Ode Sonnet is a contemporary invented sonnet form found at Poet's Collective.  It uses iambic rather than the more common Sapphic trochaic pattern however the quatrains do use the 3 line tetrameter and 4th line dimeter of the Sapphic stanza. The elements of the Sapphic Ode Sonnet are:

  1. a quatorzain made up of 3 quatrains followed by a couplet.
  2. metric, iambic, L1-L3 of each quatrain, tetrameter, L4 of each quatrain is dimeter, the concluding couplet is tetrameter.
  3. rhymed, rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg.
  4. pivot at the discretion of the poet.

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