Sunday, January 09, 2005

Only a Small Piece

Throughout this past week, I've been remembering what Prof. Kuin noted in class about the authoress, Sappho. How interesting it is that in some cases, we only have small pieces of her works left behind to learn about her from. Can you imagine if, in the case of William Shakespeare or Christopher Marlow, we only had "pieces" of their sonnets or plays from which to judge their capabilities as authors! What if Sonnet 129 was missing all but lines 9-12:

" Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream. "

Surely we would fail to understand him on the same level that we do now when considering all of the work of his that has survived the centuries! Key phrases and ideas have been eliminated, and force us to perhaps draw different conclusions about the meaning of this poem. Furthermore, this sonnet makes no sense metrically--if we didn't know that it was a sonnet originally, perhaps we might not have even deemed it to be a work of Shakespeare and would have given credit for its creation to one of Shakespeare's contemporaries.

Likewise, with respect to Sappho's poetry, maybe we're completely missing the mark on judging who she was because we lack as much physical remains with respect to her work in comparison to Shakespeare. Perhaps why Chris Couto (fellow classmate) found one of Sappho's poems (entitled "I Have No Complaint") difficult to understand in parts--perhaps this wasn't particular poem is not a complete poem created by Sappho; its incompleteness forcing us to become confused!!

How interesting it becomes to study poetry when we only have a small amount of surviving works of a particular author left from which to draw conclusions about that poetry, and about the author aswell.


Blogger maryec said...

How interesting it is... hmm, I would say how frustrating it is not to know what was being said and wanting to know but being unable to know.

You know what I mean?

Interesting thought.

January 12, 2005 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger chriscouto said...

That is so true!!! When I picked that peom by Sappho and looked at it and wrote it, that thought had never crossed my mind. I agree with you in that poetry can become even more interesting with only bits and pieces of an artists' work surviving. I think it demands more of our minds and creates a further openess to the work. Though poetry and art in general I think don't need any help in being ambiguous the tool of time can throw many curves at those studying the meaning of the work. However though the meanings of the each poem of
Sappho can be hard to determine or even impossible to determine considering the circumstances who Sappho was as a writer can, I think, be accurate as various pieces of various works can be studied. After scholars study so many different artifacts I believe they can to a certain extent understand what angle is being written from. On the other hand we sometimes have difficulty understanding those that whose work survived the test of time..

January 15, 2005 at 9:55 AM  

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