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A GREEK TRAGEDY

Alison Chisholm visits a familiar poetic destination to explore a contemporary tragic theme

For centuries the Greek island of Lesbos (or Lesvos, as seen here with its more accurately phonetic spelling), has been synonymous with poetry. The poet Sappho was born there in the seventh century BC. An aristocrat, she married a wealthy merchant, and became one of the most highly respected lyrists and one of the few known female poets of her day.

At the time, poetry was often recited to a background of lyre music, and Sappho composed her own. She devised set forms of poetry that are still in use today, with the unrhymed Sapphic quatrain consisting of three lines of two trochees, a dactyl, two trochees each, and a shorter fourth line with a dactyl and a trochee.

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