Sappho’s Fragment 16

A troop of horse, the serried ranks of marchers,
A noble fleet, some think these of all on earth
Most beautiful. For me naught else regarding
Is my beloved.

To understand this is for all most simple,
For thus gazing much on mortal perfection
And knowing already what life could give her,
Him chose fair Helen,

Him the betrayer of Ilium’s honour.
Then recked she not of adored child or parent,
But yielded to love, and forced by her passion,
Dared Fate in exile.

Thus quickly is bent the will of that woman
To whom things near and dear seem to be nothing.
So mightest thou fail, My Anactoria,
If she were with you.

She whose gentle footfall and radiant face
Hold the power to charm more than a vision
Of chariots and the mail-clad battalions
Of Lydia’s army.

So must we learn in a world made as this one
Man can never attain his greatest desire,
But must pray for what good fortune Fate holdeth,
Never unmindful.

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