An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Spring 2016

The New “Brothers Poem” by Sappho

Rachel C. Hadas
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The “Brothers Poem” was one of two textual fragments by the poet Sappho recently discovered on a papyrus. The poem—which may be a sister’s prayer for the safe return of one brother, a merchant sailor, and the growth to maturity of another brother—is here translated into English by Rachel Hadas.

RACHEL HADAS, a Fellow of the American Academy since 1995, is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey–Newark.

Chatter, rumors: Ooh, Charaxos has come
safe, ship laden—he is back at home!

If you ask me, that is the gods’ concern.
Don’t think about it.

Better send me to pour out a stream
of supplications; tell me to pray to Queen
Hera: May Charaxos steer safely home.
And may he find us

safe and well. And let us please leave all
the rest to heaven. Out of a stormy squall
a divine calm suddenly can prevail,
if that is how

the king of heaven wills it. Some power may
from rough waters steer us skillfully
toward blessings and prosperity.
As for our family,

if Larichos would only lift his head,
leave his childhood, grow to a man instead,
then we from this weight of depression would
finally be free.

This translation, reprinted with permission of the Times Literary Supplement, was first published in the May 2, 2014, issue of the Times Literary Supplement.

For a brief discussion of the “Brothers Poem” by Sappho, see the introduction to this issue, page 17, endnote 13.