No word in English does not convey all the shades of the word “melancholy”. In its greatest depth and painfulness is the feeling of great spiritual suffering without any particular reason. At a less painful level – the unclear pain of the soul, the passionate desire in the absence of the object of desire, painful languor, vague anxiety, mental suffering, a strong desire. In some cases this may be the desire of someone or something specific, nostalgia, loving longing. At the lowest level, anguish passes into ennui, boredom.
by Charles August Mengin, 1877
Sappho was an archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Sappho wrote lyric poetry and is best known for her poems about love and women. Most of Sappho’s poetry is now lost, and what is extant has survived only in fragmentary form, except for one complete poem – the “Ode to Aphrodite”.
Deathless Aphrodite, throned in flowers,
Daughter of Zeus, O terrible enchantress,
With this sorrow, with this anguish, break my spirit
Lady, not longer!
Hear anew the voice! O hear and listen!
Come, as in that island dawn thou camest,
Billowing in thy yoked car to Sappho
Forth from thy father’s
Golden house in pity! … I remember:
Fleet and fair thy sparrows drew thee, beating
Fast their wings above the dusky harvests,
Down the pale heavens,
Lightning anon! And thou, O blest and brightest,
Smiling with immortal eyelids, asked me:
‘Maiden, what betideth thee? Or wherefore
Callest upon me?
‘What is here the longing more than other,
Here in this mad heart? And who the lovely
One beloved that wouldst lure to loving?
Sappho, who wrongs thee?
‘See, if now she flies, she soon must follow;
Yes, if spurning gifts, she soon must offer;
Yes, if loving not, she soon must love thee,
Come again to me! O now! Release me!
End the great pang! And all my heart desireth
Now of fulfillment, fulfill! O Aphrodite,
Fight by my shoulder!
by Lyle Ashton Harris
by Max Klinger
by David Manzur