Seven Lyrics from Sappho

Seven Lyrics from Sappho2017-03-13T18:31:33+00:00

Project Description

10 min.

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Preview Score


  1. At noon time
  2. With his venom
  3. Pain
  4. Without warning
  5. Afraid of losing you
  6. Day in, day out
  7. Tell me

Program Note

The affairs of the human heart are timeless. The ancient poetry of Sappho hits the modern heart as directly as it did her contemporaries. Fragmentary lines are all that remains of her work, lines such as:

Pain penetrates me drop by drop.


Without warning, as a whirlwind swoops on an oak, love shakes my heart.


Day in, day out, I hunger and struggle.

My brief chorale settings are madrigal-like, using old-style word painting in a modern musical context.

To the conductor:

These seven pieces can be performed in order as a set. Since the texts are so brief, it will enhance the performance to have each one read aloud by a single voice before the text is heard in its choral setting. Singing should follow reading without significant pause, and the whole performance should be paced so that the music is heard as a single work in seven sections.

It is also possible to perform some of the pieces individually, or to make other sets of three or more pieces as you see fit.

Texts are from Sappho, A New Translation by Mary Barnard, which is published by University of California Press, Berkeley.


  1. At noon time – When the earth is bright with flaming heat falling straight down – The cricket sets up a high-pitched singing in his wings.
  2. With his venom – Irresistable and bittersweet. The loosener of limbs, love – Reptile-like strikes me down.
  3. Pain penetrates me drop by drop.
  4. Without warning. As a whirlwind swoops on an oak, love shakes my heart.
  5. Afraid of losing you, I ran fluttering like a little girl after her mother.
  6. Day in, day out I hunger and I struggle.
  7. Tell me, out of all mankind, whom do you love better than you love me?

Further Reading