What is the moral of "Hymn to Aphrodite"?

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If there is a true moral reasoning to Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite ," it may be that the pain in unrequited love is beyond transience—its feelings of longings are universal and timeless. The speaker calls on Aphrodite to help secure the affection of a lover reluctant to the...

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If there is a true moral reasoning to Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite," it may be that the pain in unrequited love is beyond transience—its feelings of longings are universal and timeless. The speaker calls on Aphrodite to help secure the affection of a lover reluctant to the speaker's advances.

At its core, this poem is a call in a lover's desperate moment. It is a poem about refused and unrequited love and the universal feeling of helplessness when our love is rejected. Sappho's poem is a human's plea for help when their heart feels broken. With that, if there is a moral message within the poem, it is about the universality of heartbreak and longing—even the longing for lost love.

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If we read Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite" as having a moral or message at all (as opposed to being a simple prayer or a description of the pains of loving), then it is to be found in Aphrodite's reassuring response to the speaker's petition. The goddess of love says that the one who runs away will soon follow her; the one who rejects her gifts will soon be giving them and will love her even if she no longer wants that love.

The moral here is that love is fickle and transitory. Today, the speaker burns with desire for one who disdains her. Tomorrow, these two positions may be completely reversed.

The fact that Aphrodite brings the speaker this comfort, of course, can be said to bear a moral about the importance of piety and paying respect to the gods if one is to be healed. Indeed, the verb θεραπεύω, from which the English word "therapy" is derived, means both to serve the gods and to heal sickness.

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Hymn to Aphrodite constitutes a prayer: Sapho asks for Aphrodite's assistance in persuading her lover to return.  Religion is important in understanding what this work would have meant for Sapho's audience and what its initial purpose would have been.  For the Greeks, Aphrodite would have been more than a symbol of love: during Sapho's time, Aphrodite was worshiped and believed to influence the realm of love and marriage.  

The moral is that worshipping the gods results in their help.  In Hymn to Aphrodite, we learn that worshipping Aphrodite and believing in her power leads to the prayer being answered.  Sapho emphasizes her respect for the goddess and acknowledges that she has helped her with past loves in stanzas 1-3.  In the end, Sapho's earnest plea results in Aphrodite helping her.  

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     Aphrodite is not only the god of love but is also an ideal of love itself. Sapho supplicates to Aphrodite that she is in anguish over a reluctant lover and asks for a reprieve. Aphrodite asks who the unwilling lover is this time indicating that this is not the first supplication. When the writer, Sapho, asks love to blossom in an unwilling participant she is gently reminded that she must wait for the spark to ignite on its own. The natural cycle of love is the theme and where there is love there is pain also.

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The moral of the Hymn to Aphrodite is that love can never be forced. Sappho, who is assumed to be the speaker in the poem, is asking for Aphrodite's help with an unrequited love. Although Sappho is an esteemed poet, she cannot force the other person to love her.

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