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Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 359

Unrequited Love

One theme of this poem could simply address how painful it is when one's loving or romantic feelings for another aren't returned. The speaker, Sappho herself, is clearly in a lot of pain—she calls it a "torment" that "Crush[es] down [her] spirit"—because the woman she romantically pursues does...

(The entire section contains 359 words.)

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Unrequited Love

One theme of this poem could simply address how painful it is when one's loving or romantic feelings for another aren't returned. The speaker, Sappho herself, is clearly in a lot of pain—she calls it a "torment" that "Crush[es] down [her] spirit"—because the woman she romantically pursues does not submit to her pursuit or return her feelings. Sappho describes the "bitter care" of her feelings of rejection. She is so upset that she begs Aphrodite to come down from Mount Olympus and help her—not for the first time, apparently—and alleviate the "sting" of her passion. The speaker must be in some considerable pain in order to make such a request.

Rejection and Power

Another theme could be that being rejected can compel a person to focus more on those feelings that seem to constitute a loss of personal power rather than on their once-romantic feelings. The speaker does not seem to consider the romantic feelings she possesses, or at least not primarily; rather, she focuses on her own "anguish," the "pain of [her] frantic mind," the "sting of [her] passion," and the abuse and cruelty that she feels as a result of her rejection.

In the end, the speaker actually seems to characterize the feelings between herself and this other woman as a battle. She says to Aphrodite,

Lady, in all my battles
Fight as my comrade.

Thus, she seems to imagine that she will fight many more "battles" of this nature as she begs the goddess to enter the fray alongside her. She does not think that this will be her last foray onto the battlefield, and so it seems now that she cares more about her rejection than she does her original feelings (or the feelings of the woman about whom she claims to care).

Nowhere in the poem is there the word "love" or even "lust," and the feelings of the speaker seem to emphasize power or powerlessness much more than they do love. Perhaps the sting of rejection has caused her to focus on her perceived loss of power in the relationship rather than her original desire for this other woman.

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