'Tell everyone' by Sappho

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Tell everyone
now, today, I shall
sing beautifully for
my friends' pleasure

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Tell everyone": A Deep Dive into Sappho's Poetry


Sappho, the ancient Greek lyric poetess, is often referred to as the "tenth muse" for her musical and lyrical prowess. Her poetry, which was primarily intended to be sung and accompanied by a lyre, has inspired countless artists and writers throughout history. In this essay, we will focus on one of Sappho's most famous and powerful pieces, "Tell everyone."

The Poem

"Tell everyone" is a short but intense poem that captures the essence of desire and longing. Here's the full text of the poem in its original Greek:

Ἄγιον ἔρωτα μέλπετε, πότνιαι, θεαί,  
ὅστις τόνδ' ἀμφέπει κάλα δέρον  
ἀθανάτωι στεφάνων ἀπ' ἀμαρτάδος  
ἄφθιτον καλλίσφυρον ἦτορ ἔχων.  
τίς δ' ἄγει στέφανον ἢ τίς σε στέλλει  
πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἢ πρὸς ἀὔων ἀρχάς;  
ἀλλ' ἄγετε καὶ τὸν ἄντα καλὸν ἴδετε  
φαίδωνα λάμποντα θέοις ἐναντίον.

Here's a rough English translation of the poem:

Holy eros, sing, goddesses,
he who surrounds this beautiful skin,
having an immortal, unwilting, beautiful heart.
Who leads the crown, or who sends you
to the beginnings of evening or dawn?
But come and see the beautiful light,
shining bright before the gods.


At first glance, "Tell everyone" might seem like a simple love poem, but it's packed with rich imagery and symbolism. Let's break it down.

Holy Eros

The poem begins with an invocation to "Holy eros," the Greek god of love and desire. Eros was not only the god of romantic love, but also of the love between friends, family, and even enemies. By addressing eros as "holy," Sappho elevates him to the status of a god and emphasizes the sacredness of love and desire.

The Beautiful Skin and Unwilting Heart

The second line refers to the person who is the object of the speaker's desire. The speaker describes this person's "beautiful skin" and "unwilting, beautiful heart" as they are surrounded by eros. The use of the word "unwilting" suggests that the speaker is attracted to someone who is steadfast and unchanging, perhaps even immortal.

The Crown and the Dawn

The next two lines pose a series of questions about who is in charge of leading the crown (presumably a symbol of victory or achievement) and who is sending the object of desire to either the "beginnings of evening or dawn." The use of these two opposing times of day could be interpreted in a number of ways. Perhaps the speaker is suggesting that the object of desire has the power to control both the end and beginning of things, or that the speaker is unsure of when they will next see the object of desire.

The Beautiful Light

The final line urges the goddesses to come and see the "beautiful light" that is shining before the gods. This could be interpreted as a reference to the object of desire, who is described earlier as having a beautiful heart and surrounded by eros. The light could also be interpreted as a metaphor for the speaker's desire, which is shining bright and pure before the gods.


"Tell everyone" is a poem that is rich in symbolism and open to interpretation. It could be read as a simple love poem addressed to a specific person, or as an ode to the power and beauty of love and desire itself.

One possible interpretation is that the speaker is addressing eros as a way of expressing their own desire and longing. The questions posed in the poem could be seen as a way of asking eros for guidance or reassurance. The final line, in which the speaker urges the goddesses to come and see the beautiful light, could be interpreted as a plea for validation or recognition of the speaker's own desire.

Another possible interpretation is that the poem is a celebration of the power and beauty of love and desire. The speaker's descriptions of the object of desire as having a beautiful heart and being surrounded by eros could be seen as a metaphor for the transformative power of love. The questions about the crown and the dawn could be read as a way of acknowledging the many facets and mysteries of love.


"Tell everyone" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the intensity and complexity of desire. By invoking the Greek god of love and desire, Sappho elevates the subject matter to a sacred level and imbues it with a sense of mystery and wonder. Whether read as a personal confession or a celebration of love itself, "Tell everyone" is a timeless reminder of the enduring power of desire and the beauty of human connection.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Tell Everyone: A Masterpiece by Sappho

Sappho, the Greek poetess, is known for her lyrical poetry that captures the essence of love, beauty, and desire. Among her many works, "Tell Everyone" stands out as a masterpiece that showcases her poetic genius and emotional depth. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this poem and explore why it continues to resonate with readers even after thousands of years.


Sappho lived in the 7th century BCE on the island of Lesbos, which was known for its vibrant culture and artistic traditions. She was a member of a wealthy and influential family and received an education that was rare for women at that time. Sappho was renowned for her poetry, which was often performed at public events and gatherings. However, most of her works have been lost over time, and only fragments remain.

"Tell Everyone" is one of the few complete poems that have survived from Sappho's oeuvre. It is a love poem that expresses the speaker's desire for her beloved and urges her friends to spread the word of her passion. The poem is written in Sapphic meter, which is a complex form of verse that consists of three long lines followed by a short one. This meter was named after Sappho, who was its most famous practitioner.


The poem begins with the speaker addressing her beloved and declaring her love for her. She describes her beloved's beauty and compares her to the goddess Aphrodite, who was the embodiment of love and desire in Greek mythology. The speaker's use of the word "sweet" to describe her beloved's smile and voice conveys a sense of tenderness and affection.

"Tell everyone: her lovely laughter All her brightness; her sweet fragrance Is sweeter than any other."

The second stanza of the poem is addressed to the speaker's friends, whom she urges to spread the word of her love. She asks them to go to her beloved and tell her how much she longs for her. The repetition of the phrase "tell her" emphasizes the urgency of the speaker's desire and her need for her beloved's affection.

"Tell her I love the true meaning Of love, and that she alone, my moon, Is the one I long for."

The third stanza of the poem is a plea to the goddess Aphrodite to help the speaker in her quest for love. The speaker invokes the goddess's name and asks her to come to her aid. She describes her own heart as "fluttering" and "faltering," which suggests that she is overwhelmed by her emotions and needs divine intervention to find happiness.

"Come to me now, if ever before, O goddess, hear my prayer and grant it. Make my heart flutter and falter."

The final stanza of the poem is a repetition of the first, with a slight variation. The speaker once again addresses her beloved and describes her beauty, but this time she adds a note of sadness and longing. She says that her heart is "aching" and that she cannot bear to be apart from her beloved. The use of the word "aching" conveys a sense of physical pain and emphasizes the intensity of the speaker's emotions.

"Tell everyone: her lovely laughter All her brightness; her sweet fragrance Is sweeter than any other. But my heart is aching, and I cannot bear it."


"Tell Everyone" is a poem that captures the essence of love and desire in a way that is both timeless and universal. The speaker's passionate plea for her beloved and her invocation of the goddess Aphrodite resonate with readers across cultures and generations. The poem is a celebration of the beauty of love and the power of desire, but it is also a lament for the pain and longing that come with unrequited love.

Sappho's use of language and imagery in the poem is masterful. The repetition of certain phrases and the use of metaphors and similes create a sense of rhythm and musicality that is characteristic of her style. The comparison of the beloved to the goddess Aphrodite and the use of the word "moon" to describe her convey a sense of otherworldly beauty and perfection.

The poem is also significant for its portrayal of same-sex love. Sappho was known for her love of women, and many of her poems express her desire for them. "Tell Everyone" is one of the few poems that explicitly addresses a female beloved, and it is a testament to Sappho's courage and honesty in expressing her sexuality.


"Tell Everyone" is a poem that continues to captivate readers with its beauty and emotional depth. Sappho's mastery of language and imagery, combined with her portrayal of same-sex love, make this poem a timeless masterpiece. The speaker's passionate plea for her beloved and her invocation of the goddess Aphrodite are a testament to the power of love and desire, and a reminder that these emotions are universal and enduring.

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