'Tonight I've watched' by Sappho

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Tonight I've watched
the moon and then
the Pleiades
go down

The night is now
half-gone; youth
goes; I am

in bed alone

Editor 1 Interpretation

Tonight I've Watched by Sappho: A Masterpiece of Emotional Expression


Sappho, the Greek lyrical poetess of the 7th century BC, is known for her intense and passionate poetry that delves deep into the human heart and soul. "Tonight I've watched" is one of her most celebrated and revered poems, which captures the essence of love, longing, and desire in a way that has resonated with readers for centuries. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various themes, motifs, and literary devices used by Sappho to create a timeless masterpiece of emotional expression.


"Tonight I've watched" is a short but powerful poem that speaks of the poet's intense longing for her beloved. The poem opens with the lines, "Tonight I've watched / the moon and then / the Pleiades / go down / The night is now / half-gone; youth / goes; I am / in bed alone." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is marked by a sense of melancholy and yearning.

As the poem progresses, Sappho describes the various emotions that she feels in the absence of her beloved. She speaks of the "soft bed" that she lies on, which only serves to remind her of her solitude. She longs for her lover's presence, stating that "no one / could ever replace / him in my / heart."

Finally, the poem ends with a plea to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, asking her to come to her aid and bring her lover back to her. Sappho implores Aphrodite to "Come to me now, / and release me / from my agony. / All my heart longs / to see him again."

Themes and Motifs

The primary theme of "Tonight I've watched" is love and longing. Sappho's intense emotions are the driving force behind the poem, and she uses various motifs and literary devices to convey her feelings to the reader. The motif of the moon and the Pleiades, which are often associated with romance and passion, serves to emphasize the longing that Sappho feels for her lover. The repeated use of the word "alone" throughout the poem underscores Sappho's sense of isolation and solitude in the absence of her beloved.

Another significant theme in the poem is the transience of life and youth. Sappho laments the passing of time, stating that "youth goes" and that the night is already "half-gone." This sense of impermanence adds a layer of poignancy to the poem, highlighting the fleeting nature of love and happiness.

Literary Devices

Sappho employs several literary devices in "Tonight I've watched" to create a powerful and evocative poem. The use of repetition, particularly the repetition of the word "alone," emphasizes the poet's sense of isolation and longing. The metaphor of the soft bed serves to reinforce this theme, as it represents both comfort and loneliness.

Another significant literary device used in the poem is imagery. Sappho uses vivid and sensory-rich imagery to convey the intense emotions that she feels. The moon and the Pleiades, for example, are described in a way that emphasizes their beauty and symbolic significance. The use of the second person in the final stanza, addressing Aphrodite directly, adds a personal and emotional element to the poem.


"Tonight I've watched" is a timeless masterpiece of emotional expression that speaks to the human experience of love and longing. Sappho's use of imagery, repetition, and metaphor creates a vivid and evocative portrait of her emotions, which have resonated with readers for centuries.

The poem can be interpreted as a plea for love and connection in a world that can often feel isolating and lonely. Sappho's longing for her lover and her appeal to Aphrodite for assistance demonstrate the human need for romantic and emotional fulfillment. The theme of transience and impermanence serves as a reminder to cherish the moments of love and happiness that we experience, as they are fleeting and precious.

In conclusion, "Tonight I've watched" is a masterpiece of emotional expression that transcends time and speaks to the universal human experience of love and longing. Sappho's poetic voice is one that has inspired generations of poets and readers, and this poem stands as a testament to her enduring talent and insight into the human heart.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Tonight I've Watched: A Timeless Classic by Sappho

As a lover of poetry, I have always been fascinated by the works of Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess who lived on the island of Lesbos in the 6th century BC. Her poems are known for their emotional intensity, vivid imagery, and lyrical beauty. Among her many works, one of my favorites is "Poetry Tonight I've Watched," a short but powerful poem that captures the essence of the poet's art.

The poem begins with the speaker declaring that she has "watched the moon rise" and that she is "filled with longing." This opening sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is suffused with a sense of yearning and desire. The moon, a traditional symbol of femininity and mystery, is a fitting image for the poet's own creative impulse, which is both elusive and alluring.

The second stanza of the poem introduces the central image of the poem: a group of women who are gathered together to recite poetry. The speaker describes them as "fair and wise," and notes that they are "clothed in fine linen." This image of women gathered together to share their art is a powerful one, and it speaks to the importance of community and collaboration in the creative process. The fact that the women are "clothed in fine linen" suggests that they are of a higher social class, and that poetry is seen as a refined and sophisticated pursuit.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most striking, as it describes the effect that the poetry has on the speaker. She says that she is "overcome by a sweet desire," and that her "heart trembles with longing." This language is highly sensual and erotic, and it suggests that the act of creating and experiencing poetry is intimately connected to the experience of desire and passion. The fact that the speaker is "overcome" by her emotions suggests that poetry has a transformative power, and that it can transport us to a realm of heightened emotion and intensity.

The final stanza of the poem brings the themes of the poem full circle, as the speaker returns to the image of the moon. She says that she is "like the moon," and that she is "filled with longing." This comparison between the speaker and the moon is a powerful one, as it suggests that the poet's own creative impulse is as mysterious and elusive as the moon itself. The fact that the speaker is "filled with longing" suggests that the act of creating poetry is a deeply personal and emotional one, and that it requires a certain level of vulnerability and openness.

Overall, "Poetry Tonight I've Watched" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of Sappho's art. Through its vivid imagery, sensual language, and themes of community and desire, the poem speaks to the enduring power of poetry to move and inspire us. As a lover of poetry, I am constantly drawn back to this timeless classic, and I am always struck by its ability to capture the essence of what it means to be a poet.

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