Arousal, Temptation, and Lustful Desire
A Figurative Analysis
Sweet Apple (105a, 105c, B93,B94)
Just like the sweet apple, reddening at the highest
branch, missed by the apple pickers –
They did not miss you!
They just couldn’t reach so
A literal reading of Sappho’s poem, “Sweet Apple” would appear to indicate that Sappho is referring to the reader as a sweet apple. However, by taking into account her use of particular figurative descriptors–sweet, apple, reddening–that are not universally applicable to the reader, one can infer that Sappho’s use of the term you has a specific individual in mind: the poem is specifically directed toward a feminine constructed desired individual. More importantly, an individual that although desired by multiple parties including Sappho, is deemed highly unattainable. Unattainable because it is the desired who is in position of choosing her lover rather than being chosen. Therefore, through a figurative analysis it can be derived that Sappho is making an appeal, portraying herself as the ideal choice by means of constructing others as inadequate since unlike Sappho, they don’t understand that their pursuits are grounded on arousal, temptation, and lustful desire.
Sappho begins the poem by using an extended simile imbued with symbolism to amplify the sensualized, feminine qualities inherent in the desired. Sappho’s description of the desired is likened to an apple, an apple that is sweet and reddening: “You’re just like the sweet apple, reddening at the highest branch” (Sappho 1-3). Thus, Sappho manages to appeal to readers on multiple levels through the use of sensual and symbolical references. Symbolically, the apple has been widely understood as a representation of the forbidden fruit, thus symbolizing temptation and forbidden desire. Additionally, by describing the desired as sweet, Sappho amplifies the sensuality that the desired individual connotes by portraying her to the likes of a desired fruit that is craved, and lusted after. One must keep in mind that Sappho (who also happens to be a symbol of female homosexuality) is speaking within the context of a patriarchal society, thus, such feminine descriptors would imply that the desired is indeed a woman. Therefore, within this context, the notion of a reddening apple is to be understood as a woman in a continuous state of arousal. Consequently, this is an arousal taking place in both the desired and those who desire her.
This dual arousal can be better understood by analyzing the two ways in which the term apple is effectively structured within the sentence. Through the use of an antanaclasis, Sappho re-construes who the apple is intended to represent. Initially, Sappho is using the singular term apple to connote the desired with forbiddance and lust. Following this, Sappho uses apple as a collocation paired with the term pickers to describe those who pursue the desired: “missed by the apple pickers” (Sappho 3). The same term (apple) is now representing those who desire, in addition to representing the desired. However, keeping in mind what the apple initially connotes, the juxtaposition of forces through a singular term allows both pursuer and pursued to become equally imbued with arousal, lust, and temptation.
Now, in order to understand Sappho’s positionality between the two juxtaposed forces it is vital to understand the multiple interrelated meanings construed in the term missed. Missed, functions as a double entende, expressing double meanings. A literal reading would appear to indicate that missed literally means failing to reach: “missed by the apple pickers” (Sappho 3). This meaning that those who pursue the desired are failing to attain it. The secondary meaning comes into play through the use of a hyperbaton. A hyperbaton scheme allows Sappho to place emphasis on the term missed in order to connote a different meaning. For example, a traditional sentence would look as follows: the apple pickers missed, rather than, “missed by the apple pickers" (Sappho 3). Missed can be understood as both failing to reach, in addition to a feeling of longing that often comes from a perceived loss. Therefore, the stanza indicates that the apple pickers both failed to attain and also actively long for the desired.
Toward the end of passage I, Sappho’s position between the juxtaposed forces is clarified through the use of a correctio in addition to an anaphora scheme. A correctio allows Sappho to take an assertive stance, rather than passive. She exclaims, “But no, they did not miss you!” (Sappho 4-5). She is addressing the desired, exclaiming that those who pursue her, do/did not miss her, although it might seem as such do to their longing and reaching. This idea is strengthened through the use of an anaphora: “They did not miss you! They just couldn’t reach so high!” (Sappho 5-6). By using the term they twice she is emphasizing that stark contrast between herself, and they. Through such contrast it is implied that Sappho’s understands that workings of lust, temptation, and arousal, unlike other pursuers.
By Sappho positioning herself as an overseer to the situation between the desired and those who desire, she is able to explain it, describe it, and place herself in a position of superior knowledge. To conclude, the pursuers pursue because they feel a longing and desire without being self-conscious regarding what grounds these emotions. While Sappho may also be a victim of temptation, arousal, and lustful desire, that fact the she can recognize this indicates her ability to build a more genuine connection in comparison to those who blindly pursue, thus making her an ideal choice.