Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Songs Of Bilitis by Pierre Louÿs

Pierre Louÿs was a nineteenth century French author known for lesbian and classical themes in his writing. His short work The Songs of Bilitis includes both of these themes. It is a sensual collection of prose poems that were originally published as translations from the ancient Greek. Louÿs alleged that Bilitis was an actual lesbian poetess from Sapphic antiquity. But this was a hoax; Bilitis and the poems are the creation of Louÿs.

Many of the short prose poems are very beautiful. Some are erotic, but in a subtle rather than graphic or lascivious way. I rather enjoyed the short work. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I read two translations of The Songs of Bilitis. One by Michael Buck published by Capricorn Books in 1966. The other by Mary Hanson Harrison published in 1995 by Evanston Publishing. Buck's translation is more archaic, a thee and thou kind of translation. Harrison's uses more modern language. Both are beautiful in their own way, but Harrison's is often easier to read. Harrison's translation is part of Two Erotic Tales by Pierre Louÿs, which includes The Songs of Bilitis as well as Aphrodite, a better known work by Louÿs.


Read for:

  • Decades Challenge (1920s)

  • What's In A Name Challenge (Music Term In The Title)

  • GLBT Challenge

1 comment:

Beth F said...

Interesting. I don't seem to read much poetry (even prose poetry). I liked the idea that he tried to present Bilitis as a real person.