George Seferis

G
George Seferis
The Companions in Hades
fools, who ate the cattle of Helios Hyperion;
but he deprived them of the day of their return.
— Odyssey Since we still had some hardtack
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Epiphany, 1937
The flowering sea and the mountains in the moon’s waning
the great stone close to the Barbary figs and the asphodels
the jar that refused to go dry at the end of day
and the closed bed by the cypress trees and your hair
golden; the stars of the Swan and that other star, Aldebaran.

I’ve kept a rein on my life, kept a rein on my life, travelling
among yellow trees in driving rain
on silent slopes loaded with beech leaves,
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Erotikos Logos
I

Rose of fate, you looked for ways to wound us
yet you bent like the secret about to be released
and the command you chose to give us was beautiful
and your smile was like a ready sword.

The ascent of your cycle livened creation
from your thorn emerged the way’s thought
our impulse dawned naked to possess you
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Helen
Teucer: . . . in sea-girt Cyprus, where it was decreed
by Apollow that I should live, giving the city
the name of Salamis in memory of my island home.
. . . . . . . . . .
Helen: I never went to Troy; it was a phantom.
. . . . . . . . . .
Servant: What? You mean it was only for a cloud
that we struggled so much?

— Euripides, Helen
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In the Goddess’s Name I Summon You. . .
Oil on limbs,
maybe a rancid smell
as on the chapel’s
oil-press here,
as on the rough pores
of the unturning stone.

Oil on hair
wreathed in rope
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The King of Asini
’Ασíνην τε. . . — Iliad All morning long we looked around the citadel
starting from the shaded side there where the sea
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The Last Day
The day was cloudy. No one could come to a decision;
a light wind was blowing. ‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ someone said.
A few slender cypresses nailed to the slope, and, beyond, the sea
grey with shining pools.
The soldiers presented arms as it began to drizzle.
‘Not a north-easter, the sirocco,’ was the only decision heard.
And yet we knew that by the following dawn
nothing would be left to us, neither the woman drinking sleep at our side
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Letter of Mathios Paskalis
The skyscrapers of New York will never know the coolness that comes down on Kifisia
but when I see the two cypress trees above your familiar church
with the paintings of the damned being tortured in fire and brimstone
then I recall the two chimneys behind the cedars I used to like so much when I was abroad.

All through March rheumatism wracked your lovely loins and in summer you went to Aidipsos.
God! what a struggle it is for life to keep going, as though it were a swollen river passing through the eye of a needle.
Heavy heat till nightfall, the stars discharging midges, I myself drinking bitter lemonades and still remaining thirsty;
Moon and movies, phantoms and the suffocating pestiferous harbour.
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An Old Man on the River Bank
To Nani Panayíotopoulo And yet we should consider how we go forward.
To feel is not enough, nor to think, nor to move
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Our Sun
This sun was mine and yours; we shared it.
Who’s suffering behind the golden silk, who’s dying?
A woman beating her dry breasts cried out: ‘Cowards,
they’ve taken my children and torn them to shreds, you’ve killed them
gazing at the fire-flies at dusk with a strange look,
lost in blind thought.’
The blood was drying on a hand that a tree made green,
a warrior was asleep clutching the lance that cast light against his side.
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Spring A. D.
Again with spring
she wore light colours
and with gentle steps
again with spring
again in summer
she was smiling.

Among fresh blossoms
breast naked to the veins
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‘Thrush’
I

The house near the sea

The houses I had they took away from me. The times
happened to be unpropitious: war, destruction, exile;
sometimes the hunter hits the migratory birds,
sometimes he doesn’t hit them. Hunting
was good in my time, many felt the pellet;
the rest circle aimlessly or go mad in the shelters.
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Mythistorema
1

The angel —
three years we waited for him, attention riveted,
closely scanning
the pines the shore the stars.
One with the blade of the plough or the ship’s keel
we were searching to find once more the first seed
so that the age-old drama could begin again.
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