Saturday, September 3, 2011

Two Poems by George Seferis


At the hour when dreams come true,
at the first sweet glimmer of dawn,
I saw lips that opened
leaf by leaf.

A slim sickle shone in the sky.
I feared it would mow them down.

from “Summer Solstice,” part three of Three Secret Poems,
translated  by Walter Kaiser.


The Jasmine

Whether it gets dark
or light
the jasmine stays
always white.

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

NB: Some down-to-earth observers of the heavens will note that the sickle framed in jasmine is setting in the west and not rising in the east but that shouldn't distract them from noticing the celestialness of these two pieces.


  1. Vassilis,

    It's so beautiful always to come upon anew any work by this poet who must be among the very greatest.

    To write out of, and into, the burden of history, in such a way as to also lighten its weight upon us by reminding us that spirit has always been there also, to relieve the weight of suffering and time -- genius must be the word for this rare gift. Never more apropos than at this moment.

    (Why is it that with Seferis, even "Secret Poems" seem to open out beyond the personal, into the... "celestialness", as you so well put it, of everything in this world?)

    In common appreciation of a master, perhaps these hopeful attempts at setting his poems into dialogue with images might be of interest.

    George Seferis: Mathios Paskalis Among the Roses

    George Seferis: Memory I

    George Seferis: Under the Mask a Void: The King of Asine

    George Seferis: White Eyes

    Πολλά, πολλά ευχαριστώ!

  2. Tom,

    I should be the one to do the thanking: Though all these poems are very familiar, reading them once again next to your selection of striking images reminded me of just how much Seferis' poetry has meant to me: A real master and mentor I always find myself returning to whenever I need sustenance:

    A little farther
    we will see the almond trees blossoming
    the marble gleaming in the sun
    the sea breaking into waves

    a little farther,
    let us rise a little higher.

    --the penultimate poem from "Mythistorema"


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