Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's That Time Again


In these all-white courtyards where the south wind blows
Whistling through vaulted arcades, tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree
That leaps in the light, scattering its fruitful laughter
With windy willfulness and whispering, tell me, is it the mad
   pomegranate tree
That quivers with foliage newly born at dawn
Raising high its colours in a shiver of triumph?

On plains where the naked girls awake,
When they harvest clover with their light brown arms
Roaming round the borders of their dreams-tell me, is it the mad
   pomegranate tree,
Unsuspecting, that puts the lights in their verdant baskets
That floods their names with the singing of birds-tell me
Is it the mad pomegranate tree that combats the cloudy skies of the

On the day that it adorns itself in jealousy with seven kinds of feathers,
Girding the eternal sun with a thousand blinding prisms
Tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree
That seizes on the run a horse’s mane of a hundred lashes,
Never sad and never grumbling–tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree
That cries out the new hope now dawning?
Tell me, is that the pomegranate tree waving in the distance,
Fluttering a handkerchief of leaves of cool flame,
A sea near birth with a thousand ships and more,
With waves that a thousand times and more set out and go
To unscented shores-tell me, is it the pomegranate tree
That creaks the rigging aloft in the lucid air?

High as can be, with the blue bunch of grapes that flares and celebrates
Arrogant, full of danger–tell me, is it the mad pomegranate tree
That shatters with light the demon’s tempest in the middle of the world
That spreads far as can be the saffron ruffle of day
Richly embroider with scattered songs-tell me, is it the mad
  pomegranate tree
That hastily unfastens the silk apparel of day?

In petticoats of April first and cicadas of the feast of mid-August
Tell me, that which plays, that which rages, that which can entice
Shaking out of threats their evil black darkness
Spilling in the sun’s embrace intoxicating birds
Tell me, that which opens its wings on the breast of things
On the breast of our deepest dreams, is that the mad pomegranate tree?

--Odysseus Elytis, translation by Edmund Keeley


  1. Well that is just gorgeous. Thanks so much for it!

  2. My pleasure--if you were here, I'd offer you some rubies in exchange for your words.

  3. A poetry in these trees, filled with the blood of Adonis, from the isle of Simi -- perhaps even more precious than rubies?

  4. Pomegranate--rooted in Greek song and poetry:

    Young Fate

    Naked woman
    the pomegranate that broke
    was full of stars.

    --#9 of Seferis' 16 Haiku

  5. I shall know soon. I saw a strange tree next to a vineyard. I asked the rancher what it was. Pomegranate, the answer. "When? When will the fruit be ripe and red?" I asked. Late October, the answer. Next week I will know it intimately...with my eyes, my hands, my tongue, as will the treasure chest of my lense.

  6. please let me
    know if

    the seeds that broke

    your starry eyes

  7. Cytherea was riding in her dainty chariot, winged by her swans, across the middle air making for Cyprus, when she heard afar Adonis' dying groans, and thither turned her snowy birds and, when from heaven on high she saw him lifeless, writhing in his blood, she rent her garments, tore her lovely hair, and bitterly beat her breast, and springing down reproached fate: ‘Even so, not everything shall own your sway. Memorials of my sorrow, Adonis, shall endure; each passing year your death repeated in the hearts of men shall re-enact my grief and my lament. But now your blood shall change into a flower . . . shall I be begrudged the right to change my prince?’

    And with these words she sprinkled nectar, sweet-scented, on his blood, which at the touch swelled up, as on a pond when showers fall clear bubbles form; and ere an hour had passed a blood-red flower arose, like the rich bloom of pomegranates which in a stubborn rind conceal their seeds; yet is its beauty brief, so lightly cling it petals, fall so soon, when the winds blow that give the flower [anemone] its name."

    Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. (trans. Melville)

  8. Such a flowering example of beautiful mythological transubstantiation...


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