Calligraphy

June 13, 2007 at 12:39 pm 1 comment

Giorgos Seferis

Listen

Sails on the Nile,
songless birds with one wing
searching silently for the other;
groping in the sky’s absence
for the body of a marble youth;
inscribing on the blue with invisible ink
a desperate cry.

(translated from the Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

Another day, another overlooked poet. I’m very fond of Seferis – his poems are lyrical and, to me, quasi-mythic, in that they evoke a yearning for an imagined past. It may just be my imagination putting in a little overtime, but I always seem to sense beneath the metaphors and images of Seferis’ work (which are glorious in themselves) what Keats would call “the shadow of a magnitude”. There is nothing postured about Seferis’ engagement with legend, his is a tradition of lived myth, as though it were only yesterday that he, a simple sailor, had stepped off the ship on the shores of Circe and watched his beloved Elpenor die.

Today’s poem is short and simple – a quick flutter of images passing vividly before the eye. I’m not so hot about “the body of a marble youth” bit, but I think both the “songless birds with one wing” image, and the image of the sails like nibs writing their invisible message across the sky are stunning.

[falstaff]

P.S. Seferis was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. You can read his Nobel Prize Lecture here, with it’s introduction to the evolution of Greek Poetry.

Entry filed under: Edmund Keeley, English, Giorgos Seferis, Greek, Philip Sherrard. Tags: .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Equivocal  |  June 16, 2007 at 6:32 am

    “Another day, another overlooked poet.” I like that– sigh, how true. How true with Seferis as well. I somehow skipped him when, a couple of years ago, I followed the Cavafy trail to Ritsos and around; thanks for pointing him out to me again.

    Reply

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