Erotikos Logos

By George Seferis 1900–1971 George Seferis

Translated By Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

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
the world was easy: a simple pulsation.



          II

The secrets of the sea are forgotten on the shores
the darkness of the depths is forgotten in the surf;
the corals of memory suddenly shine purple. . .
O do not stir. . . listen to hear its light

motion. . . you touched the tree with the apples
the hand reached out, the thread points the way and guides you. . .
O dark shivering in the roots and the leaves
if it were but you who would bring the forgotten dawn!

May lilies blossom again on the meadow of separation
may days open mature, the embrace of the heavens,
may those eyes alone shine in the glare
the pure soul be outlined like the song of a flute.

Was it night that shut its eyes? Ashes remain,
as from the string of a bow a choked hum remains,
ash and dizziness on the black shore
and dense fluttering imprisoned in surmise.

Rose of the wind, you knew but took us unknowing
at a time when thought was building bridges
so that fingers would knit and two fates pass by
and spill into the low and rested light.



          III

O dark shivering in the roots and the leaves!
Come forth sleepless form in the gathering silence
raise your head from your cupped hands
so that your will be done and you tell me again

the words that touched and merged with the blood like an embrace;
and let your desire, deep like the shade of a walnut tree, bend
and flood us with your lavish hair
from the down of the kiss to the leaves of the heart.

You lowered your eyes and you had the smile
that masters of another time humbly painted.
Forgotten reading from an ancient gospel,
your words breathed and your voice was gentle:

‘The passing of time is soft and unworldly
and pain floats lightly in my soul
dawn breaks in the heavens, the dream remains afloat
and it’s as if scented shrubs were passing.

‘With my eyes’ startling, with my body’s blush
a flock of doves awakens and descends
their low, circling flight entangles me
the stars are a human touch on my breast.

‘I hear, as in a sea shell, the distant
adverse and confused lament of the world
but these are moments only, they disappear,
and the two-branched thought of my desire reigns alone.

‘It seemed I’d risen naked in a vanished recollection
when you came, strange and familiar, my beloved
to grant me, bending, the boundless deliverance
I was seeking from the wind’s quick sistrum. . .’

The broken sunset declined and was gone
and it seemed a delusion to ask for the gifts of the sky.
You lowered your eyes. The moon’s thorn blossomed
and you became afraid of the mountain’s shadows.

. . . In the mirror how our love diminishes
in sleep the dreams, school of oblivion
in the depths of time, how the heart contracts
and vanishes in the rocking of a foreign embrace. . .



          IV

Two serpents, beautiful, apart, tentacles of separation
crawl and search, in the night of the trees,
for a secret love in hidden bowers;
sleepless they search, they neither drink nor eat.

Circling, twisting, their insatiable intent
spins, multiplies, turns, spreads rings on the body
which the laws of the starry dome silently govern,
stirring its hot, irrepressible frenzy.

The forest stands as a shivering pillar for night
and the silence is a silver cup where moments fall
echoes distinct, whole, a careful chisel
sustained by carved lines. . .

The statue suddenly dawns. But the bodies have vanished
in the sea in the wind in the sun in the rain.
So the beauties nature grants us are born
but who knows if a soul hasn’t died in the world.

The parted serpents must have circled in fantasy
(the forest shimmers with birds, shoots, blossoms)
their wavy searching still remains,
like the turnings of the cycle that bring sorrow.



          V

Where is the double-edged day that had changed everything?
Won’t there be a navigable river for us?
Won’t there be a sky to drop refreshing dew
for the soul benumbed and nourished by the lotus?

On the stone of patience we wait for the miracle
that opens the heavens and makes all things possible
we wait for the angel as in the age-old drama
at the moment when the open roses of twilight

disappear. . . Red rose of the wind and of fate,
you remained in memory only, a heavy rhythm
rose of the night, you passed, undulating purple
undulation of the sea. . . The world is simple.


                                          Athens, October ’29—December ’30

George Seferis, "Erotikos Logos" from Collected Poems (George Seferis). Copyright © 1995 by George Seferis.  Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

Source: George Seferis: Collected Poems (Princeton University Press, 1995)

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Poet George Seferis 1900–1971

POET’S REGION Greece

Subjects Relationships, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Living, Philosophy

 George  Seferis

Biography

Greek poet George Seferis was born Georgios Seferiades in Urla, near Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey). He worked as a diplomat for the Royal Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1963. His collections of poetry include Strophe (Turning Point, 1931), E Sterna (The Cistern, 1932), Mythistorima (1935), and Logbook I, Logbook II, and Logbook III (1940, 1945, 1955). In 1914, Seferis and his family . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Living, Philosophy

POET’S REGION Greece

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