Letter of Mathios Paskalis

By George Seferis 1900–1971 George Seferis

Translated By Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

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.

Verina, life has ruined us, along with the Attic skies and the intellectuals clambering up their own heads
and the landscapes reduced by drought and hunger to posing
like young men selling their souls in order to wear a monocle
like young girls — sunflowers swallowing their heads so as to become lilies.

The days go by slowly; my own days circulate among the clocks dragging the second hand in tow.
Remember how we used to twist breathless through the alleys so as not to be gutted by the headlights of cars.
The idea of the world abroad enveloped us and closed us in like a net
and we left with a sharp knife hidden within us and you said ‘Harmodios and Aristogeiton’.

Verina, lower your head so that I can see you, though even if I were to see you I’d want to look beyond.
What’s a man’s value? What does he want and how will he justify his existence at the Second Coming?
Ah, to find myself on a derelict ship lost in the Pacific Ocean alone with the sea and the wind
alone and without a wireless or strength to fight the elements.



                                                      Kokkinaras, 5 August 1928

George Seferis, "Letter of Mathios Paskalis" from Collected Poems (George Seferis). Translated, edited, and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Copyright © 1995 by George Seferis.  Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

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

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet George Seferis 1900–1971

POET’S REGION Greece

Subjects Time & Brevity, Relationships, Living, Love, Men & Women, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Epistle

 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Relationships, Living, Love, Men & Women, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION Greece

Poetic Terms Epistle

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.