Archive for the ‘George Seferis’ Category

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ΜΥΘΙΣΤΟΡΗΜΑ ΚΔ’

Εδώ τελειώνουν τα έργα της θάλασσας, τα έργα της αγάπης.
Εκείνοι που κάποτε θα ζήσουν εδώ που τελειώνουμε
άν τύχει και μαυρίσει στη μνήμη τους το αίμα και ξεχειλίσει
άς μη μας ξεχάσουν, τις αδύναμες ψυχές μέσα στ’ ασφοδίλια,
άς γυρίσουν προς το έρεβος των θυμάτων:

Εμείς που τίποτε δεν είχαμε θα τους δείξουμε τη γαλήνη.

 

MYTHISTOREMA XXIV

 

Here end the works of the sea, the works of love.
Those who will live here someday where we die
perhaps the blood will darken in their memory and
overflow
let them not forget us, the weak souls among the asphodels
let them turn the heads of the victims toward Erebus:
We who had nothing will teach them tranquility.

~GEORGE SEFERIS-COLLECTED POEMS, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, Vancouver, Canada, 2012

elyths220px-Giorgos_Seferis_1963

Reviving Greek Poetry: Giorgios Seferis and Odysseas Elytis

Modern Greek literature is constrained by the greatness of its forebears, as the classical works of Antiquity constitute the pinnacle of canonical greatness. However, as Helena Cuss explains, two twentieth century writers, Giorgios Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, managed to bring new life to Greek poetry, for which they were both awarded the Nobel Prize.
Most readers of classic literature would claim to be well-versed in the great works of Greek literature: The Odyssey and The Illiad from Homer, works of the great philosophers Socrates, Aristotle and Plato and the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles , and Euripides. These men all belong to a hazy golden age in our imaginations commonly thought of as ‘antiquity’. However, since then, Greek literature has ceased to be a conspicuous presence in the canon of Western literature with which we are all so familiar. The past 500 years or so have seen a flowering of English, American, French, German and Italian literature which have become the great ‘classics’. During the twentieth century burst of Modernism these nations in particular produced the most famed avant-garde thinkers, writers and artists, who shaped the culture we live and breathe today. What may be less well known to most is that in this whirling milieu of radicalism, under the pressure of political turbulence and European instability, two Greek poets were bringing the ancient traditions of the Hellenic past into the modern age, a feat for which they would both receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Unknown/WikiCommons
Giorgos Seferis and Odysseas Elytis both originated from outside of Greece (Elytis from Crete, and Seferis from Smyrna, in modern-day Turkey) but both moved with their families to Athens where they received their education. It is not difficult to see how they were both influenced by Greece’s rich cultural heritage, although they identified with different strands. Smyrna was taken by the Turks in 1922, and Seferis, having left in 1914, did not return until 1950. This sense of being an exile from his home deeply affected him, and so it is unsurprising that he identified with the ancient story of Odysseus, told by the great epic poet Homer, in which a hero of the long Trojan War is forced to wander the seas for ten years whilst he attempts to find his way home. It is possible to describe Seferis as something of a wanderer himself, as he had a long and successful diplomatic career, travelling to many different countries as the Greek Ambassador. The wanderer found a sense of closure on his visit to Cyprus in 1953, an island with which he felt an instant affinity, and which inspired him to end a seven year literary dry spell with the release of his book of poems Imerologio Katastromatos III, which celebrated his sense of homecoming.
Seferis’ particular brand of Hellenism, the main reason for his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963, was concentrated on highlighting a unifying strand of humanism which endures in Greek culture and literature. This desire to find continuity between the cultures of ancient and modern Greece through his own personal interest in humanism is nowhere better demonstrated than in his acceptance speech of his Nobel Prize, in which he adapted a famous Greek myth: ‘When on his way to Thebes Oedipus encountered the Sphinx, his answer to its riddle was: ‘Man’. That simple word destroyed the monster. We have many monsters to destroy. Let us think of the answer of Oedipus.’ His place in Greek culture was demonstrated by the inclusion of a very famous stanza from his Mythistorema in the 2004 Athens Opening Ceremony. Moreover, his place in the hearts of the Greek people had been confirmed some years earlier upon his death: he became an important symbol of resistance against the repressive right-wing regime which terrorised Greece between 1967 and 1974, and at his funeral in 1971 huge crowds followed his coffin singing the words of his poem Denial, which was then banned. The poem itself conjures a wild and romantic vision of a Greek beach setting, but, as is characteristic of his work, with a human story at its heart. Mythistorema’s similarly watery setting is clearly taken from The Odyssey, of which it is in some ways a revised version; however, in the dreamy darkness of the narrative and the fragmentary form, and its rather loose allusions to the original story, it is easy to see the influence of T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, which Seferis translated into Greek in 1936.

Jorge-11/WikiCommons
Where Seferis pointed the way, Elytis, with his friend’s encouragement, followed, and is today credited with the modernisation of Greek literature. Living in Paris in self-exile between 1948 and 1952, he was known and appreciated by some of the most important pioneers of the avant-garde, including artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Alberto Giacometti. Similarly interested by the modern Hellenistic culture as his friend and mentor Seferis, we can also detect elements of Ancient Greece and Byzantine culture in his work. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1979, perhaps chiefly because of his intensely personal style of writing; it is poetry that resonates with an absolute sincerity, even when speaking of the most rarefied of subject matter. A recurring theme is the metaphysics of the sun, or rather, the mystery of life, for he was a self-confessed ‘sun-worshipper’ or ‘idolator’. As Seferis’ poem Denial had been, his landmark work Worthy It Is became a great rallying anthem for all Greeks who resisted injustice, especially when set to music by Mikis Theodorakis. With an epic Biblical structure, it represents a fevered call to modern man for self-liberation and a hymn to the beauty of nature. Seferis’ works can be found translated into English in his Complete Poems, whilst Elytis’ Worthy It Is is published under its original name, The Axion Esti. It is perhaps time for us to recognise the importance of the role both of these writers brought to modern literature, in bringing the culture of Europe’s most ancient civilisation into the twentieth century, and fighting the epic battle against oppression and tyranny.
By Helena Cuss
http://www.theculturetrip.com

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ΜΥΘΙΣΤΟΡΗΜΑ

~Si j’ai du gout, ce n’est gueres
Que pour la terre et les pierres
~Arthur Rimbaud

Α

Τον άγγελο
τον περιμέναμε προσηλωμένοι τρία χρόνια
κοιτάζοντας πολύ κοντά
τα πεύκα το γιαλό και τ άστρα.
Σμίγοντας την κόψη τ αλετριού η του καραβιού την καρένα
ψάχναμε να βρούμε πάλι το πρώτο σπέρμα
για να ξαναρχίσει το πανάρχαιο δράμα
Γυρίσαμε στα σπίτια μας τσακισμένοι
μ ανήμπορα μέλη με στόμα ρημαγμένο
από τη γέψη της σκουριάς και τής αρμύρας
Οταν ξυπνήσαμε ταξιδέψαμε κατά το βοριά, ξένοι
βυθισμένοι μέσα σε καταχνιές από τ άσπιλα φτερά των
κύκνων που μας πληγώναν
Τις χειμωνιάτικες νύχτες μάς τρέλαινε ο δυνατός αγέρας
της ανατολής
τα καλοκαίρια χανόμασταν μέσα στήν αγωνία τής μέρας
που δεν μπορούσε να ξεψυχίσει
Φέραμε πίσω
αυτά τ ανάγλυφα μιάς τέχνης ταπεινής

MYTHISTOREMA

Si j’ aid u gout, ce n’est gueres
Que pour la terre et les pierres.
~ Arthur Rimbaud
“If I have taste it is only
for the earth and the stones”

I

The angel
we had waited for him for three years concentrated
closely examining
the pines the seashore the stars
Joining the blade of the plough with the ship’s keel
we searched to discover once more the first sperm
that the old drama may recommence
We went back home broken hearted
with incapable limbs with mouths ravaged
by the taste of rust and salinity
When we woke we traveled to the north strangers
immersed into the mist by the perfect wings
of swans the wounded us
During winter nights the strong eastern wind
maddened us
in the summers we got lost in the agony of day
that couldn’t die
We brought back
these petroglyphs of a humble art

Β

Ακόμη ένα πηγάδι μέσα σε μια σπηλιά
Αλλοτε μάς ήταν εύκολο ν αντλήσουμε είδωλα και
στολίδια
για να χαρούν οι φίλοι που μάς έμεναν ακόμη πιστοί
Εσπασαν τα σκοινιά μονάχα οι χαρακιές στου πηγαδιού
το στόμα
μάς θυμίζουν την περασμένη μας ευτυχία
τα δάχτυλα στο φιλιατρό, καθώς έλεγε ο ποιητής
Τα δάχτυλα νιώθουν τη δροσιά τής πέτρας λίγο
κι η θέρμη του κορμιού την κυριεύει
κι η σπηλιά παίζει την ψυχή της και τη χάνει
κάθε στιγμή, γεμάτη σιωπή, χωρίς μια στάλα

II

Another well inside the cave
at other times it was easy for us to draw up idols and
ornaments
to please some friends who were still loyal to us
The ropes have broken only the grooves on the
well’s lip
remind us of our past happiness
the fingers on the well’s lip as the poet put it
The fingers feel the coolness of the stone a little
that the body’s heat prevails over
and the cave gambles its soul and loses it
every moment filled by silence without a drop of water

Γ

Μέμνησο λουτρών οίς ενοσφίσθης
Ξύπνησα με το μαρμάρινο τούτο κεφάλι στα χέρια
που μου εξαντλεί τούς αγκώνες και δεν ξέρω που να
τ ακουμπήσω
Επεφτε στο όνειρο καθώς έβγαινα από το όνειρο
έτσι ενώθηκε η ζωή μας και θα είναι πολύ δύσκολο να
ξαναχωρίσει
Κοιτάζω τα μάτια μήτε ανοιχτά μήτε κλειστά
μιλώ στο στόμα που όλο γυρεύει να μιλήσει
κρατώ τα μάγουλα που ξεπέρασαν το δέρμα
Δεν έχω άλλη δύναμη
τα χέρια μου χάνουνται και με πλησιάζουν
ακρωτηριασμένα

III

Remember the baths where you were murdered
I woke up with the marble head in my hands
that exhausts my elbows and I don’t know where
to lean it
It was falling in the dream as I was coming out of the dream
and our lives joined and it will be very difficult to
separate again
I gaze in the eyes neither open nor closed
I speak to the mouth that keeps trying to speak
I touch the cheeks that have gone through the skin
I don’t have any other strength
my hands disappear and come back near me
mutilated

“George Seferis-Collected Poems” translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2012, ~Finalist at the Greek National Literary Awards, category translation.

George Seferis_cover

George Seferis’ Speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1963 (Translation)

I feel at this moment that I am a living contradiction. The Swedish Academy has decided that my efforts in a language famous through the centuries but not widespread in its present form are worthy of this high distinction. It is paying homage to my language – and in return I express my gratitude in a foreign language.

I hope you will accept the excuses I am making to myself. I belong to a small country. A rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, it has nothing to distinguish it but the efforts of its people, the sea, and the light of the sun. It is a small country, but its tradition is immense and has been handed down through the centuries without interruption. The Greek language has never ceased to be spoken. It has undergone the changes that all living things experience, but there has never been a gap. This tradition is characterized by love of the human; justice is its norm. In the tightly organized classical tragedies the man who exceeds his measure is punished by the Erinyes. And this norm of justice holds even in the realm of nature.

«Helios will not overstep his measure»; says Heraclitus, «otherwise the Erinyes, the ministers of Justice, will find him out». A modern scientist might profit by pondering this aphorism of the Ionian philosopher. I am moved by the realization that the sense of justice penetrated the Greek mind to such an extent that it became a law of the physical world. One of my masters exclaimed at the beginning of the last century,

«We are lost because we have been unjust» He was an unlettered man, who did not learn to write until the age of thirty-five. But in the Greece of our day the oral tradition goes back as far as the written tradition, and so does poetry. I find it significant that Sweden wishes to honour not only this poetry, but poetry in general, even when it originates in a small people. For I think that poetry is necessary to this modern world in which we are afflicted by fear and disquiet. Poetry has its roots in human breath – and what would we be if our breath were diminished? Poetry is an act of confidence – and who knows whether our unease is not due to a lack of confidence?

Last year, around this table, it was said that there is an enormous difference between the discoveries of modern science and those of literature, but little difference between modern and Greek dramas. Indeed, the behaviour of human beings does not seem to have changed. And I should add that today we need to listen to that human voice which we call poetry, that voice which is constantly in danger of being extinguished through lack of love, but is always reborn. Threatened, it has always found a refuge; denied, it has always instinctively taken root again in unexpected places. It recognizes no small nor large parts of the world; its place is in the hearts of men the world over. It has the charm of escaping from the vicious circle of custom.

I owe gratitude to the Swedish Academy for being aware of these facts; for being aware that language which are said to have restricted circulation should not become barriers which might stifle the beating of the human heart; and for being a true Areopagus, able «to judge with solemn truth life’s ill-appointed lot», to quote Shelley, who, it is said, inspired

Alfred Nobel, whose grandeur of heart redeems inevitable violence. In our gradually shrinking world, everyone is in need of all the others. We must look for man wherever we can find him. When on his way to Thebes Oedipus encountered the Sphinx, his answer to its riddle was: «Man». That simple word destroyed the monster. We have many monsters to destroy. Let us think of the answer of Oedipus.

~From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

 

Γιῶργος Σεφέρης – Ὁμιλία κατὰ την ἀπονομὴ του Νόμπελ Λογοτεχνίας στη Στοκχόλμη

 

Τούτη την ώρα αἰσθάνομαι πως είμαι ο ίδιος μία ἀντίφαση. Ἀλήθεια, η Σουηδικὴ Ἀκαδημία, έκρινε πως η προσπάθειά μου σε μία γλώσσα περιλάλητη επὶ αιώνες, αλλὰ στην παρούσα μορφή της περιορισμένη, άξιζε αυτὴ την υψηλὴ διάκριση. Θέλησε να τιμήσει τη γλώσσα μου, και να – εκφράζω τώρα τις ευχαριστίες μου σε ξένη γλώσσα. Σας παρακαλώ να μου δώσετε τη συγνώμη που ζητώ πρώτα -πρώτα απὸ τον εαυτό μου.
Ανήκω σε μία χώρα μικρή. Ένα πέτρινο ἀκρωτήρι στη Μεσόγειο, που δεν έχει άλλο ἀγαθὸ παρὰ τὸν αγώνα του λαού, τη θάλασσα, και το φως του ήλιου. Είναι μικρὸς ο τόπος μας, αλλὰ η παράδοσή του είναι τεράστια και το πράγμα που τη χαρακτηρίζει είναι ότι μας παραδόθηκε χωρὶς διακοπή. Η ἑλληνικὴ γλώσσα δεν έπαψε ποτέ της να μιλιέται. Δέχτηκε τις αλλοιώσεις που δέχεται καθετὶ ζωντανό, ἀλλὰ δεν παρουσιάζει κανένα χάσμα. Άλλο χαρακτηριστικὸ αὐτής της παράδοσης είναι η ἀγάπη της για την ἀνθρωπιά, κανόνας της είναι η δικαιοσύνη. Στην ἀρχαία τραγωδία, την οργανωμένη με τόση ακρίβεια, ο άνθρωπος που ξεπερνά το μέτρο, πρέπει να τιμωρηθεί απὸ τις Ερινύες.
Όσο για μένα συγκινούμαι παρατηρώντας πώς η συνείδηση της δικαιοσύνης είχε τόσο πολὺ διαποτίσει την ελληνικὴ ψυχή, ώστε να γίνει κανόνας του φυσικού κόσμου. Κι ένας απὸ τους διδασκάλους μου, των αρχών του περασμένου αιώνα, γράφει: «… θα χαθούμε γιατί αδικήσαμε …». Αυτὸς ο άνθρωπος ήταν ἀγράμματος. Είχε μάθει να γράφει στα τριάντα πέντε χρόνια της ηλικίας του. Αλλὰ στην Ελλάδα των ημερών μας, η προφορικὴ παράδοση πηγαίνει μακριὰ στα περασμένα όσο και η γραπτή. Το ίδιο και η ποίηση. Είναι για μένα σημαντικὸ το γεγονὸς ότι η Σουηδία θέλησε να τιμήσει και τούτη την ποίηση καὶ όλη την ποίηση γενικά, ακόμη και όταν ἀναβρύζει ἀνάμεσα σ᾿ ένα λαὸ περιορισμένο. Γιατί πιστεύω πως τούτος ο σύγχρονος κόσμος όπου ζοῦμε, ο τυραννισμένος απὸ το φόβο και την ανησυχία, τη χρειάζεται την ποίηση. Η ποίηση έχει τις ρίζες της στην ανθρώπινη ανάσα – και τί θα γινόμασταν άν η πνοή μας λιγόστευε; Είναι μία πράξη ἐμπιστοσύνης – κι ένας Θεὸς το ξέρει άν τα δεινά μας δεν τα χρωστάμε στη στέρηση εμπιστοσύνης.
Παρατήρησαν, τον περασμένο χρόνο γύρω απὸ τούτο το τραπέζι, την πολὺ μεγάλη διαφορὰ ανάμεσα στις ανακαλύψεις της σύγχρονης ἐπιστήμης και στη λογοτεχνία. Παρατήρησαν πως ανάμεσα σ᾿ ένα ἀρχαίο ελληνικὸ δράμα κι ένα σημερινό, η διαφορὰ είναι λίγη. Ναι, η συμπεριφορὰ του ανθρώπου δε μοιάζει να έχει αλλάξει βασικά. Και πρέπει να προσθέσω πως νιώθει πάντα την ανάγκη ν᾿ ακούσει τούτη την ανθρώπινη φωνὴ που ονομάζουμε ποίηση. Αυτὴ η φωνὴ που κινδυνεύει να σβήσει κάθε στιγμὴ απὸ στέρηση αγάπης και ολοένα ξαναγεννιέται. Κυνηγημένη, ξέρει ποὺ νά ῾βρει καταφύγιο, απαρνημένη, έχει το ένστικτο να πάει να ριζώσει στοὺς πιο απροσδόκητους τόπους. Γι᾿ αυτὴ δεν υπάρχουν μεγάλα και μικρὰ μέρη του κόσμου. Το βασίλειό της είναι στις καρδιὲς όλων των ανθρώπων της γης. Έχει τη χάρη ν᾿ αποφεύγει πάντα τη συνήθεια, αυτὴ τη βιομηχανία. Χρωστώ την ευγνωμοσύνη μου στη Σουηδικὴ Ακαδημία που ένιωσε αυτὰ τα πράγματα, που ένιωσε πως οι γλώσσες, οι λεγόμενες περιορισμένης χρήσης, δεν πρέπει να καταντούν φράχτες όπου πνίγεται ο παλμὸς της ανθρώπινης καρδιάς, που έγινε ένας Άρειος Πάγος ικανὸς να κρίνει με αλήθεια επίσημη την άδικη μοίρα της ζωής, για να θυμηθώ τον Σέλλεϋ, τον εμπνευστή, καθὼς μας λένε, του Αλφρέδου Νομπέλ, αυτοῦ του ανθρώπου που μπόρεσε να εξαγοράσει την αναπόφευκτη βία με τη μεγαλοσύνη της καρδιάς του.
Σ᾿ αυτὸ τον κόσμο, που ολοένα στενεύει, ο καθένας μας χρειάζεται όλους τους άλλους. Πρέπει ν᾿ αναζητήσουμε τον άνθρωπο, όπου και να βρίσκεται.
Όταν στο δρόμο της Θήβας, ο Οιδίπους συνάντησε τη Σφίγγα, κι αυτὴ του έθεσε το αίνιγμά της, η απόκρισή του ήταν: ο άνθρωπος. Τούτη η απλὴ λέξη χάλασε το τέρας. Έχουμε πολλὰ τέρατα να καταστρέψουμε. Ας συλλογιστούμε την απόκριση του Οιδίποδα.

~www.wikipedia.org

George Seferis_cover

Από το βιβλίο ΜΥΘΙΣΤΟΡΗΜΑ/From the book MYTHISTOREMA

XXI

We who started out on this pilgrimage
looked at the broken statues
we lost ourselves and said life is not exhausted
so easily
that death has unfathomable ways
and its own special justice

that when we died standing on our feet
like brothers inside the stone
united in toughness and weakness
the ancient dead escaped the circle and have
been reborn
and smile in a peculiar silence.
ΚΑ’

Εμείς που ξεκινήσαμε για το προσκύνημα τούτο
κοιτάξαμε τα σπασμένα αγάλματα
ξεχαστήκαμε και είπαμε πως δε χάνεται η ζωή τόσο
εύκολα
πως έχει ο θάνατος δρόμους ανεξερεύνητους
και μια δική του δικαιοσύνη,

πως όταν εμείς ορθοί στα πόδια μας πεθαίνουμε
μέσα στην πέτρα αδερφωμένοι
ενωμένοι με τη σκληρότητα και την αδυναμία,
οι παλαιοί νεκροί ξεφύγαν απ’ τον κύκλο και
αναστήθηκαν
και χαμογελάνε μέσα σε μια παράξενη ησυχία.
~Γιώργου Σεφέρη-Ποιήματα, μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη, Libros Libertad, 2012
~George Seferis-Collected Poems, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2012