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SANTORINI POEMS Georgios Seferis - Wherever I travel Greece wounds me.

From: B o o k o f E x e r c i s e s (1940)


IN THE MANNER OF G. S.
Wherever I travel Greece wounds me.

On Pelion among the chestnut trees the Centaur's shirt
slipped through the leaves to fold around my body
as I climbed the slope and the sea came after me
climbing too like mercury in a thermometer
till we found the mountain waters.
On Santorini touching islands that were sinking
hearing a pipe play somewhere on the pumice-stone
my hand was nailed to the gunwale
by an arrow shot suddenly
from the confines of a vanished youth.
At Mycenae I raised the great stones and the treasures of the house of Atreus
and slept with them at the hotel Belle Helene de Menelas;
they disappeared only at dawn when Cassandra crowed,
a cock hanging from her black throat.
On Spetses, Poros and Mykonos
the barcaroles sickened me.

What do they want, all those who believe
they're in Athens or Piraeus?
Someone comes from Salamis and asks someone else whether he `issues forth
from Omonia Square'.
`No I issue forth from Syntagma,' replies the other, pleased;
`I met Yianni and he treated me to an ice cream.'
In the meantime Greece is travelling
and we don't know anything, we don't know we're all sailors out of work,
we don't know how bitter the port becomes when all the ships have gone;
we mock those who do know.

Strange people! They say they're in Attica but they're really nowhere;
they buy sugared almonds to get married
they carry hair tonic, have their photographs taken
the man I saw today sitting against a background ofpigeons and flowers
let the hands ofthe old photographer smooth away the wrinkles
left on his face
by all the birds in the sky.

Meanwhile Greece goes on travelling, always travelling
and ifwe see `the Aegean flower with corpses'
it will be with those who tried to catch the big ship by swimming after it
those who got tired ofwaiting for the ships that cannot move
the ELSI, the SAMOTHRAKI, the AMVRAKIKOS.
The ships hoot now that dusk falls on Piraeus,
hoot and hoot, but no capstan moves,
no chain gleams wet in the vanishing light,
the captain stands like a stone in white and gold.

Wherever I travel Greece wounds me,
curtains ofmountains, archipelagos, naked granite.
They call the one ship that sails AG ONIA 937.

M/s Aulis, waiting to sail.
Summer 1936

Giorgos Seferis



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