Summer Solstice by George Seferis

1
On the one hand the sun at its peak,
on the other the new moon,
and both suspended in memory are still
voluptuous. Between them the evening sky
steeped with stars, and a gorge
engulfed by the life that surges through it.
Back and forth across the bodies
scattered like straw on the threshing floor
hooves of the sweating horses pound.
Everything comes down to this,
and that woman who stood before you
when she was still radiant: overnight,
it seems, she starts to unravel, then falls to her knees.
The millstones grind up all there is
until all that turns up is the turning stars.

Vigil of a day that won't die.

2
Everyone has visions, though when they appear
we never own up to what we just saw; instead
we go on with our lives as though nothing's changed:
we're alone. That stupendous rose
has never left your side, as if the mystery
was grafted there like a flower, one that opens
as deep as you sleep, and whose unfolding is yours
and no one else's. But only now that your lips
have moistened those convolutions inside the bud
do you sense the dense pull of the dancer's weight,
how much it's really up against--before the awful
chill of the stream when a flower petal touches

down in time. Don't squander your life, this breath
bestowed on you, its vital lift.

3
Nevertheless, in this type of sleep
it's easy to sink into dreams
that only deepen the nightmare that follows.
Like the lightning flash of a fish
charging the current before its bright scales
begin to fade, submerged in slime,
so the complexion of the image changes
like a chameleon changing its color.
Then just as the city becomes its neon streets
where pimps and politicians turn their tricks,
seduction takes on a brutal stench, and
soon the girl who emerged from the sea-foam
will entice the young bull to mount her
by appearing to him in the hide of a cow;
but should a poet happen to see blood
trickling from a marble torso,
the street urchins will pelt him with dung.
Somehow you've got to snap out of this stupor,
and slough your own skin unscathed.

4
As scraps of paper are gathered in the gust
and sent reeling, in the right-left up-down
insanity of the surge, the wind
carries the remains of human limbs
and disperses them in deadly fumes
sinuous as the day is long.
And our souls, once they desire
to part ways with the body, develop
a deeper thirst, in a place that's dry as a bone,
where they drift until they stick somewhere,
as fate would have them: snared
like birds attracted to outstretched twigs
smeared with lime. Which means their wings,
once they alight, will keep on flapping away--
until they grow too heavy to lift.

Then day after day this landscape that was dry
to begin with begins to evaporate inside,
like a clay jug left out in the sun.

5
What to make of this world with its head in the clouds,
tucked in at night with narcotics,
as if it must always come down to the same climax:
supplication.

And that's the high priestess of Hecate
kneeling in the warm night air, up there on the roof,
where she bares her shrunken breasts to a moon so full
it looks like a prop for the stage. And in that light
a pair of teenage slave-girls yawn as they stir
the savory potions mixed in a big copper pot.
Tomorrow those who love
perfume will know the taste of its pungent mist.

But before you can say the high priestess of Hecate
is playing the part of tragic heroine, her mask
has already begun to melt away like wax--
or some concoction of rouge and plaster of pathos.

6
Lower down, where the ledge becomes laurel blossoms,
down along those slopes of snow-white oleanders
whose name is also known as Bitter Daphne,
down there, at the edge of the jagged outcropping, the sea
was glittering before our feet like a sheet of glass.

Remember that chiton when it came undone?
The robe so easily gliding down over the body,
encircling the ankles as it fell, making you privy
to something sheer as the flesh it revealed,
in its dying swoon.

If only we could have fallen asleep like that,
descending among the laurel blossoms
falling in the land of the dead.

7
Steady as the breath of the trees
enclosing that little garden, where the poplar
branches extend your time
according to the rhythms of night and day:
clepsydra designed to catch
even the smallest dilation of open sky.
Poplars in the powerful glare of the moon
dapple the stucco wall, as if the dark
imprint of their leaves were scaling footfalls,
and here the pines grow farther apart as you near
the border of the garden. Then nothing beyond
the late glow of marble, and human beings
imagined as human beings are imagined.
Still, you can note the pitch of the blackbird
when it descends to drink
by drawing on the demotic roots of a folksong,
and sometimes it's possible to tell the trilling
of one turtle-dove from another.

In this little garden, ten feet or so
from an olive tree to a sprig of honeysuckle,

just enough for you to plainly observe
that pair of carnations whose red petals
are still open to illumination:
accept who you are.
The voice of the poem
should not be lifted on the gratuitous rustlings
of tall plane trees. Nurture it along slowly,
using only the handful of soil and rock
that belongs to you. For things that go beyond this--
dig in the very same spot, and you won't miss them.

8
The bright sheen of fresh paper, heartless
mirror that only reflects
whatever it is you no longer embody.

White sheet that fills with your voice,
not the voice you would like to have
but the way you truly sound:
alive to the words
that are music to your ear,
in tune with the life you wasted.
A loss you can repossess if you want to,
by training your gaze on the widening gulf
between yourself and something so indifferent
it casts you back to where you first embarked.

You've seen the world, seen enough
of the sun and the moon in all their phases,
made contact with both the living and the dead
by touching their flesh, felt the deep
groan inside of a woman, and then the growing
pain that all young men are prone to experience,
ripening like a child's bitterness. Even so,
what took hold of you in waves will dissolve, unless
you devote yourself entirely to this emptiness.
Perhaps in its pristine surface you'll find what you thought
had withdrawn for good: the swelling horizon
of those younger days, days that justified the journey
even after the shipwreck of age.

As if in the end what you gave of yourself
really was your life and not some blank
expression, white as a sheet.

9
Whenever you talked about things that seemed beyond them
it left them at a loss, and they found this amusing.

And yet, to pull against the current,
drawing the blade of an oar through the dark river,
or to scavenge for language
rooted at the tangled stump of an olive tree,
stubborn as a blind man
feeling his way along an overgrown path ...
Let them say what they want. But if that hunger
for another world sticks in your throat--as though
the only place here left to go now was someplace
utterly isolate, and more diminished each day--
don't dwell on it. In the same breath

the sea-breeze and the freshening dew of dawn,
whether we want them to or not, happen.

10
At the hour when dreams appear to come true
in the honey glow at the break of day
I saw those lips that open
petal by petal.

The thinnest blade might cut them all down. And
I was afraid of that glittering scythe in the sky.

11
Immaculate sails, unruffled as the sea
they christened Tranquility, and pine trees
that barely quiver in the breeze, like tall masts
anchored to the mountain slopes of Aegina--
a fleet of ships that takes your breath away ...
Your skin gliding over hers, the body's surface
so warm and inviting it's never clear
how the turbulent wake of each pressing concern
is forgotten as soon as it's formed.

But seeing how quickly the shallows are obscured
when black ink gushes from an octopus
harpooned in the gut, for a moment reflect
on these islands that must go down to the ocean floor,
only to emerge more beautifully.

Through all the light and darkness that I possess
it's you I beheld.

12
Noon. Height of heat
that makes the blood well up, inflamed
like the swelling veins of a throat
dying to proclaim death
surmounted in a blaze of joy.

Noon. Pulse of light
that will get weaker from now on--
exacerbating the spasms of late summer.

13
At any given moment, the sun
will stop in its tracks. Spectral voices
will herald the dawn as they always do,
from the dry throats of shells, and now
the bird that sang to us three times, it's clear,
will sing to us no more than that.
For an instant the lizard holds fast to a stone
that's white as the summer grass, and only
the underbrush flinches when a tree snake
slithers past. At a certain high
elevation, black wings create the impression
of a dark fissure spreading across the azure--
as if the horizon was hatching open. Look up
and you can see it with your own eyes:

Rebirth in a wing-flap's contraction.

14
Write it now,
with the lead that's melted down for divination
on St. John's day, when the sea shimmers
at the height of summer, as if naked life
itself was mirrored there for your reflection:
still pools that still send a ripple right through you
at the first inkling of a sudden ground swell,
everything that stops and starts at the lip
of this shore whose every pore is burning now
for the slightest contact.

And just as the pine tree exposed to the brutal heat
of noon can't help releasing a high-pitched groan--
as if the trunk oozing with resin
were pregnant with seeds of conflagration--

call the children back, and let them
sow the smoldering fields with ashes
they picked up along the way. In this way,
all that has passed over time will have passed
opportunely, and grow endurable.
Until even what has not yet taken place
is here for the taking. Which means it must catch fire
today at noon, spellbound as the sun
beating at the heart of the hundred-petaled rose.

 

Α´

Ὁ μεγαλύτερος ἥλιος ἀπὸ τὴ μιὰ μεριὰ
κι ἀπὸ τὴν ἄλλη τὸ νέο φεγγάρι
ἀπόμακρα στὴ μνήμη σὰν ἐκεῖνα τὰ στήθη.
Ἀνάμεσό τους χάσμα τῆς ἀστερωμένης νύχτας
κατακλυσμὸς τῆς ζωῆς.
Τ᾿ ἄλογα στ᾿ ἁλώνια
καλπάζουν καὶ ἱδρώνουν
πάνω σὲ σκόρπια κορμιά.
Ὅλα πηγαίνουν ἐκεῖ
καὶ τούτη ἡ γυναῖκα
ποὺ τὴν εἶδες ὄμορφη, μιὰ στιγμὴ
λυγίζει δὲν ἀντέχει πιὰ γονάτισε.
Ὅλα τ᾿ ἀλέθουν οἱ μυλόπετρες
καὶ γίνουνται ἄστρα.

Παραμονὴ τῆς μακρύτερης μέρας.

 

Β´

Ὅλοι βλέπουν ὁράματα
κανεὶς ὡστόσο δὲν τ᾿ ὁμολογεῖ·
πηγαίνουν καὶ θαρροῦν πὼς εἶναι μόνοι.
Τὸ μεγάλο τριαντάφυλλο
ἤτανε πάντα ἐδῶ
στὸ πλευρό σου βαθιὰ μέσα στὸν ὕπνο
δικό σου καὶ ἄγνωστο.
Ἀλλὰ μονάχα τώρα ποὺ τὰ χείλια σου τ᾿ ἄγγιξαν
στ᾿ ἀπώτατα φύλλα
ἔνιωσες τὸ πυκνὸ βάρος τοῦ χορευτῆ
νὰ πέφτει στὸ ποτάμι τοῦ καιροῦ -
τὸ φοβερὸ παφλασμό.

Μὴ σπαταλᾷς τὴν πνοὴ ποὺ σοῦ χάρισε
τούτη ἡ ἀνάσα.

 

Γ´

Κι ὅμως σ᾿ αὐτὸ τὸν ὕπνο
τ᾿ ὄνειρο ξεπέφτει τόσο εὔκολα
στὸ βραχνά.
Ὅπως τὸ ψάρι ποὺ ἄστραψε κάτω ἀπ᾿ τὸ κῦμα
καὶ χώθηκε στὸ βοῦρκο τοῦ βυθοῦ
ἢ χαμαιλέοντας ὅταν ἀλλάζει χρῶμα.
Στὴν πολιτεία ποὺ ἔγινε πορνεῖο
μαστροποὶ καὶ πολιτικιὲς
διαλαλοῦν σάπια θέλγητρα·
ἡ κυματόφερτη κόρη
φορεῖ τὸ πετσὶ τῆς γελάδας
γιὰ νὰ τὴν ἀνεβεῖ τὸ ταυρόπουλο·
ὁ ποιητὴς
χαμίνια τοῦ πετοῦν μαγαρισιὲς
καθὼς βλέπει τ᾿ ἀγάλματα νὰ στάζουν αἷμα.
Πρέπει νὰ βγεῖς ἀπὸ τοῦτο τὸν ὕπνο·
τοῦτο τὸ μαστιγωμένο δέρμα.

 

Δ´

Στὸ τρελὸ ἀνεμοσκόρπισμα
δεξιὰ ζερβὰ πάνω καὶ κάτω
στροβιλίζονται σαρίδια.
Φτενοὶ θανατεροὶ καπνοὶ
λύνουν τὰ μέλη τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
Οἱ ψυχὲς
βιάζουνται ν᾿ ἀποχωριστοῦν τὸ σῶμα
διψοῦν καὶ δὲ βρίσκουν νερὸ πουθενά·
κολνοῦν ἐδῶ κολνοῦν ἐκεῖ στὴν τύχη
πουλιὰ στὶς ξόβεργες·
σπαράζουν ἀνωφέλευτα
ὅσο ποὺ δὲ σηκώνουν ἄλλο τὰ φτερά τους.

Φυραίνει ὁ τόπος ὁλοένα
χωματένιο σταμνί.

 

Ε´

Ὁ κόσμος τυλιγμένος στὰ ναρκωτικὰ σεντόνια
δὲν ἔχει τίποτε ἄλλο νὰ προσφέρει
παρὰ τοῦτο τὸ τέρμα.
Στὴ ζεστὴ νύχτα
ἡ μαραμένη ἱέρεια τῆς Ἑκάτης
μὲ γυμνωμένα στήθη ψηλὰ στὸ δῶμα
παρακαλᾷ μία τεχνητὴ πανσέληνο, καθὼς
δυὸ ἀνήλικες δοῦλες ποὺ χασμουριοῦνται
ἀναδεύουν σὲ μπακιρένια χύτρα
ἀρωματισμένες φαρμακεῖες.
Αὔριο θὰ χορτάσουν ὅσοι ἀγαποῦν τὰ μυρωδικά.

Τὸ πάθος της καὶ τὰ φτιασίδια
εἶναι ὅμοια μὲ τῆς τραγῳδοῦ
ὁ γύψος τοὺς μάδησε κιόλας.

 

Στ´

Κάτω στὶς δάφνες
κάτω στὶς ἄσπρες πικροδάφνες
κάτω στὸν ἀγκαθερὸ βράχο
κι ἡ θάλασσα στὰ πόδια μας γυάλινη.
Θυμήσου τὸ χιτῶνα ποὺ ἔβλεπες
ν᾿ ἀνοίγει καὶ νὰ ξεγλιστρᾷ πάνω στὴ γύμνια
κι ἔπεσε γύρω στοὺς ἀστραγάλους
νεκρός -
ἂν ἔπεφτε ἔτσι αὐτὸς ὁ ὕπνος
ἀνάμεσα στὶς δάφνες τῶν νεκρῶν.

 

Ζ´

Ἡ λεῦκα στὸ μικρὸ περιβόλι
ἡ ἀνάσα της μετρᾷ τὶς ὦρες σου
μέρα καὶ νύχτα·
κλεψύδρα ποὺ γεμίζει ὁ οὐρανός.
Στὴ δύναμη τοῦ φεγγαριοῦ τὰ φύλλα της
σέρνουν μαῦρα πατήματα στὸν ἄσπρο τοῖχο.
Στὸ σύνορο εἶναι λιγοστὰ τὰ πεῦκα
ἔπειτα μάρμαρα καὶ φωταψίες
κι ἄνθρωποι καθὼς εἶναι πλασμένοι οἱ ἄνθρωποι.
Ὁ κότσυφας ὅμως τιτιβίζει
σὰν ἔρχεται νὰ πιεῖ
κι ἀκοῦς καμιὰ φορὰ φωνὴ τῆς δεκοχτούρας.

Στὸ μικρὸ περιβόλι δέκα δρασκελιὲς
μπορεῖ νὰ ἰδεῖς τὸ φῶς τοῦ ἥλιου
νὰ πέφτει σὲ δυὸ κόκκινα γαρούφαλα
σὲ μίαν ἐλιὰ καὶ λίγο ἁγιόκλημα.
Δέξου ποιὸς εἶσαι.
Τὸ ποίημα
μὴν τὸ καταποντίζεις στὰ βαθιὰ πλατάνια
θρέψε το μὲ τὸ χῶμα καὶ τὸ βράχο ποὺ ἔχεις.
Τὰ περισσότερα -
σκάψε στὸν ἴδιο τόπο νὰ τὰ βρεῖς.

 

Η´

Τ᾿ ἄσπρο χαρτὶ σκληρὸς καθρέφτης
ἐπιστρέφει μόνο ἐκεῖνο ποὺ ἤσουν.

Τ᾿ ἄσπρο χαρτὶ μιλᾷ μὲ τὴ φωνή σου,
τὴ δική σου φωνὴ
ὄχι ἐκείνη ποὺ σ᾿ ἀρέσει·
μουσική σου εἶναι ἡ ζωὴ
αὐτὴ ποὺ σπατάλησες.
Μπορεῖ νὰ τὴν ξανακερδίσεις ἂν τὸ θέλεις
ἂν καρφωθεῖς σὲ τοῦτο τ᾿ ἀδιάφορο πρᾶγμα
ποὺ σὲ ρίχνει πίσω
ἐκεῖ ποὺ ξεκίνησες.

Ταξίδεψες, εἶδες πολλὰ φεγγάρια πολλοὺς ἥλιους
ἄγγιξες νεκροὺς καὶ ζωντανοὺς
ἔνιωσες τὸν πόνο τοῦ παλικαριοῦ
καὶ τὸ βογκητὸ τῆς γυναίκας
τὴν πίκρα τοῦ ἄγουρου παιδιοῦ -
ὅ,τι ἔνιωσες σωριάζεται ἀνυπόστατο
ἂν δὲν ἐμπιστευτεῖς τοῦτο τὸ κενό.
Ἴσως νὰ βρεῖς ἐκεῖ ὅ,τι νόμισες χαμένο·
τὴ βάστηση τῆς νιότης, τὸ δίκαιο καταποντισμὸ
τῆς ἡλικίας.

Ζωή σου εἶναι ὅ,τι ἔδωσες
τοῦτο τὸ κενὸ εἶναι ὅ,τι ἔδωσες
τὸ ἄσπρο χαρτί.

 

Θ´

Μιλοῦσες γιὰ πράγματα ποὺ δὲν τά ῾βλεπαν
κι αὐτοὶ γελοῦσαν.

Ὅμως νὰ λάμνεις στὸ σκοτεινὸ ποταμὸ
πάνω νερά·
νὰ πηγαίνεις στὸν ἀγνοημένο δρόμο
στὰ τυφλά, πεισματάρης
καὶ νὰ γυρεύεις λόγια ριζωμένα
σὰν τὸ πολύροζο λιόδεντρο -
ἄφησε κι ἂς γελοῦν.
Καὶ νὰ ποθεῖς νὰ κατοικήσει κι ὁ ἄλλος κόσμος
στὴ σημερινὴ πνιγερὴ μοναξιὰ
στ᾿ ἀφανισμένο τοῦτο παρὸν -
ἄφησέ τους.

Ὁ θαλασσινὸς ἄνεμος κι ἡ δροσιὰ τῆς αὐγῆς
ὑπάρχουν χωρὶς νὰ τὸ ζητήσει κανένας.

 

Ι´

Τὴν ὥρα ποὺ τὰ ὀνείρατα ἀληθεύουν
στὸ γλυκοχάραμα τῆς μέρας
εἶδα τὰ χείλια ποὺ ἄνοιγαν
φύλλο τὸ φύλλο.

Ἔλαμπε ἕνα λιγνὸ δρεπάνι στὸν οὐρανό.
Φοβήθηκα μὴν τὰ θερίσει.

 

ΙΑ´

Ἡ θάλασσα ποὺ ὀνομάζουν γαλήνη
πλεούμενα κι ἄσπρα πανιὰ
μπάτης ἀπὸ τὰ πεῦκα καὶ τ᾿ Ὄρος τῆς Αἴγινας
λαχανιασμένη ἀνάσα·
τὸ δέρμα σου γλιστροῦσε στὸ δέρμα της
εὔκολο καὶ ζεστὸ
σκέψη σχεδὸν ἀκάμωτη κι ἀμέσως ξεχασμένη.

Μὰ στὰ ρηχὰ
ἕνα καμακωμένο χταπόδι τίναξε μελάνι
καὶ στὸ βυθὸ -
ἂν συλλογιζόσουν ὡς ποῦ τελειώνουν τὰ ὄμορφα νησιά.

Σὲ κοίταζα μ᾿ ὅλο τὸ φῶς καὶ τὸ σκοτάδι ποὺ ἔχω.

 

ΙΒ´

Τὸ αἷμα τώρα τινάζεται
καθὼς φουσκώνει ἡ κάψα
στὶς φλέβες τ᾿ οὐρανοῦ τ᾿ ἀφορμισμένου.
Γυρεύει νὰ περάσει ἀπὸ τὸ θάνατο
γιὰ νά ῾βρει τὴ χαρά.

Τὸ φῶς εἶναι σφυγμὸς
ὁλοένα πιὸ ἀργὸς καὶ πιὸ ἀργὸς
θαρρεῖς πῶς πάει νὰ σταματήσει.

 

ΙΓ´

Λίγο ἀκόμη καὶ θὰ σταματήσει ὁ ἥλιος.
Τὰ ξωτικὰ τῆς αὐγῆς
φύσηξαν τὰ στεγνὰ κοχύλια·
τὸ πουλὶ κελάηδησε τρεῖς φορὲς τρεῖς φορὲς μόνο·
ἡ σαύρα πάνω στὴν ἄσπρη πέτρα
μένει ἀκίνητη
κοιτάζοντας τὸ φρυγμένο χόρτο
ἐκεῖ ποὺ γλίστρησε ἡ δεντρογαλιά.
Μαύρη φτερούγα σέρνει ἕνα βαθὺ χαράκι
ψηλὰ στὸ θόλο τοῦ γαλάζιου -
δές τον, θ᾿ ἀνοίξει.

Ἀναστάσιμη ὠδίνη.

 

ΙΔ´

Τώρα,
μὲ τὸ λιωμένο μολύβι τοῦ κλήδονα
τὸ λαμπύρισμα τοῦ καλοκαιρινοῦ πελάγου,
ἡ γύμνια ὁλόκληρής της ζωῆς·
καὶ τὸ πέρασμα καὶ τὸ σταμάτημα καὶ τὸ πλάγιασμα καὶ τὸ τίναγμα
τὰ χείλια τὸ χαϊδεμένο δέρας,
ὅλα γυρεύουν νὰ καοῦν.

Ὅπως τὸ πεῦκο καταμεσήμερα
κυριεμένο ἀπ᾿ τὸ ρετσίνι
βιάζεται νὰ γεννήσει φλόγα
καὶ δὲ βαστᾷ πιὰ τὴν παιδωμή -

φώναξε τὰ παιδιὰ νὰ μαζέψουν τὴ στάχτη
καὶ νὰ τὴ σπείρουν.
Ὅ,τι πέρασε πέρασε σωστά.

Κι ἐκεῖνα ἀκόμη ποὺ δὲν πέρασαν
πρέπει νὰ καοῦν
τοῦτο τὸ μεσημέρι ποὺ καρφώθηκε ὁ ἥλιος
στὴν καρδιὰ τοῦ ἑκατόφυλλου ρόδου.