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Old 01-12-2018, 11:55 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Default Inexplicable

Inexplicable

δὲν ἔχουμε χαιρό. Σωστὰ μιλῆσαν οἱ μαντατοφόροι.
George Seferis, “Ο ΔΙΚΟΣ ΜΑΣ ΗΛΙΟΣ”

Once again, I am reading the magnificent poet
George Seferis. We don’t have time, he says, the messengers were right.

This is great poetry. However, it is not how I look at things.
On the contrary, I am struck by just how long we have,

messengers or no messengers. Of course, I am not at war;
it is a hard thing when there is no time left on the clock.

You have no choice, says the gunman to the North African priest.
Yes, we have, the priest says, and he has a point.

This is a story that returns to me
often. The messengers have coins on their eyes,

they have come a long way. Luckily, the ship finds its way to harbor;
the open sea is no place to have children, raise a family.

On shore, white walls. Cisterns. The Mediterranean.
There are laurels on the hillside, and amaranthus. Not

a deity in sight. The Nazarene has conquered.
It is inexplicable, say the old men in the village. Inexplicable.

1900-1971 CE

Last edited by John Isbell; 01-13-2018 at 04:48 PM.
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Old 01-13-2018, 08:07 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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I think I need to do some homework before commenting on this, John. Apart from anything else I am going to listen to this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hktIHwQvrWs - just to get the music of it into my head.

Yeia sas

David
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Old 01-13-2018, 08:51 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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What a great link, David! I'd never heard it read aloud.

Thanks - efaristi -
John
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Old 01-13-2018, 09:44 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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I just about managed to follow the reading once I'd got my eye in again. Quite bracing to hear δεν έχουμε καιρό in the original!
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Old 01-13-2018, 09:56 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Yes - Seferis is a great reader of his poetry, to my barbarian ears. Quite oceanic.

Cheers,
John
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Old 01-13-2018, 04:50 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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NB this poem is not entirely in Modern Greek.

Cheers,
John
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Old 01-13-2018, 05:45 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Now, that is interesting, and something that passed me by completely. Which bits are which?
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Old 01-13-2018, 06:17 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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:-)

What I noticed is that when I opened my poem, the only words visible were the title and the epigraph (in Modern Greek).

Cheers,
John

Update: oh, I guess I should specify that the poem contains two quotations from Seferis - the opening epigraph (with translation), and the closing line's "It is inexplicable." It's a bit of a mosaic poem. I do think Seferis is wonderful. I also like Cavafy and Elytis. I picked up my copy of Seferis in Athens from a Leninist bookseller who was reluctant to believe I really wanted to purchase the book. He took some persuading.

“Inexplicable,” you said, “inexplicable" appears in Seferis's "Interlude of Joy":
https://poempire.wordpress.com/2012/...erlude-of-joy/

Last edited by John Isbell; 01-14-2018 at 05:00 AM.
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Old 01-14-2018, 09:22 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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So, you're relating some famous lines by Seferis to the plight of refugees in the Mediterranean. That seems wholly reasonable and honourable to me.

The last stanza loses me a bit, though. Where does the Nazarene come into it? Admittedly it reminded me of Julian's pale Galilean, and that seems to work too. I'm not sure that introducing a reference to another, quite different Seferis poem does. Just stick to the one, I think.

I enjoyed it, though. Enjoyed tussling with the Greek alphabet again too, although I never really moved far beyond where that particular bus was going to.

Cheers

David
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Old 01-14-2018, 07:13 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi David,

And thanks for swinging by again. Your read of the poem is interesting - I'm not sure what it means, myself, it's just what came to me one day as I was reading a bunch of Seferis.
Refugees. Well, the North African priest originated in the film Des hommes et des dieux, Of Men and Gods, if you've run into it. The gunman tells the monks they have no choice but to leave, and the abbot says yes, they do have a choice. As of course they do.
The coins on the messengers' eyes are or were Greek, as is the amaranthus (though it could be Mesoamerican). And I like your Julian idea, it seems a propos. The Nazarene does seem to have conquered Greece since the days of Odysseus.
Anyway, those are some random jottings to fit a random poem. I'm not sure it's actually about anything, except maybe the Mediterranean through the years. From a Greek perspective. It did feel Seferis-y to me.

Cheers,
John
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