The Center for Hellenic Studies

George Seferis and Homer’s Light

Jennifer Kellogg
In his 1963 acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, poet George Seferis commented upon a multi-faceted sense of connection that Homeric Greek offers to modern speakers of the language, saying:
When I read in Homer the simple words “φάος ἠελίοιο” - today I would say “φως του ηλίου” (the sunlight) - I experience a familiarity that stems from a collective soul rather than from an intellectual effort. It is a tone, one might say, whose harmonies reach quite far; it feels very different from anything a translation can give. For we do, after all, speak the same language - a language changed, if you insist, by an evolution of several thousand years, but despite everything faithful to itself - and the feeling for a language derives from emotions as much as from knowledge. This language shows the imprints of deeds and attitudes repeated throughout the ages down to our own. [1]
With the quotation of a brief formulaic phrase from Homer, Seferis manages to encapsulate one of his poetry’s primary aesthetic and political qualities—ancient literature, language, and the Greek physical environment as sources for modern poetic inspiration and Greek identity. Homeric Greek, as the above quote makes plain, exerts a retroactive power on its modern descendents not just linguistically, but aesthetically as well. Seferis’ chosen example of Homeric Greek, φάος ἠελίοιο, is not just a few “simple words,” an arbitrarily chosen specimen of a dead language. Rather, φάος ἠελίοιο is a linguistic and metaphorical commonplace, both an oft-used phrase in Homer and a phenomenon associated with a particular place, the landscape of sun-drenched Greece. In the world of Homeric epic, φάος ἠελίοιο, the light of the sun, conveys life to Achaean heroes, while its converse, darkness, is a signifier of death and the underworld. This phrase is formulaic in Homeric poetry and is frequently found with the verb ζώειν, “to live.” According to Françoise Letoublon, who examined all 18 examples of φάος ἠελίοιο in the Homeric corpus, 7 instances of the phrase are in reference to sunset, and all others refer to death, or the possibility of death. [2] Letoublon makes clear that for the society represented in the Homeric epics the phrase “to see the light of the sun” is equated with being alive, while its opposite, death, is equated with the darkness of the underworld. [3] The semantic potential of this ancient formula was not lost on Seferis, a reader well-versed in the language of the Homeric epic. In Seferis’ poetic world, φάος ἠελίοιο serves as consistent symbol of an ancient metaphysics: the idea that life, death, and the Greek natural environment are all connected.
In the essay that follows, I discuss three poems by George Seferis that interpret and evoke the Homeric formula φάος ἠελίοιο, a phenomenon I refer to as Homer’s light. These three poems, presented chronologically, are “The King of Asine” from 1940, Thrush from 1947 and “Agianapa I” from 1955. My analysis proceeds accordingly, as Homer’s light first illuminates the presence of the ancient past in a modern landscape, next unifies a war-torn and fragmented Greece, and finally offers the poet a nostos of sorts. My consideration of this phenomenon yields new insights into the centrality of the notion of homeland, known in Greek as topos, in the poetry of George Seferis, and the means through which a poetic topos is constructed imaginally. I offer a close reading of Seferis’ poetics of Greek sunlight, which I conclude is essentially an act of poetics as hermeneutics. I assert that Seferis is interpreting for his audience the true meaning of φάος ἠελίοιο by poeticizing his personal discoveries of its meaning. The three poems that I will discuss offer insight into Seferis’ evolving attempts to experience and poeticize Homer’s light in its native topos. Each poem represents a particular hermeneutic strategy for creating and at the same time experiencing a metaphysical Homeric light. In “King of Asine” Seferis pursues the traces of Homer in the Mycenaean archaeological site of Asine, ultimately finding them in the landscape of the ruined citadel which displays the light and dark “tones” of φάος ἠελίοιο. While in Thrush Seferis attempts a literary Homeric mimesis by refashioning several key narrative scenes from the Odyssey in response to a revelatory topos on the island Poros. Finally, in “Agianapa I” an authentic Homer’s light is revealed to Seferis spontaneously on a beach in Cyprus.
Seferis’ poetry seeks the essence of Hellenism and the essence of topos, as the two consitutent elements of what it means to be a modern Greek, and models for the reader the process of discovering the answers. His discovery procedures involve a constant poetic dialogue between topos and mythos, two interlocking concepts where each emerges in response to the other. Topos in modern Greek designates a native land, whether that is a country, village, or place. It can also more generally mean a place or space. In terms of Greek national discourse, topos, according to Artemis Leontis, denotes places on a conceptual map of Hellenism. Literature plays a key role in both citing this conceptual map of the topos of Hellenism and creating it. [4] For Seferis, just as for many modern Greeks, topos corresponds to both the nation of Greece, and to a native place. In a biographical essay Seferis states that his family’s summer village on the Ionian coast of Asia Minor, Skala tou Vourla, is his topos, and that, even decades later, he can still call it a fatherland. [5] This place was lost to Seferis permanently following Greece’s diasterous Asia Minor campaign of 1919-1922. In Seferis’ poetic use of topos then, a nationalist conception of topos coexists with the pain of a lost place of origin. In both cases, for Seferis “the meaning of topos serves…a need for the mythologizing of origin and for the personalizing of the relationship between the poet and nature, land, people, and history.” [6] In this way, topos “becomes a stable point of reference in the Seferian terminology and evolves into a primary and many-faced symbol of the anthropogeography that Seferis’ poetic mythology steadily supports.” [7]
φάος ἠελίοιο is not a myth, of course; it is a Homeric formula which denotes the light of the sun. As the quote from Seferis’ Nobel speech suggests, φάος ἠελίοιο is part of modern Greeks’ linguistic and aesthetic heritage. For Seferis, φάος ἠελίοιο also holds natural and metaphysical properties that correspond to his poetics of Greek sunlight. The poems examined in this essay are attempts to experience the linguistic and aesthetic heritage of φάος ἠελίοιο in landscapes permeated by Homer’s light. These landscapes function as metonyms for a Hellenic topos, or homeland, and provide a link between the ancient and modern worlds. Aesthetically, Seferis’ poetics of Homer’s light is representative of Greek modernism, in particular the emphasis on “native” aesthetic criteria. Artemis Leontis describes this aesthetic emphasis as one of “Entopia,” stating that:
It is the principle of native authenticity …Briefly described, the principle of autochthony assigns the origin of beauty to indigenous forces, thus rendering artistic form dependent on geographical and climatic determinants. Indeed, when Neohellenes imagine their art sprouting from topos, they produce a powerful image of culture whose compensatory function is not only to make up for disappointments in the dream turned nightmare of territorial expansion but also to negotiate tensions between traditionalist and modernizing, nativist and Westernizing tendencies. The claim of entopia is that the logos of a people is mythically grounded in topos, even as the people themselves are rooted in the land. [8]
In a survey of anthropological studies theorizing the concepts of refugees, territory, and rootedness Liisa Malkki concludes “that widely held commonsense assumptions linking people to place, nation to territory, are not simply territorializing, but deeply metaphysical.” [9] The relationship between culture and nations is routinely conceived in terms that are “arborescent,” or those that express rootedness and cultivation, where “the natives are thought to be ideally adapted to their environments” and not only “belong” to these environments, but are confined to them. To be a “modern” Greek, to hail from the territory of the ancient “natives” is to be the inheritors of their rooted, organic, and seemingly natural culture. Thus, a Hellenic identity, or an identity based on the ancient past (as opposed to an identity that stresses Christian Orthodoxy and Byzantine heritage, for example) is assumed to be natural and organic in the logic of national identity. In this way, Homer’s light acts as an overarching metonym for native authenticity.
For Seferis, the logic of Entopia produces a poetics of topos that locates authenticity within the organic metaphors of his personal mythology of topos. As we will see in the poems “King of Asine” and Thrush, the poet’s physical experiences of topos are poeticized as an interaction with the myths of topos. That is, any “authentic” experience of a Hellenic place only serves to ground Hellas’ myths—both national and ancient—in place. The poet, as the figure who experiences and interprets the authentic in a modern and dystopic landscape, gives poetic form to the native culture of topos. To Seferis, authenticity and lived experience are fundamental to the creating of poetry; these notions are intertwined with his idealizing of the poet as a “humble craftsman” who “lives and breathes” his art. [10] According to critic Dimitris Dimiroulis, for Seferis, “worldy experience and material knowledge are among the most necessary instruments of poetic speech and the highest praise for men of thought and art.” [11]
In my analysis that follows, I intend to make plain how Seferis’ conception of poetry as lived experience colors his interpretations of Homeric poetry, Homer the poet, and a metaphysics of Homer’s light. The raw material of experience in this case are Hellenic landscapes or localities and the poetry of Homer. The poems produced from this experience are examples of what Artemis Leontis would call topographies, “writings of a (common)place [which] assign…a sequence of symbols readable through the codes of versimilitude, mapping, description, or narration.” [12]
In the three poems discussed here, Seferis’ interpretation of an authentic Homeric light takes the form of revelation. [13] That Homer’s light is revelatory suggests it is part of a larger metaphysics of topos that has the power to convey essential truths about Hellenism. Homer’s light illuminates the metaphysical underpinings of the Greek topos and allows the poet to see with the eyes of the ultimate Hellene and human, the ancient Greek. [14] This is the objective behind Seferis’ poeticizing of Homer’s light: to articulate a metaphysics of the Hellenic landscape that naturalizes both the homeland and the value that ancient Greek culture holds for Western society. The analysis that follows describes three strategies for experiencing the revelation of Homer’s light. In “King of Asine” the Mycenaean archaeological site becomes the source of revelation; In Thrush the revelatory landscape itself activates a literary mimesis of Homeric myth. And finally “Agianapa I” provokes a spontaneous revelation in Cyprus that has the power to evoke a lost homeland of Asia Minor.

Homer’s Light in Asine

The first poem I will discuss, “King of Asine” from 1940, describes a sustained attempt to discover, perceive, and experience Homer’s light in a modern landscape. Although only briefly mentioned in the Iliad’s Catalogue of Ships, Asine offers the ultimate Hellenic topos: tantalizing ruins of the legendary Mycenaean past, the era of the Homeric epics. Drawn to Asine’s Mycenaean cachet, with “King of Asine” Seferis stages a deliberate attempt to discover and substantiate the epic past in the archaeological site’s modern landscape. Yet when the poem’s attempts to connect the Iliad, Asine’s archaeological remains, and a mythic past lead not to a revelatory presence but rather to a palpable absence, the poem offers a strategy to supercede these dilemmas. To overcome this obstacle, an empty, signless past is imbued with meaning and agency in the present through a poetic landscape that is rich with light and dark imagery and the Homeric symbolism of φάος ἠελίοιο. Into this landscape Seferis injects the figure of a legendary king, by virtue of seeking his existence. In response, the landscape of Asine produces a revelatory vision of the king.
Ο βασιλιάς της Ασίνης
Ασίνην τε ...
ΙΛΙΑΔΑ

Κοιτάξαμε όλο το πρωί γύρω-γύρω το κάστρο
αρχίζοντας από το μέρος του ίσκιου εκεί που η θάλασσα
πράσινη και χωρίς αναλαμπή, το στήθος σκοτωμένου παγονιού
μας δέχτηκε όπως ο καιρός χωρίς κανένα χάσμα.
Οι φλέβες του βράχου κατέβαιναν από ψηλά
στριμμένα κλήματα γυμνά πολύκλωνα ζωντανεύοντας
στ' άγγιγμα του νερού, καθώς το μάτι ακολουθώντας τις
πάλευε να ξεφύγει το κουραστικό λίκνισμα
χάνοντας δύναμη ολοένα.

Από το μέρος του ήλιου ένας μακρύς γιαλός ολάνοιχτος
και το φως τρίβοντας διαμαντικά στα μεγάλα τείχη.
Κανένα πλάσμα ζωντανό τ' αγριοπερίστερα φευγάτα
κι ο βασιλιάς της Ασίνης που τον γυρεύουμε δυο χρόνια τώρα
άγνωστος λησμονημένος απ' όλους κι από τον Όμηρο
μόνο μια λέξη στην Ιλιάδα κι εκείνη αβέβαιη
ριγμένη εδώ σαν την εντάφια χρυσή προσωπίδα.
Την άγγιξες, θυμάσαι τον ήχο της; κούφιο μέσα στο φως
σαν το στεγνό πιθάρι στο σκαμμένο χώμα·
κι ο ίδιος ήχος μες στη θάλασσα με τα κουπιά μας.
Ο βασιλιάς της Ασίνης ένα κενό κάτω απ' την προσωπίδα
παντού μαζί μας παντού μαζί μας, κάτω από ένα όνομα:
"Ασίνην τε ... Ασίνην τε ..." και τα παιδιά του αγάλματα
κι οι πόθοι του φτερουγίσματα πουλιών κι ο αγέρας
στα διαστήματα των στοχασμών του και τα καράβια του
αραγμένα σ' άφαντο λιμάνι·
κάτω απ' την προσωπίδα ένα κενό.

Πίσω από τα μεγάλα μάτια τα καμπύλα χείλια τους βοστρύχους
ανάγλυφα στο μαλαματένιο σκέπασμα της ύπάρξής μας
ένα σημείο σκοτεινό που ταξιδεύει σαν το ψάρι
μέσα στην αυγινή γαλήνη του πελάγου και το βλέπεις:
ένα κενό παντού μαζί μας.
Και το πουλί που πέταξε τον άλλο χειμώνα
με σπασμένη φτερούγα
σκήνωμα ζωής,
κι η νέα γυναίκα που έφυγε να παίξει
με τα σκυλόδοντα του καλοκαιριού
κι η ψυχή που γύρεψε τσιρίζοντας τον κάτω κόσμο
κι ο τόπος σαν το μεγάλο πλατανόφυλλο που παρασέρνει ο χείμαρρος του ήλιου
με τ' αρχαία μνημεία και τη σύγχρονη θλίψη.

Κι ο ποιητής αργοπορεί κοιτάζοντας τις πέτρες κι αναρωτιέται
υπάρχουν άραγε
ανάμεσα στις χαλασμένες τούτες γραμμές τις ακμές τις αιχμές τα κοίλα και τις καμπύλες
υπάρχουν άραγε
εδώ που συναντιέται το πέρασμα της βροχής του αγέρα και της φθοράς
υπάρχουν, η κίνηση του προσώπου το σχήμα της στοργής
εκείνων που λιγόστεψαν τόσο παράξενα μες στη ζωή μας
αυτών που απόμειναν σκιές κυμάτων και στοχασμοί με την απεραντοσύνη του πελάγου
ή μήπως όχι δεν απομένει τίποτε παρά μόνο το βάρος
η νοσταλγία του βάρους μιας ύπαρξης ζωντανής
εκεί που μένουμε τώρα ανυπόστατοι λυγίζοντας
σαν τα κλωνάρια της φριχτής ιτιάς σωριασμένα μέσα στη διάρκεια της απελπισίας
ενώ το ρέμα κίτρινο κατεβάζει αργά βούρλα ξεριζωμένα μες στο βούρκο
εικόνα μορφής που μαρμάρωσε με την απόφαση μιας πίκρας παντοτινής.
Ο ποιητής ένα κενό.

Ασπιδοφόρος ο ήλιος ανέβαινε πολεμώντας
κι από το βάθος της σπηλιάς μια νυχτερίδα τρομαγμένη
χτύπησε πάνω στο φως σαν τη σαΐτα πάνω στο σκουτάρι:
"Ασίνην τε Ασίνην τε ..." Να 'ταν αυτή ο βασιλιάς της Ασίνης
που τον γυρεύουμε τόσο προσεχτικά σε τούτη την ακρόπολη
γγίζοντας κάποτε με τα δάχτυλά μας την αφή του πάνω στις πέτρες.

Ασίνη, καλοκαίρι '38
-Αθήνα, Γεν. '40 [15]

The King of Asine
And Asine…the Iliad

All morning we looked around the citadel
starting from the shady side, there where the sea is
green and without glimmer, like the breast of a killed pigeon
it welcomed us just like time without any gap.
The veins of the rock descended from high up
bare twisted vines with many strands coming alive
in the touch of the water, as the eye following them
struggled to avoid the tiring sway
losing strength altogether.

From the side of the sun a long beach fully open
and the light rubbing diamonds on the great walls.
Not a living creature, the wild doves flown away
and the king of Asine, he for whom we are searching two years now
unknown forgotten by all and by Homer
only one word in the Iliad and uncertain at that
cast aside here like the entombed gold faceplate.
You touched it, do you remember its sound? Hollow in the light
like the dry jar in the excavated ground;
and the same sound within the sea against our oars.
The king of Asine a blank beneath the faceplate
everywhere among us, everywhere among us, beneath a name:
“and Asine..and Asine…”
and the children of the statues
and his desires the fluttering wings of birds and the wind
in the spaces of his thoughts and his boats
moored in an invisible harbor;
beneath the faceplate a blank.

Behind the great eyes the round lips the ringlets
embossed in the golden veil of our existence
a dark spot that travels like a fish
within the morning brilliance of the sea and you see it:
a blank everywhere among us.
And the bird that flew the other winter
with a broken wing
relics of life,
and the young woman who left to play
with the canine teeth of summer
and the soul that wandered the underworld shrieking
and the country shaped like a great plane tree leaf that is swept along
by the torrent of the sun
with the ancient monuments and the modern sadness.

And the poet moves slowly looking at the stones and asks
I wonder do they exist
among these broken lines the edges the peaks the hollows and the
curves
I wonder do they exist
here where the passing rain meets the air and the decay
do they exist, the motion of the face the outlines of affection
of those who receded so strangely in our life
of these who remain shades of waves and thoughts with the vastness
of the sea
or maybe not nothing remains beyond the weight
the nostalgia of the weight of a living existence
there where we stand now non-existent bending
like the branches of a horrifying willow tree that collapsed amidst the expanse of misery
while the yellow stream runs down slowly uprooted reeds within the muck
the image of a form that hardened like marble with the acceptance of an eternal bitterness.
The poet is a blank.

The sun rose in the sky bearing its shield and waging war
and from the cave depths a terrified bat
struck the light like the point of a spear on a shield:
“And Asine and Asine…” Would that this were the king of Asine
for whom we searched so attentively in this acropolis
touching sometimes with our fingers his touch upon the stones.

Asine, summer of ‘38
-Athens, Jan. ‘40
The poem opens quoting a fragment of the Iliad’s Catalogue of Ships, the only passage where ancient Asine is mentioned. The first line announces that this poem is about a physical and visual scanning of the landscape. Two parallel narratives are developed in the poem: the story of the absent ancient “king” of Asine and the story of the present modern Greek poet who seeks the king. What brings these narratives together, and serves to bridge the chronological gap between them, is the landscape of the promontory of Asine. This landscape, deserted and gloomy as it appears on the surface, is “read” like a text for signs of life and described in terms of Homer’s light. In this way, the figure of the “king of Asine” comes alive for the poet, even as he questions whether he existed at all. Let us explore further how Seferis substantiates the “unknown known” of the “King of Asine” with landscape serving as a conduit that reveals Homer’s light.
In the first stanza we are presented with a scene of “the poet” walking around the half of the ancient citadel of Asine that is cast in shade. In the opening line of the second stanza we see briefly the other half of the citadel, the sunny side, which possesses a beach wide open to the brilliant sun and no signs of life (even the wild doves, a Homeric epithet describing the region, have quit the scene). Into this deserted landscape arises the figure of a “king” of Asine who has been condemned to obsolescence—even by Homer himself—with the simulation of a face, thanks to the metaphor of an empty gold death mask (an image drawn from the famous death mask of Agamemnon from Schliemann’s excavations at Mycenae). This image of an empty gold mask provides the personification, or reification, of a felt absence, an absence intensified by a description of the lifeless landscape. [16] The Homeric fragment “and Asine” interweaves the poet’s ruminations on the figure of the king like a refrain. Yet this figure now ascribed to a death mask (which suggests he might have lived in order to die) is still an all-pervasive absence beyond this object. Finally, in the third stanza the questions raised in fact pertain to the way we experience this absence in our present existence, “as a dark spot that travels like a fish/within the morning brilliance of the sea.” Our existence is framed in the conceptual language of φάος ἠελίοιο, with its implications for life and death. The images presented in lines 32-37 signify either life or death: the bird with a broken wing (life), the young woman who left (death), the soul that wanders the underworld shrieking (death). [17] And in line 38 we have the place where life and death come together, “the country shaped like a great plane tree leaf that is swept along by the torrent of the sun,” or Greece.
The mention of modern Greece brings up the existential dilemmas and recent tragic past of Greece. But between the “ancient monuments and the modern sadness” what remains? In what ways is the present condition of being Greek experienced and validated? How does a modern Greek access his tradition through the ghosts of the past? To answer this question, the poet figure ponders the messages that are conveyed by the ruins of a Mycenaean stone wall and the seaside atmosphere:
I wonder do they exist
among these broken lines the edges the peaks the hollows and the
curves
I wonder do they exist
here where the passing rain meets the air and the decay
do they exist, the motion of the face the outlines of affection
of those who dropped away so strangely within our life
The physical ruins of Asine are read like a text that has the potential to connect the present to the past, and those who lived in this place in the past. The poet is the figure who synthesizes and recomposes Asine’s rubble into a meaningful topos in the present. But who is the poet—Seferis as the author or Homer? Who has authored Asine’s past? Beyond the refrain from the Iliad, the ancient poet, Homer, is as empty as the death mask of the “king.” While the modern poet, Seferis, is also a blank, since the present is devalued and denuded in the search for the past. The poem addresses these questions with a final image of light and dark, the bat that emerges suddenly from a cave and pierces the sunlight (another dark point traveling in the light). This image is accompanied by Homer’s double refrain. Here is the sign of light and life that the poet was searching for, and that he ascribes to the soul of the “king of Asine.” But does this image resolve the existential difficulties of creating meaning out of the past in the present?
In seeking answers to these dilemmas from the poet, Homer, Seferis has transferred his knowledge that this location is known to be Homeric onto Asine’s landscape. In turn, the landscape of Asine “speaks” in the language of Homer, that is in the encoded language of φάος ἠελίοιο with its symbolism of light and life, darkness and death. Homer’s voice itself, in the double refrain of “and Asine,” breaks through the modern poet’s narrative, as if Homer were speaking through Seferis. In this way, Seferis has grounded the logos of Homer within the topos of Asine. There is no ancient Greek myth associated with Asine, just the presence of a mythic past, symbolized by the quotation of Ἀσίνην τε from the Iliad.
“King of Asine” offers a compelling attempt to experience and interpret an essential Hellenic topos. It demonstrates a sustained process of seeking revelation and finding it in the landscape. The act of experiencing Homer’s light in Asine becomes revelatory, confirming in the process of discovery its metaphysical properties. In the next section we will discuss how Seferis grounds myth in topos in order to experience an intense revelation of Homer’s light.

The Revelatory Light of Poros

I turn now to my next example of Seferis’ poetics of Homer’s light, examining the final poems of Seferis’ volume Thrush. In Thrush, Seferis presents a recreation of several significant narrative scenes of the Odyssey: Elpenor’s confrontation with Circe and Odysseus’ descent to the underworld, necromancy, and nostos. Unlike “King of Asine,” where an archeological site provides a definite connection to a mythic past, in Thrush the experience of Homer’s light in the seascape of Poros generates a recreation of ancient Greek myth. Here, the physical environment of Poros serves to root ancient Greek myth into topos, and in turn, the workings of myth heal the topos that produced it. Ultimately, myth transforms Poros’ landscape into an apocalyptic vision of Homer’s sunlight that transcends the confines of topos. Thrush shows the development of Homer’s light from a way of recognizing the ancient past in a modern landscape into the central component of a transcendental Hellenic metaphysics. Homer’s light is revealed to be a natural and ethical force that has the power to heal personal and national humiliation in the aftermath of Greece’s ordeal in World War II and in the midst of its brutal civil war.
In 1944 Seferis returned to Greece following a three-year period of exile with the Greek government during the German Occupation. His journal entries of 1945 and 46 record an almost feverish reaction to Greece’s natural environment after sojourns in South Africa and Egypt. Images of light and darkness, accompanied by an incipient solar metaphysics with moral overtones pervade the pages of Seferis’ journals, especially in his descriptions of the Attic landscape. In a characteristic example from Christmas Day, 1945, he writes:
I went out at midday towards Anafiotika. I pay attention to remain low enough, so that I avoid the ancient ruins [18] . This joy of the rotting, of the non-durable that you see in Greece; a rotting doorframe with three leaflets is truly something! It is the light. The most inconsequential plaything cavorts within the light and you observe it transubstantiating them; making them into other things, imponderable things, without any relation to this wretchedness. Greece is unsympathetic. [19]
In contrast to the rotting reeds of “King of Asine,” now what is rotten is not a sign of decay, rather it is ripe for transubstantiation. It is not the gleaming white marble of the Acropolis where one experiences the light, but the ramshackle community of migrants that live below the Acropolis, those who emigrated to Athens for the sake of building modern Greece. [20] The symbol of Greek antiquity, the Acropolis, which is here equated with Greece itself, is impotent to offer a deeper understanding of Hellenism. One must look beyond the symbols of nationhood for illumination and find it in the overgrown, decrepit, natural landscape of the slopes of the Acropolis. Other journal entries bear witness to an increasingly instinctual and ineffable response to a sublime natural Greek landscape: “From the moment spring began, inexpressible sensitivity and elation…Impossible to find a word, gesture, or intimacy which is able to express this. The words are a knot in my throat. The sensitivity burns without letting go. I go where it takes me, blind.” [21] In a later entry he writes, “Today I understood why Homer was blind; if he had eyes, he wouldn’t write anything. He saw once upon a time, for a limited time period; and then he didn’t see anymore.” [22] These two statements suggest a forceful reaction to an overpowering sunlight that reveals truths, truths perhaps Seferis would rather avoid, such as the realities of Greece’s coincident and bloody civil war. [23]
These diaristic reflections document Seferis’ evolving beliefs about the relationship between Homer and topos, as well as his own process of poeticizing topos. [24] In his thoughts on Homer, Seferis is speculating that Homer’s reaction to the Greek natural environment is akin to his own. As my analysis has shown up until this point, Homer’s light is a metaphor for ancient Greek civilization that becomes a metaphysical entity when experienced in a Hellenic topos. With the writing of Thrush, the relationship between ancient civilization and topos deepens, as the physical environment of topos becomes a reflection of the organic unity of ancient Hellenic culture. To Seferis, Homer is the ur-poet who first recognized Hellas’ inherent metaphysical properties; Homeric poetry serves simultaneously as an example and a metaphor for an autochthonous Hellenic culture. The ancient myths contained therein are the organic components of this culture, similar to the natural environment of Greece. This analogy between human culture and the workings of nature is made plain in the following quote from Seferis’ essay in which he gave “stage directions” to help readers interpret Thrush:
The Erinyes will pursue the sun, just as they pursued Odysseus—consider the cords that bind men to the elements of nature—this tragedy that is simultaneously natural and human, this familiarity. If the light were to become suddenly Orestes? It is so easy, think about it: if the light of day and the blood of man were the same thing? How far could one feel that? Anthropomorphism, they say, and move on. For me it is not such a simple phenomenon. If the humanizing force as I said bore the Odyssey, how far could we see the Odyssey? [25]
This analogical conception of the relationship between myth and topos structures the poetics of Homer’s light in Thrush. According to Leontis, “the conflation of culture and nature is a fundamental feature” of the poem. [26] Yet where Leontis locates this phenomenon in Seferis’ modernism—his poetics of literary quotation, ellipsis, and the theme of belated modernity—I suggest that it is rooted deeply in Thrush’s recreation of a Homeric paradigm. In my analysis of Thrush, I suggest that Seferis adopts the persona of Homer as the voice of an ancient culture and tradition, who, through myth, can re-order the fate of topos. I assert that this is a process of literary Homeric mimesis under the rubric of Gregory Nagy’s theory of mimesis. I use mimesis as a means of examining how Seferis connects himself to the role of the poet and the figure of ‘Homer’ and the interdependence of myth and topos in Seferis’ poetry.
Nagy’s theory of mimesis is consistent with his overarching project to advance the oral performance theory of Homeric poetry in the field of Classical Studies. This theory states that Homer was not one author figure that lived and wrote in a particular time period, but rather a cultural hero figure created over time by an oral poetic tradition. Nagy’s conception of the evolution of Homeric poetry offers fruitful results when compared to modern conceptions of Homer, since Nagy’s work considers “Homer” to be a “historical concept” that acts as “a metonym for the text and language attributed to Homer in historical times.” [27] In this way, Homer can be seen as a metaphor for an authoritative cultural tradition, and the study of Homeric poetry an examination of how this tradition creates, maintains, and presents itself.
The details of my argument related to Nagy’s mimesis will unfold through my step-by-step analysis of Thrush. The poems that make up Thrush are the culmination of Seferis’ emotional response to Greece described above and an intense engagement with the landscape of Poros during the autumn of 1946, when the poem was composed. In October of 1946 Seferis was granted a much-needed holiday from his duties at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He and his wife spent two months on the island of Poros, at the neoclassical home where they had first met over a decade before. Seferis makes clear that Poros is not “his topos,” or a place that he feels attached to, but rather simply a place where he has “a past.” [28] Arriving in Poros, he wrote “This time I am not headed just for the countryside, I am headed on a long, mostly dark journey and I am deeply wounded by my topos.” [29] Both Seferis’ journals and his interpretive essay “Stage Directions for Thrush” indicate that the poet’s experiences on the island of Poros set in motion Thrush’s narrative scenes drawn from the Odyssey: Elpenor’s death, Circe’s presence, and Odysseus’ necromancy. During a brief visit to Poros in August of 1946, a visit that prefigured the writing of Thrush, Seferis happened upon the wreck of a naval supply ship in the channel between Poros and the Peloponnese. The name of this ship was the ancient Greek word for the bird thrush, or κίχλη. [30] The image of this shipwreck forms the core of the poem and the mechanism for producing its startling final revelation.
Thrush is a series of five poems organized into three parts. Each poem is written in a different style and loosely joined together through a narrative progression that follows a set of scenes in Odyssey books x-xii. The focus of my analysis will be on parts 2 and 3, as these poems pertain directly to my argument about Homer’s light. Part 1 is a personal reflection on the notion of home, where the Odysseus figure expresses loss, reflecting that, “The homes that I had they took from me.” Part 2 contains two poems, “Sensual Elpenor” and “The Radio.” “Sensual Elpenor” refashions the encounter between Elpenor and Circe, while “The Radio” is an interlude prior to the descent and necromancy of part 3. [31] Part 3 also contains two poems, “The Shipwreck of the Thrush” and “The Light” in which Seferis re-imagines Odysseus’ eliciting of the shades of Hades and finding a kind of nostos.
“The Radio” sets the stage for the poems of Part 3. The radio “transmits” both a song, and a news broadcast which interrupts the song, informing the listener of a worsening war. Below I offer an excerpt from the radio’s “song,” which is presented in quotation marks as if to suggest we are listening to the radio itself singing or speaking.
Το ραδιόφωνο

"Πανιά στο φύσημα του αγέρα
ο νους δεν κράτησε άλλο από τη μέρα.
Άρωμα πεύκου και σιγή
εύκολα θ' απαλύνουν την πληγή
που έκαμαν φεύγοντας ο ναύτης
η σουσουράδα ο κοκωβιός κι ο μυγοχάφτης.
Γυναίκα που έμεινες χωρίς αφή,
άκουσε των ανέμων την ταφή.

"Άδειασε το χρυσό βαρέλι
ο γήλιος έγινε κουρέλι
σε μιας μεσόκοπης λαιμό
που βήχει και δεν έχει τελειωμό·
το καλοκαίρι που ταξίδεψε τη θλίβει
με τα μαλάματα στους ώμους και στην ήβη.
Γυναίκα που έχασες το φως,
άκουσε, τραγουδά ο τυφλός.

"Σκοτείνιασε· κλείσε τα τζάμια·
κάνε σουραύλια με τα χτεσινά καλάμια,
και μην ανοίγεις όσο κι α χτυπούν·
φωνάζουν μα δεν έχουν τι να πουν.
Πάρε κυκλάμινα, πευκοβελόνες,
κρίνα απ' την άμμο, κι απ' τη θάλασσα ανεμώνες·
γυναίκα που έχασες το νου,
άκου, περνά το ξόδι του νερού ..." [32]
The radio

Sails in the blowing of the wind
the mind held nothing else from the day.
The scent of pine and silence
will easily temper the wound
made by the departing sailor
the wagtail the gudgeon and the fly-catcher.
Woman who remained without touch
hear the grave of the winds.

The golden jug is empty
the sun has become a rag
around the neck of a middle-aged woman
who coughs without stopping--
the summer that he left saddens her
then she had gold on her arms and womb.
Woman who lost the light,
listen, the blind man sings.

It’s gotten dark; close the windows—
fashion flutes with yesterday’s reeds,
and don’t open no matter how much they knock—
they shout but they have nothing to say.
Take up cyclamens, pine needles,
sea lilies from the sand, and anemones from the sea—
woman who lost her mind,
listen, the funeral of the water passes by…” [33]
In the concluding lines of “Sensual Elpenor” we learn that Circe “moved on towards the light-filled beach/where the wave is drowned out by the sound of the radio.” [34] Seferis’ “Stage Directions for Thrush” suggest that “we can easily imagine that Circe, who always sings…sang at the loom, after Odysseus set out, this very same song to fool her pain.” [35] Yet is this Circe’s song or is Circe the listener? Why would Seferis introduce a poem that evokes a traditional folk song at this point in Thrush’s dramatic progression? How does this “song” relate to Homer’s light?
The radio’s song features a dialogic rhythm thanks to a metrical pattern of alternating rising and falling couplets and an exchange between feminine and masculine nouns ending the couplets. In the first stanza, three out of the four couplets end in feminine nouns, while in the second stanza this pattern is reversed, with only one feminine noun amidst masculine and neuter endings. The first stanza’s feminine nouns offer soft relief to the “woman who remained without touch” and “the wound” caused by the “leaving sailor.” The possibility of relief fades with the second stanza, where the “golden jug,” a metaphor for the sun, hangs like “a rag” around the neck of a hacking “middle-aged woman.” The rhyme that ends the final couplet, “το φως” and “τυφλός,” light and blindness, bring an end to this masculine and feminine, light and heavy, tonal interplay. This “middle-aged woman” embodies the dualities evoked through the first two stanzas’ meter, rhyme, and images: feminine and masculine energies, light and darkness, decay and the suppressed potential for rebirth (“gold on her pelvis,” or, womb). In this way, Seferis reflects Circe’s ancient mythological significance as a daughter of the sun and as a temptress and guide to Odysseus. Yet the decrepitude of the woman and the golden sun suggests a deep foreboding.
The opening word of the final stanza, “σκοτείνιασε,” it’s grown dark out, confirms this foreboding. Darkness has overtaken previous epochs of golden luminosity. In the final stanza, the rhythm is punctuated by a series of commands that convey a mood of urgency and uncertainty—“close the windows,” “don’t open them,” “fashion flutes,” “gather cyclamen,” and “listen.” But what will these commands achieve?
Each command offers a symbolic preparation for the descent to the underworld, necromancy, and revelation to come in the final part of Thrush. Closing the windows to the outside world suggests withdrawal and an internalizing of the self. Reed flutes appear elsewhere in Seferis’ poetry as a symbol of ancient myth and cultural heritage. [36] With the list of flowers the woman is told to gather, Seferis weaves a garland that honors the ancient past. Each flower offers a range of ancient symbolic associations with death and rebirth, as well as ancient myth and poetry. These associations come together in the next command: listening to an imminent tale that the woman must hear. This thematic progression also echoes other poems by Seferis that deal with similar material, the “first seed” that “re-inaugurates the primeval drama” from the opening of Mythistorima, and the reed that is buried for later resurrection in Logbook III’s “Memory I.” Thus, in the final stanza, Seferis suggests the turning of a closed circle of life, death, and rebirth, a rebirth yet to come in the song of the blind man. The figure of Circe ultimately stands for a worn-out, middle-aged Greece who has lost the glory of its golden age. With its urgent commands, the radio’s song exhorts Greece to effect a rebirth from a refashioning of its organic core. Topos, in the end, is a closed circle; it is the cause and the solution. From a union of myth and topos, revelation and regeneration can occur.
“The Radio” serves as a prescient external narrator that presages the death and reemergence of topos. It urges its listeners to hear “the poet’s song,” “the grave of the winds,” and “the funeral of the water,” phrases which all describe the Homeric necromancy and nostos in the following poems. Who or what is behind the radio’s speech? Is this the voice of the poet or the voice of an omniscient cultural tradition intervening in the stalled workings of myth? Only “the poet’s song” will rewrite the story of topos and reenact the nostos, or “the return to light and life” that Greece so badly needs at the moment of its late modern civil war.
In this way, Thrush becomes a very deliberate recreation of Homeric myth whose goal is to use the power of indigenous culture and myth to imagine an alternative outcome for a Hellenic topos. The poet, as the voice of lived experience and an authentic cultural tradition, has the potential to retell the story and recreate its outcome. Recreation, however, does not necessarily mean imitation; I believe that Seferis is refashioning the Odyssey in order to influence the cultural politics of the topos of Greece. That is, Seferis re-performs Homeric myth in order to adopt the identity of the ultimate Hellenic poet. Recreating Homer offers Seferis a means of maintaining tradition, interpreting Homeric poetry for a modern audience, and commenting poetically on current events. It also achieves the overarching goal of rooting ancient myth into a contemporary landscape. In the midst of Greece’s civil war Seferis is healing his own relationship with Greece and attempting to “recover the order of another world.” [37]
To further explore how Seferis “recreates Homer” through the poem Thrush let us return to Gregory Nagy’s theory of mimesis. Mimesis offers a processual explanation for how Homeric poetry changes over time through the medium of performance. Each new performer of Homeric poetry becomes Homer the poet, reenacting an archetypal performance of Homeric poetry and in the process recomposing Homer’s text. In this way, each new performance modeled on an archetype is both a recomposition of the archetypal poetic work and a recomposition of the archetypal identity of the performer. The recreation of the archetype allows for continuity in a given tradition, while the performer recreates his own identity in the act of performance. Thus, to perform the oral poetry of Homer is to reenact each previous performance of Homer, stretching all the way back to the archetypal “original” performance made by Homer himself. This context accounts for what Nagy titles “recomposition in performance,” the action of recomposing the poetry of Homer while in the process of reenacting the model of performing Homeric poetry. This is a “model of songmaking that is ultimately patterned on its own goal, achieved by maintaining continuity through variety. To maintain this continuity is to keep on re-creating, which is the process of mimesis. In mimesis, every performance is a re-creation.” [38] Mimesis is a process of cultural continuity; it is not a static imitation that describes the relationship between a copy and an original, albeit an archetypal or influential, original artistic creation. As Egbert Bakker writes, “Thus mimesis originally does not denote a relation between a text...and its referent, but between an action (i.e., a process) and its model.” [39]
Although Nagy’s ultimate aim is to demonstrate the function of the ancient poetic genres epic and lyric in an oral, rather than, literate society, his formulation of mimesis has a direct application to modern Greek poetry because it explains how poetic traditions establish the notion of their own unbroken continuity. Since the modern Greek nation is predicated on an unbroken link with a continuous “Greek” culture stretching back to ancient times, Nagy’s mimesis offers a theory of how a modern Greek poet might affirm his own identity by reperforming Homeric Greek poetry. Mimesis is also an act of repetition, a process that extends past actions into the present. Nagy quotes Kierkegaard’s definition of repetition as “recollecting forward” where knowledge gained in the past is remembered and reactivated, ensuring a tradition. [40]
This formulation of mimesis allows us to go beyond literary criticism that focuses on one-to-one correlations of Seferis’ poems to the ancient sources they quote, borrow from, or echo. It attempts to describe the process Seferis follows in creating a new reality for a Hellenic topos and new meanings using ancient material in his poetry. Within Seferis’ poetry, mimesis can be seen as the methodological reflection of his notion of tradition. [41] According to Dimitris Dimiroulis, tradition for Seferis is not a thing of the past “and doesn’t refer to something one simply discovers or inherits, but to something which creates anew, since, at the same time it expresses Seferis’ vast respect and admiration for the absolute value of ancient heritage.” [42] As Seferis himself writes, “originality is a youthful diversion which must sometimes be left behind.” [43]
Following a discussion of part 2’s introduction to the themes of death and rebirth, we now move on to part 3’s climax. How does part 3 reimagine the Homeric Odyssey’s descent, necromancy, and nostos? In part 2 of Thrush, the radio urged the listener to pay attention to the blind man’s song in preparation for the poem’s climax in part 3. This deictic gesture points to a performative context for the poem’s recomposition of selected Homeric myths, and in particular, the myths that provide the resolution to Odysseus’ journey. When the radio’s song ends, its voice becomes fragmented and the specter of an overwhelming war and mass death loom. This fragmentation of voices continues into the “The Shipwreck of the Thrush” but is balanced by the voice of a first person narrator who again takes the reins of the poem’s narrative. This is the I who acts as an Odysseus figure within the framework of the poem and whose perspective is given in the first poem, “The House Close to the Sea.”
Το ναυάγιο της "Κίχλης"

"Το ξύλο αυτό που δρόσιζε το μέτωπό μου
τις ώρες που το μεσημέρι πύρωνε τις φλέβες
σε ξένα χέρια θέλει ανθίσει. Πάρ' το, σου το χαρίζω·
δες, είναι ξύλο λεμονιάς ..."
Άκουσα τη φωνή
καθώς εκοίταζα στη θάλασσα να ξεχωρίσω
ένα καράβι που το βούλιαξαν εδώ και χρόνια·
το 'λεγαν "Κίχλη"· ένα μικρό ναυάγιο· τα κατάρτια,
σπασμένα, κυματίζανε λοξά στο βάθος, σαν πλοκάμια
ή μνήμη ονείρων, δείχνοντας το σκαρί του
στόμα θαμπό κάποιου μεγάλου κήτους νεκρού
σβησμένο στο νερό. Μεγάλη απλώνουνταν γαλήνη.

Κι άλλες φωνές σιγά - σιγά με τη σειρά τους
ακολουθήσαν· ψίθυροι φτενοί και διψασμένοι
που βγαίναν από του ήλιου τ' άλλο μέρος, το σκοτεινό·
θα 'λεγες γύρευαν να πιουν αίμα μια στάλα·
ήτανε γνώριμες μα δεν μπορούσα να τις ξεχωρίσω.
Κι ήρθε η φωνή του γέρου, αυτή την ένιωσα
πέφτοντας στην καρδιά της μέρας
ήσυχη, σαν ακίνητη:
"Κι α με δικάσετε να πιω φαρμάκι, ευχαριστώ·
το δίκιο σας θα 'ναι το δίκιο μου· πού να πηγαίνω
γυρίζοντας σε ξένους τόπους, ένα στρογγυλό λιθάρι.
Το θάνατο τον προτιμώ·
ποιος πάει για το καλύτερο ο θεός το ξέρει.”

Χώρες του ήλιου και δεν μπορείτε ν' αντικρίσετε τον ήλιο.
Χώρες του ανθρώπου και δεν μπορείτε ν' αντικρίσετε τον άνθρωπο. [44]

The Shipwreck of the Thrush

“This branch that cooled my forehead
the hours when the midday sun burned my veins
in other hands perhaps it blooms. Take it, I give it to you;
look, it’s a lemon tree branch…”
I heard the voice
as I looked into the sea to make out
a ship which had sank many years ago;
it was called Thrush—a small shipwreck—the masts,
broken, they undulated sideways in the deep, like braids
or the memory of dreams, pointing to its moorings
the clouded mouth of some great dead sea monster
snuffed out in the water. A great shining light spread out.

And other voices slowly followed one after another.
Whispers thin and thirsty
which came out from the other side of the sun, the dark side,
you would say that they sought to drink a drop of blood;
they were familiar but I couldn’t make them out.
And then came the voice of the old man, this I felt
falling straight into the heart of the day
quiet, as if not moving:
“And if you condemn me to swallow poison, I thank you;
let your justice be my justice; where would I go
wandering in foreign lands, a well-turned stone.
I prefer death;
God knows who goes toward the better end.”

Countries of the sun and you can’t see the sun.
Countries of man and you can’t see man.
As an Odysseus figure tries to make out the image of the wrecked Thrush through turbid waters it seems to beckon him to another world. First the voice of his departed companion Elpenor emerges. Elpenor, the subject of the second poem, “The Sensual Elpenor,” offers Odysseus a lemon tree branch, a reference to an ancient burial custom of providing a tree branch to accompany the departed soul to the underworld. [45] This is the first sign that the narrator is conversing with the dead. The undulating sight of the ship’s broken masts point to a submerged dreamscape of lost memories and death. Yet this phantom image is also a beacon of light in the darkness, a beacon that pulls the narrator into the realm of Hades and into dialogue with the dead. Odysseus’ descent (katabasis) unfolds in brilliant daytime sunlight as a startling revelation; the voices that come from behind the sun “fall straight into the heart of the day,” a time of day when daimons (spirits) appear according to ancient and modern Greek folklore.
Against the Homeric paradigm, the next voice we hear is Socrates’ from Plato’s Apology. An amalgam of paraphrases from the Apology takes the place of Homer’s Tireisias— how does this prophesy an expected nostos in the final poem? Seferis’ paraphrase of the Apology is a direct reflection of his idiosyncratic morality, the poetic expression of which has been extensively treated in criticism by Nassos Vagenas and Mario Vitti. [46] For Seferis, death has its own justice, an inherent equity that reflects internal balance or discord. Doing the right thing in the face of evil is a matter of free will, and a “just” ending befalls those who make the right choice—the theme of Socrates’ speech to his accusers. The poem’s concluding couplet suggests that Homer’s light, the sun—itself a positive, humanist force—is being eclipsed by darkness, death, and anti-human (i.e., anti-Hellenic forces). That is, Greece has become Hades: in this land of the all-powerful sun and the order of man (anthropos), we are blind to both. Only a respect for the cattle of the sun—our myths, our heritage—can return us to the glory of the past. [47]
What does this descent and necromancy achieve for the imperiled topos of Greece? It sets the stage for a rebirth of topos from its own soil, and a harmonizing and retotalizing revelation of an all-powerful sunlight that restores Greece to its organic, humanist origins. The waterlogged wreck of the Thrush and the voices of the dead that emerge from it are symbols of a mythical chthonian passage in a modern landscape. In this way, “The Shipwreck of the Thrush” can be seen as an example of ritual poetics. I suggest that Seferis is deliberately offering a poetic reenactment of the Odyssey’s necromancy as a means of evoking the power of ritual in ancient society. According to Margaret Alexiou, in modern Greece,
ritual is not a corpus of solemn activities undertaken by rural folk, or by agents of religious institutions at times of ceremony and crisis. It is a profoundly analogical way of seeing, thinking, acting, and has inspired Greek writers and artists over many centuries. Ritual is an attempt by one or more persons, whether acting individually, or in concert with others, to control the perceived outside world in relation to the self, and to organize that world by means of the associations of one’s senses. [48]
Even though Socrates supplants the figure of Tireisias, the real prophet of Thrush is the poet. Only a poetry of topos, grounded in an organic, autochthonous culture will reanimate Greece’s imbalanced tradition. Seferis’ literary mimesis of Homer, then, is an attempt to influence the fate of topos, to “re-write” the fate of topos.
From the darkness of the underworld, Thrush emerges into a blinding, revelatory sunlight in the final poem.
Το φως

Καθώς περνούν τα χρόνια
πληθαίνουν οι κριτές που σε καταδικάζουν·
καθώς περνούν τα χρόνια και κουβεντιάζεις με λιγότερες φωνές,
βλέπεις τον ήλιο μ' άλλα μάτια·
ξέρεις πως εκείνοι που έμειναν, σε γελούσαν,
το παραμίλημα της σάρκας, ο όμορφος χορός
που τελειώνει στη γύμνια.
Όπως, τη νύχτα στρίβοντας στην έρμη δημοσιά,
άξαφνα βλέπεις να γυαλίζουν τα μάτια ενός ζώου
που έφυγαν κιόλας, έτσι νιώθεις τα μάτια σου·
τον ήλιο τον κοιτάς, έπειτα χάνεσαι μες στο σκοτάδι·
ο δωρικός χιτώνας
που αγγίξανε τα δάχτυλά σου και λύγισε σαν τα βουνά,
είναι ένα μάρμαρο στο φως, μα το κεφάλι του είναι στο σκοτάδι.
Κι αυτούς που αφήσαν την παλαίστρα για να πάρουν τα δοξάρια
και χτύπησαν το θεληματικό μαραθωνοδρόμο
κι εκείνος είδε τη σφενδόνη ν' αρμενίζει στο αίμα
ν' αδειάζει ο κόσμος όπως το φεγγάρι
και να μαραίνουνται τα νικηφόρα περιβόλια·
τους βλέπεις μες στον ήλιο, πίσω από τον ήλιο.
Και τα παιδιά που κάναν μακροβούτια απ' τα μπαστούνια
πηγαίνουν σαν αδράχτια γνέθοντας ακόμη,
σώματα γυμνά βουλιάζοντας μέσα στο μαύρο φως
μ' ένα νόμισμα στα δόντια, κολυμπώντας ακόμη,
καθώς ο ήλιος ράβει με βελονιές μαλαματένιες
πανιά και ξύλα υγρά και χρώματα πελαγίσια·
ακόμη τώρα κατεβαίνουνε λοξά
προς τα χαλίκια του βυθού
οι άσπρες λήκυθοι.

Αγγελικό και μαύρο, φως,
γέλιο των κυμάτων στις δημοσιές του πόντου,
δακρυσμένο γέλιο,
σε βλέπει ο γέροντας ικέτης
πηγαίνοντας να δρασκελίσει τις αόρατες πλάκες
καθρεφτισμένο στο αίμα του
που γέννησε τον Ετεοκλή και τον Πολυνείκη.
Αγγελική και μαύρη, μέρα·
η γλυφή γέψη της γυναίκας που φαρμακώνει το φυλακισμένο
βγαίνει απ' το κύμα δροσερό κλωνάρι στολισμένο στάλες.
Τραγούδησε μικρή Αντιγόνη, τραγούδησε, τραγούδησε ...
δε σου μιλώ για περασμένα, μιλώ για την αγάπη·
στόλισε τα μαλλιά σου με τ' αγκάθια του ήλιου,
σκοτεινή κοπέλα·
η καρδιά του Σκορπιού βασίλεψε,
ο τύραννος μέσα απ' τον άνθρωπο έχει φύγει,
κι όλες οι κόρες του πόντου, Νηρηίδες, Γραίες
τρέχουν στα λαμπυρίσματα της αναδυομένης·
όποιος ποτέ του δεν αγάπησε θ' αγαπήσει,
στο φως· και είσαι
σ' ένα μεγάλο σπίτι με πολλά παράθυρα ανοιχτά
τρέχοντας από κάμαρα σε κάμαρα, δεν ξέροντας από πού να κοιτάξεις πρώτα,
γιατί θα φύγουν τα πεύκα και τα καθρεφτισμένα βουνά και το τιτίβισμα των πουλιών
θ' αδειάσει η θάλασσα, θρυμματισμένο γυαλί, από βοριά και νότο
θ' αδειάσουν τα μάτια σου απ' το φως της μέρας
πως σταματούν ξαφνικά κι όλα μαζί τα τζιτζίκια.

Πόρος, "Γαλήνη,” 31 του Οχτώβρη 1946 [49]

The Light

As the years pass
the critics who condemn you multiply;
as the years pass and you converse with fewer voices,
you see the sun with different eyes;
you know that those who remained, deceived you,
the delusion of the flesh, the beautiful dance
that ends in nakedness.
Just as, at night turning into the deserted highway,
suddenly you see the eyes of a departed animal shine
this is how you feel your eyes;
you look at the sun, next you lose yourself in darkness;
the Doric chiton
that your fingers touched and it bent like the mountains,
is a piece of marble in the light, but its head is in darkness.
And those who abandoned the palaestra so that they could take up the bows
and they struck the indomitable marathon course
and that one saw the stadium plied with blood
the world emptied like the moon
and the victory gardens withered;
you see them within the sun, behind the sun.
And the young men who dove far from the masts
they move like spindles still spinning,
naked bodies sinking within the black light
with a coin in their teeth, still swimming,
just as the sun weaves sails and wet oars and sea colors
with golden needles;
even now they sink sidelong
towards the pebbles of the deep
the white lekythoi.

Angelic and black, light,
laugh of the waves on the highways of the sea,
tearful laugh,
the old beggar sees you
going to stretch out on the invisible cobblestones
reflected in his blood
that bore Eteokles and Polyneices.
Angelic and black, day;
the brackish taste of the woman who poisoned the prisoner
out of the wave comes a dewy branch festooned with water droplets.
Sing little Antigone, sing, sing …
I won’t speak to you of the past, I speak of love;
adorn your hair with the thorns of the sun,
dark girl;
the heart of the Scorpion has set,
the tyrant within man has left,
and all the daughters of the sea, Nereids, Graiai
run into the sparkles of the setting sun;
whoever has never loved will love,
in the light; and you are
in a large house with many open windows
running from room to room, not knowing where to look first,
because the pines and the reflected mountains and the chirping of the birds
will all be gone
the sea will empty, a cracked mirror, from north and south
your eyes will empty of daylight
when suddenly and all together the cicadas fall silent.
With “The Light” the promise of rebirth and restoration alluded to in “The Radio” is fulfilled. All at once, death, conflict, the fragmented modern experience, and Hellenism’s discontinuities are repaired and harmonized in a totalizing revelation of Homeric sunlight. The theme of regeneration works symbolically at all levels of the poem’s signification: the “Odysseus” figure who is seeking a nostos, according to the mythical framework, a Hellenic topos that is the poem’s symbolic subject, and the poet figure, the narrator, the Homer/Seferis figure all experience regeneration. In the brilliant sun of Poros, the drama of twentieth century Hellenism unfolds and is resolved. [50]
In “The Light,” Homer’s light becomes a powerful ethical and moral force that determines the fate of Hellenism and resolves internecine conflicts. This is the essence of the poem’s revelation, brought about by a reenactment of Odysseus’ descent and necromancy. Seferis, as the poet who can recognize Homer’s light, assumes the role of a Homer: a blind singer of the fate of the “best of the modern Hellenes.” Seferis, as Homer, poetically “sees” the descent of the young men who have sacrificed their lives for Greece, and sees their ultimate unification with the organic matter of Greece—its sunlight and seascape—in a metaphysics of national identity. The fact that he can see the meaning behind such a powerful light casts him into darkness. “Critics” are those who can’t see what he sees—the correlation between blood of man and the Greek sunlight mentioned above—and don’t support his vision.
However, I believe that this necromancy and revelation does not produce a nostos, neither for the character of Odysseus, nor for Greece, nor for the poet Seferis. It is a vision that produces a return to light and life, the latent meaning of nostos, but it is not a nostos that produces a return home to a familiar landscape. [51] The end of the poem is a very mystical revelation; Edmund Keeley has identified Christian overtones [52] , while Nassos Vagenas [53] traced the influence of East Asian transcendental philosophies. To my mind, the last line signals a total moment of ecstasy (including sense withdrawal and the physical environment falling away as if an illusion) and liberation (similar to the concepts of samadhi and moksha in Hindu philosophy) from the suffering of civil war, realized through a unification with a divine entity, seen here as a Hellenic sunlight that unifies all. [54]
Beyond the vision that concludes “The Light” the question of a nostos that signifies a return to a physical site, or native topos, for Asia Minor-born Seferis remains. Let us conclude the examination of Homer’s light with a close reading of “Agianapa I,” another revelation of brilliant sunlight in Cyprus.

Cyprus’ Ancient Light: The Perception of a Miracle

The final poem I will discuss presents a poetic reflection on the process of experiencing Homer’s light, as developed in “King of Asine” and Thrush, yet in a radically different landscape context. “Agianapa I” heralds a new kind of revelation afforded by Homer’s light: the recovery of an authentic, Hellenic topos that serves as a personal nostos for George Seferis.
In 1953 Seferis traveled to Cyprus for a month’s vacation from his duties as Greece’s ambassador to Lebanon. It was his first visit to Cyprus, which was under British colonial rule at the time. Seferis’ experiences in Cyprus affected him deeply and influenced greatly the course of his last two decades. In 1955 he published Logbook III, a collection of poems dedicated to the people of Cyprus. Cyprus’ alternative model of Greek identity—one based on ancient roots, yet one that flourished far from the grip of a centralized Greek state—beguiled Seferis, and he described his initial reaction to Cyprus thusly: “the feeling that there exists a world that speaks Greek; it’s Greek. But one that does not depend on the Greek Government, and this last fact comprises the feeling of spaciousness.” [55] During his month in Cyprus, Seferis explored the country’s history, folklore, culture, and society during the last years of British colonial rule, commemorating much of what he saw in Logbook III. This volume has become part of the literary canon of post-independence Cyprus, and has had a great effect on the national identity of Greek Cypriots. [56] Perhaps because of its similarities with his childhood home in Asia Minor, Seferis saw a kind of unsullied potential in Cyprus, writing in the introduction to Logbook III that, in Cyprus, “miracles still happen.” [57]
Logbook III opens with the poem “Agianapa I,” titled after a seaside location in the Southeastern corner of Cyprus. [58] In the poem, Seferis presents the reader with a brief description of seeing brilliant sunlight on the beach, and a reflection on the act of perceiving such brilliant sunlight.
Αγιάναπα, α'

Και βλέπεις το φως του ήλιου καθώς έλεγαν οι παλαιοί.
Ωστόσο νόμιζα πως έβλεπα τόσα χρόνια
περπατώντας ανάμεσα στα βουνά και στη θάλασσα
συντυχαίνοντας ανθρώπους με τέλειες πανοπλίες·
παράξενο, δεν πρόσεχα πως έβλεπα μόνο τη φωνή τους.
Ήταν το αίμα που τους ανάγκαζε να μιλούν, το κριάρι
που έσφαζα κι έστρωνα στα πόδια τους·
μα δεν ήταν το φως εκείνο το κόκκινο χαλί.
Ό,τι μου λέγαν έπρεπε να το ψηλαφήσω
όπως όταν σε κρύψουν κυνηγημένο νύχτα σε στάβλο
ή φτάσεις τέλος το κορμί βαθύκολπης γυναίκας
κι είναι γεμάτη η κάμαρα πνιγερές μυρωδιές·
ό,τι μου λέγαν δορά και μετάξι.

Παράξενο, το βλέπω εδώ το φως του ήλιου· το χρυσό δίχτυ
όπου τα πράγματα σπαρταρούν σαν τα ψάρια
που ένας μεγάλος άγγελος τραβά
μαζί με τα δίχτυα των ψαράδων. [59]

Agianapa I

And you see the light of the sun just like the ancients used to say.
Yet I thought that I saw it for so many years
walking between the mountains and the sea
encountering men in full suits of armor;
strange, I didn’t notice that I was seeing only their voices.
The blood is what forced them to speak, the ram
that I slaughtered and laid at their feet;
but that red carpet wasn’t the light.
I was forced to fumble for whatever they were telling me
just as when they hide you chased down at night in a stable
or when you finally obtain the body of a woman with full breasts
and the room is filled with intolerable aromas;
whatever they were telling me was of animal hide and silk.

Strange, it's here that I see it, the light of the sun; the gold net
where objects wriggle like fish
drawn up by a mighty angel
together in the fishermen's nets.
“Agianapa I” is Seferis’ first published poem following Thrush, and indeed, it picks up where Thrush ended: with a vision of brilliant “angelic” sunlight. In his act of perception, the poet “sees” the light of the sun in the manner that the ancients saw it. Here, in contrast to “The King of Asine” and Thrush, we are given a direct reference to the Homeric phrase φάος ἠελίοιο. Seferis’ editor George Savidis glosses the poem’s opening line as a reference to φάος ἠελίοιο, citing Iliad XVIII 61 as a characteristic example of the formula. [60] In this example, Thetis is lamenting Achilles’ grief over Patroclus’ death at the hands of Hector, and she states, ὄφρα δέ μοι ζώει καὶ ὁρᾷ φάος ἠελίοιο ἄχνυται, as long as he lives and sees the light of the sun he will be troubled. Yet beyond this reference to the Iliad, “Agianapa I” has no ancient mythic content. In this poem Seferis is again poeticizing his discovery process of perceiving a genuine instance of φάος ἠελίοιο. But is this the same humanist, Hellenic, and totalizing light of Thrush? And what is special about this place that afforded the revelation, since this moment of seeing the light as Homer did comes not in mainland Greece, or Asia Minor—two iconic topoi of Homer—but in Cyprus, a place with a Homeric cachet that is tenuous at best? [61]
The discovery procedure in “Agianapa I” is not one of reenacting myth, rather, it is a flash of brilliant epiphany in a unique landscape. This flash of insight casts doubt on the poet’s process of discerning Homer’s light in the past. The entire first stanza serves as a reassessment of the process of grounding Greek myth in a natural landscape with a goal of “seeing” Homer’s light. The phrase “walking between the mountains and the sea” I read as a reference to the landscape of Greece [62] , and echoes the discovery procedure described in “King of Asine.” In lines 5 – 8 I believe that Seferis reviews the process of reenactment in Thrush—the phrase “the ram that I slaughtered and laid at their feet” is a reference to the poet’s process of connecting to Greek tradition through a reenactment of ritual poetics. Yet in hindsight this necromancy did not lead to perceiving an ancient light. Even though the role of Homer was appropriated through the act of reenacting Homer, the poet remained blind to the truth of Homer’s light. Lines 9 – 12 convey blindness, and a reliance on smell and touch to determine the nature of reality.
The verbs in the first stanza are all in the continuous past tense, which conveys repeated, habitual, or incomplete action in the past. The first stanza, thusly recalls experiences that were interpreted, perhaps repeatedly, as instances of perception colored with Homeric significance. The speaker expresses his surprise that the convictions drawn from these experiences are now thrown into question using the interjections “nevertheless” and “strange” in lines 2 and 5 respectively. The second stanza also begins with the word “strange,” emphasizing the uncanny feelings caused by being here, in Aya Napa. This locative adverb in line 13 provides the lynchpin for the poem’s active revelation; here, without expecting it, without any effort to solicit Homer’s light, it can be experienced spontaneously. D. N. Maronitis has also suggested that in “Agianapa I” Seferis reevaluates his use of ancient Greek myth in his previous work, and notes that in the poems of Logbook III he moves away from myth derived from the works Homer and Aeschylus and towards myth as it appears in 5th Century Athenian drama. [63]
The use of the first person suggests that “Agianapa I” is a personal epiphany, whereas “The King of Asine” and Thrush mostly feature second and third person voices. Yet the message of this personal epiphany is still related to interpreting the essence of φάος ἠελίοιο. In the context of “Agianapa I,” φάος ἠελίοιο seems to retain the revelatory and faintly Christian overtones of Thrush, as the sunlight described is reminiscent of phrases from Thrush: “the sun weaves with golden needles” as well as the “angelic and black light.” The reference to fisherman in the final line is not a minor detail of description in my opinion; the poem’s seaside setting of a fishing village directly recalls the landscape of Skala, Seferis’ cherished family home on the Ionian coast of Asia Minor. Fishermen appear in Seferis’ poems as a symbol of a lost world and the pre-modern way of Greek life. [64]
The revelation contained in “Agianapa I” sets the context for the remainder of the poems in Logbook III, including the revelations in the poems “Memory I,” “Memory II,” and “Engomi.” Recognizing Homer’s light in a Cypriot landscape contextualizes Cypriot Greekness in terms of the Hellenism of Seferis’ previous poems—it familiarizes an unfamiliar “Greek” context, one far removed from the stifling impasses of Greek national identity. It sets the stage for a personal nostos of sorts in Cyprus, which is described as reminding the poet of his fatherland [πατρίδα] in the poems “Details from Cyprus” and “Helen.” It also sets the stage for Seferis’ most political set of poems yet, as Logbook III offers a poetic argument on behalf of Cyprus’ Hellenic pedigree during the crucial decade of Cyprus’ separation from British colonial rule. Vangelis Calotychos offers a comprehensive analysis of Seferis’ “cultural geographies of (un)Greekness” in Cyprus, arguing that Seferis, like his modernist peers, looks Eastward to retotalize Hellenism in an expression of the repressed pain of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. [65]
Finally, “Agianapa I” offers new vistas of possibility for the poet George Seferis to rediscover an ecstatic and familiar landscape in Cyprus. Its first-person perspective and the immediacy of its sensational vision calls into question Seferis’ prior and deliberate attempts to reenact Homer in a Greek landscape. In Cyprus, Seferis’ poetics of φάος ἠελίοιο lead him directly to the “feelings” and “emotions” he derived from this ancient phrase and mentioned in his Nobel speech. As Rilke wrote in his Ninth Elegy: “Here is the time for the sayable, here is its homeland./Speak and bear witness.” [66]

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Footnotes

[ back ] 1. George Seferis’ Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1963, accessed at http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1963/seferis-lecture.html
[ back ] 2. 2010:168.
[ back ] 3. See also Constantinidou 1993. Constantinidou states that αυγή is the functional equivalent of φάος, both of which convey the meaning of ‘light and sight’ and she offers a fuller elaboration of the phrase ‘to live and see the light’ with examples from Homer.
[ back ] 4. Leontis 1995:4.
[ back ] 5. “Χειρόγραφο Σεπ. ‘41” in Seferis 1992:17.
[ back ] 6. Dimiroulis 1997:97. “Η έννοια του «τόπου» εξυπηρετεί...μια τέτοια ανάγκη για μυθολόγηση της καταγωγής και για προσωποποίηση της σχέσης του ποιητή με τη φύση, τη γή, τους ανθρώπους και την ιστορία,” my translation above.
[ back ] 7. Dimiroulis 1997:98. “…ο τόπος θα γίνει σταθερό σημείο αναφοράς του σεφερικού λεξιλογίου και θα αναχθεί σε πρωταρχικό και πολυπρόσωπο σύμβολο της ανθρωπογεωγραφίας που υποστήριξε έμμονα η σεφερική ποιητική μυθολογία,” my translation above.
[ back ] 8. Leontis 1995:115.
[ back ] 9. 1992:27.
[ back ] 10. See Dimiroulis 1985 and 1997:139 “[For Seferis] the poetic subject…exists only as experience and experiential knowledge [εμπειρίωση].”
[ back ] 11. 1997:145. “Η πέιρα του κόσμου και η γνώση των πραγμάτων είναι από τα πιό απαραίτητα εφόδια του ποιητικού λόγου και ο καλύτερος έπαινος για τους ανθρώπους της σκέψης και της τέχνης,” my translation above.
[ back ] 12. Leontis 1995:3.
[ back ] 13. As Artemis Leontis states, “In Hellas we find texts interacting with place with the explicit goal of constructing a homeland; and the physical site of a reconstructed Hellenic world frequently dictates the form modern texts may take.” 1995:5-6.
[ back ] 14. For a discussion on this subject in regards to Seferis’ critical essays see Gourgouris 1996:214, where he writes: “Seferis’s complicity in the metaphysics of metaphoricity, then, resides in his conceiving of Hellenism as physis and in occupying, in his artistic practice, the position of transcriber (interpreter) of this physis into text.”
[ back ] 15. Seferis 1974a:185-7.
[ back ] 16. Argyros 1987:312 suggests that the gold deathmask “represents an absence that Seferis qualifies as a sign.”
[ back ] 17. See Beaton 2003:450n72 where he states that the image of the shrieking soul in the underworld “alludes to the unglorious passage to the underwold of the slain suitors, at the end of the Odyssey.”
[ back ] 18. i.e. the Acropolis
[ back ] 19. Seferis 1973:25. “Βγήκα κατά το μεσημέρι προς τ’ Αναφιώτικα. Κοιτάζω να μείνω αρκετά χαμηλά, ν’ αποφύγω τ’ αρχαία. Αυτή η χάρη του σαθρού, του όχι στερέού που βλέπεις στην Ελλάδα· ένα ξεχαρβαλωμένο ανώφλι με τρία φυλλαράκια είναι πραγματικά κάτι! Είναι το φως. Τα πιο ασήμαντα αθύρματα χοροπηδούν μέσα στο φως και το παρατηρείς να τα μετουσιώνει· να τα κάνει άλλα πράγματα, αστάθμητα, χωρίς καμιά σχέση μ’ αυτή τη μιζέρια,” my translation above.
[ back ] 20. For more information on Anafiotika, see Caftzanoglou 2001.
[ back ] 21. Seferis 1973:37. “Από τότε πού άρχισε η άνοιξη, ανέκφραστη ευαισθησία και έξαρση...Αδύνατο να βρείς λέξη, χειρονομία ή συνουσία πού να μπορεί να το εκφράσει αυτό. Τα λόγια κόμπος στο λαρύγγι. Η ευαισθησία καίγεται χωρίς να ξεσπάσει,” my translation above.
[ back ] 22. Seferis 1977:69. “Σήμερα κατάλαβα γιατί ο ‘Ομηρος ήταν τυφλός· αν είχε μάτια, δε θα ‘γραφε τίποτε. Είδε κάποτε, για ένα περιορισμένο διάστημα· και έπειτα δεν έβλεπε πιά,” my translation above.
[ back ] 23. Leontis 1995:140 sees Seferis’ avoidance of the subject of the civil war as “typical of artists and intellectuals who did not have leftist leanings.” In their privileged position they were able to “claim a distance from the politics of decisiveness, to view civil strife, unlike world war, as irrelevant to the making and unmaking of culture, nonthreatening to the security of museums.”
[ back ] 24. Dimiroulis 1997:153-4 discusses Seferis’ journals as part of the same body of work as his poems and essays; that is, they were created out of the same literary intentions. “In Seferis’ work all the voices speak with in their own ways but all are fictitious and none is more real than the others.”
[ back ] 25. 1974b:55-6. “Οι Ερινύες θα κυνηγήσουν τον ήλιο, κάθως κυνήγησαν τον Ορέστη· για σκέψου αυτούς τους λώρους που δένουν τους ανθρώπους με τα στοιχεία της φύσης· αυτή την τραγωδία που είναι συνάμα φυσική και ανθρώπινη, αυτή την οικειότητα. Αν το φως γινότανε ξαφνικά Ορέστης; Είναι τόσο εύκολο, για σκέψου: αν το φως της μέρας και το αίμα του ανθρώπου ήταν το ίδιο πράγμα; Ως πού μπορεί να το αισθανθεί κανείς αυτό; Ανθρωπομορφισμός, λένε, και διαβαίνουν. Δε μου είναι τόσο απλό το φαινόμενο. Αν ο ενανθρωπισμός που έλεγα γέννησε την Οδύσσεια, ως πού μπορούμε να δούμε την Οδυσσεία;” my translation above.
[ back ] 26. 1996:162.
[ back ] 27. Nagy 2009: Introduction.
[ back ] 28. Seferis 1977:53.
[ back ] 29. Seferis 1977:52. “Αλλά τώρα δεν ξεκινώ για την εξοχή, ξεκινώ για ένα μακρύ ταξίδι αρκετά σκοτεινό και είμαι βαριά τραυματισμένος από τον τόπο μου,” my translation above. Note that Seferis’ thoughts on Poros contain the multivalent meanings of topos: as a native place and as a country/homeland.
[ back ] 30. Beaton 2003:270.
[ back ] 31. I refrain from treating the subject of the figure of Elpenor here, who appears consistently as a well-developed character in Seferis’ work. See Vagenas 1979:271-5.
[ back ] 32. Seferis 1974a:223-5.
[ back ] 33. For a translation that preserves the rhymed meter of the original see Keeley and Sherrard 1995:165.
[ back ] 34. “κι αυτή προχώρεσε προς το πολύφωτο ακρογιάλι/όπου το κύμα πνίγεται στη βοή του ραδιοφώνου,” my translation above.
[ back ] 35. 1974b:47. “Μπορούμε εύκολα να φανταστούμε πώς η Κίρκη, πού ολοένα τραγουδά...τραγοδούσε στον αργαλείο, ύστερα από το ξεκίνημα του Οδυσσέα, αυτό το ίδιο τραγούδι για να γελάσει τον καημό της,” my translation above.
[ back ] 36. See especially the poems “Memory I” and “Santorini” in Keeley and Sherrard 1995.
[ back ] 37. Leontis 1995:148.
[ back ] 38. 1996:58-9.
[ back ] 39. 1999:16.
[ back ] 40. 1996:52. For an elaboration on this theme in relation to Heidegger’s philosophy and ‘the King of Asine,’ see Argyros 1987:315.
[ back ] 41. In this way, my application of Nagy’s mimesis to Seferis’ poetry offers a new reading of Edmund Keeley’s “mythical method.” See Keeley 1983.
[ back ] 42. 1997:37. “Η παράδοση...δεν αναφέρεται σε κάτι πού απλώς ανακαλύπτει ή κληρονομεί κανείς αλλά σε κάτι που δημιουργεί εκ νέου, όταν, την ίδια στιγμή, εκφράζει τον απέραντο σεβασμό και θαυμασμό του για την απόλυτη αξία της αρχαίας κληρονομίας,” my translation above.
[ back ] 43. 1974b:50. “Η πρωτοτυπία είναι μια νεανική διασκέδαση πού πρέπει κάποτε να μείνει πίσω,” my translation above.
[ back ] 44. Seferis 1974a:226-7.
[ back ] 45. Vagenas 1979:284.
[ back ] 46. See Vagenas 1979 and Vitti 1978.
[ back ] 47. 1974b:52.
[ back ] 48. Alexiou 2004:95.
[ back ] 49. Seferis 1974a:227-9.
[ back ] 50. As Seferis 1974b:55 writes, “Greek landscapes are a world: lines that become and unbecome; bodies and features, the tragic silence of a face.” “τα κυρίως ελληνικά τοπία πού σκέπτομαι...είναι ένας κόσμος: γραμμές πού γίνουνται και ξεγίνουναι· σώματα και φυσιογνωμίες, η τραγική σιωπή ενός προσώπου,” my translation.
[ back ] 51. See Douglas Frame’s The Myth of the Return for a full treatment of the ancient meaning of nostos and its Indo-European origins.
[ back ] 52. Keeley 1983.
[ back ] 53. 1979:275-283.
[ back ] 54. Beaton (2003:271n42) suggests that the vision of morning sunrise in Poros offered Seferis a kind of transcendental revelation mediated by the influence of zen philosophy, while Vagenas (1979:278) suggests that the poem’s conclusion is a product of Seferis’ organic conception of justice confirmed by the philosophy of zen: “Home and light symbolize here the moment, the return of love, when the soul of man, released from every blinding discord, will face its meaning and the meaning of things.”
[ back ] 55. Seferis 1986:98. “Το αίσθημα πώς υπάρχει ένας κόσμος πού μιλά ελληνικά· είναι ελληνικός. Πού δεν εξαρτάται από την Ελληνική Κυβέρνηση, και το τελευταίο τούτο συντελεί στο αίσθημα αυτής της ευρυχωρίας,” my translation above.
[ back ] 56. See Calotychos 2003:176 for a discussion of this phenomenon.
[ back ] 57. 1974a:336.
[ back ] 58. There is a second poem titled after Aya Napa, also in Logbook III. Since the mid-1990’s Aya Napa has been transformed into a European vacation and partying hotspot, but when Seferis visited, it was a small fishing village known for its Venetian-era Monastery.
[ back ] 59. Seferis 1974a:233.
[ back ] 60. Seferis 1974a:336.
[ back ] 61. For Homer’s references to Cyprus, or lack thereof, see Tsakmakis 2006.
[ back ] 62. See poem 10 from Mythistorima, Keeley and Sherrard 1995:14.
[ back ] 63. 2007:155-170.
[ back ] 64. See poems “The Figure of Fate” and “Reflections on a Foreign Line of Verse” in Keeley and Sherrard 1995.
[ back ] 65. Calotychos 2003:176-194 analyzes Seferis’ Cyprus poems, their political perspective, and the theme of nostos for Asia Minor-born Seferis.
[ back ] 66. Trans. Stephen Mitchell 1980:201.