“We’re paying off a varied folktale”: Seferis’ Historical Poetics

Poet and diplomat George Seferis composed the poem “Last Stop” while moored in Italy after four itinerant years with the exiled Greek government. During those four years, the Nazis battered and weakened Greece. “Last Stop” is a long-form, stream of consciousness poem with a confessional tone where the speaker seeks “a way / to begin to speak of things that you acknowledge / with difficulty,” or, a means of beginning to express the poet’s anguish at his country’s loss. [1] The speaker is preoccupied with the problem that “man is rubbed out easily in wars— / man is soft, a bundle of grass,” a response to Greece and Europe’s recent tremendous loss of life. [2] This statement inaugurates an extended metaphor of man as vegetation, whose destiny is to seek life, and be cut down in the process. The speaker imagines “the country that is chopped down and burned like a pine tree” where “our mind is like a virgin forest of murdered friends.” [3] This imagery is reminiscent of traditional Greek funerary laments that cast youth cut down in their prime as cypresses and other vegetation (Danforth 1982:96–100). The speaker acknowledges that these thoughts of the dead are obsessive, saying:

You always say the same things over and over again, friend.
But just try and stop
thinking about the refugee, thinking about the prisoner of war, thinking
about the man who ended up a commodity, you can’t. [4]

The speaker goes on to confess that the only way to deal with the constant pain of war is the comfort of story telling and allegory:

And if I speak to you with folktales and parables
it’s because it sounds sweeter, and the horror
can’t be discussed because it is living
because it is ineffable and persists—
it seeps into the day, it seeps into sleep
a pain of remembering suffering. [5]

These lines suggest that to confront sorrow is to console onself with fabular tales, because the emotion is too raw, constant, and painful to be discussed openly. The last two lines quoted above are Seferis’ gloss on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon line 179–180: στάζει δ᾽ ἔν θ᾽ ὕπνῳ πρὸ καρδίας μνησιπήμων πόνος. [6] If, as Dimitris Maronitis has suggested, one of Seferis’ poetry’s chief functions is to console, then “Last Stop” offers a practical strategy: to create consolatory stories, or παραμύθια, out of the ancient past. [7] Thus, Seferis’ poetry offers an illustration of the ancient Greek verb παραμυθέομαι, meaning to console by means of telling a story, or μύθος.

In this essay my approach to the question of historical poetics will be to examine Seferis’ poetic folktales and parables. I explore how Seferis narrativizes history through folktale to assuage the pain of war, loss, and exile. This approach follows Dimitris Dimiroulis’ assertion that Seferis considers history a trauma requiring poetic consolation (1997:221). I use the term historical poetics to denote how Seferis conceived of history and expressed it in his poetry. My method is grounded in a close reading of selected poems that illustrate or discuss poetic folktales (paramythia); this close reading forms the basis to consider the ideological implications of Seferis’ historical poetics. I emphasize the poet’s writing process as a key to understanding how his ideological concerns develop, rather than assuming that Seferis’ historical poetics emerge from a fully formed ideology. As the poet’s historical poetics change over time, so too do the ideological concerns they represent.
George Seferis deeply internalized ancient literature and used it as the raw material for his own creative expression. The presence of the classical past ensures his poetry a near-constant stream of critical consideration. Critics of Seferis fall into two broad camps: those who are concerned chiefly with the literary merits of his work and those who are concerned with how Seferis’ poetry reflects ideological, national, or socio-cultural concerns. I try to marry both approaches, asking how Seferis’ poetics reflect his ever-changing views on modern Greece, a society that is obsessed with questions of cultural identity and legitimacy. I treat Seferis’ use of ancient literature and the ancient past as a key to his views of Modern Greek identity, foregrounding both the ancient and modern contexts. I explore how the poet’s internalization and recreation of Greek myth enables him to reflect upon questions of history, temporality, and modern Greece’s tragic loss in the Twentieth Century wars. I assert that Seferis’ historical poetics is a dual process of introspection and didacticism—the poet first reflects on the moral messages of ancient Greek myth, as dramatized in classical literature, draws lessons from these ancient sources, and then poeticizes his conclusions. Through this process Seferis interposes himself as the interpreter and voice of an ancient tradition in modern times, reassuring himself and his audience that Greece’s history is no accidental series of events.
Poetry consoles the deep wounds of history, and in particular the wound of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, by allowing Seferis to work out an alternative to the modern, progress-driven, and linear sense of history (that produces senseless tragedies like the Asia Minor Catastrophe). In poetry, Seferis replaces history with a sense of time and causality that is derived from a continuous Hellenic tradition and expressed through symbol and allegory. Seferis’ historical poetics is an example of what Bakhtin has identified as the chronotope of myth and folklore: a sense of time that longs for a golden age. Bakhtin labels this chronotope historical inversion because it privileges the past over the present and future. Moral standards and authenticity are features of the past, and the past conveys legitimacy to the present moment. Furthermore, this chronotope frequently creates a framework that judges reality according to the past’s ideals, ideals which are considered to be independent of time (1981:147–148). Bakhtin’s concept of historical inversion corresponds to the way that Seferis’ historical poetics formulates ancient Greek myth’s moral and cultural value. As we will see below, ancient Greek myth is the timeless source for modern Greece’s cultural tradition, collective destiny, and morality, as well as its constant loss.
My analysis will shed new light on Seferis’ enigmatic concept of “mythistorima,” the title of his most well known collection of poems. In his idiosyncratic use of the Greek word for “novel” or “fiction” Seferis attempted to conjoin myth and history, explaining that he chose “myth, because I used a definite mythology clearly enough,” and “history, because I tried to express, with some coherence, a situation as independent of myself as the characters in a novel.” Since its publication, critics have sought to clarify just what the relationship between myth and history is in Mythistorima. Myth, with its clear link to the ancient past has often seemed to be the poet’s intended explanation for history, an assumption that I don’t necessarily dispute. The prevailing approach, however, has engaged in much debate about the effects of Eliot’s influence on Seferis and the extent to which Seferis uses myth as an “objective correlative,” a pre-existing source of dramatic narratives that are used to convey emotional and moral themes while drawing a parallel between past and present. [8] Maronitis and Vitti have both noted that the two seemingly disparate entities of myth and history are reconciled in the creative space of poetry (Maronitis 2008:156; Vitti 1978:65).Yet critics have said little about history; why would history, the story of human events, be as divorced from the poet’s identity as fictional characters, especially when one of the hallmarks of Mythistorima is the collective voice?
To my mind, the key to interpreting Seferis’ puzzling statement on history is that history is a μνησιπήμων πόνος, the constant pain of misery that requires consoling stories to express and overcome. To tell the story of history, the poet must weave a tale around his pain, distancing himself from it, and at the same time transforming his pain into something new. This is an idea that is frequently discussed in criticism of exile literature. In Edward Said’s seminal essay “On Exile, “ he suggests that “much of the exile’s life is taken up with compensating for disorienting loss by creating a new world to rule” (2000:181). Michael Seidel frames the compensatory impulse differently, suggesting that exile literature uses narration “to transform rupture” into “connection” (1986:x). Despite the fact that he lost his ancestral home and homeland in the Asia Minor Catastrophe, Seferis is not considered an exile, since his family relocated to Greece before the crisis. Yet his poetry shows the impulse to seek a new world to rule, a world where ancient Greek myth and a continuous tradition express an unbroken Hellenism and the loss of his Asia Minor heritage is transformed into a connection with an overarching Hellenic ideal.
In my analysis below, I discuss how Seferis uses poetic paramythia, or folktales, to both allegorize myth and console the pain of history. These folktales are grounded in history, Seferis’ personal history, and the cultural history of Hellenism, and they utilize a mythology and symbolism derived both from Seferis’ past and ancient Greek literature. I begin with Seferis’ personal history, and discuss how the poet’s experiences and identity as an Asia Minor Greek are woven into tales of origin and then metaphorized into a personal symbology. I question how the loss of Seferis’ homeland in Asia Minor might offer didactic implications for Greece’s fate in subsequent wars. Next, I examine a draft poem from Mythistorima, “The Last Dance,” whose first line lends the title of this essay. I discuss how the poet’s use of folktale in this poem offers keys to his historical poetics of Hellenism, and I also consider how the symbols and message of “The Last Dance” were incorporated into the final poems of Mythistorima. Finally, I explore how Seferis’ use of folktale shifts in his Cyprus poem “Helen,” and with it the didactic lessons of his historical poetics.
Ultimately, I intend to demonstrate how Seferis’ poetic folktales illuminate how he internalizes and utilizes the classical past to create a narrative structure for history. In contrast to prose’s historical narrative, which introduces narrative coherence into an otherwise unconnected set of events with the express goal of moralizing reality, Seferis’ historical poetics allegorizes the events of history to show history’s poetic morals. According to Hayden White, the historical narrative,

test[s] the capacity of a culture’s fictions to endow real events with the kinds of meaning that literature displays to consciousness through its fashioning of patterns of “imaginary” events. Precisely insofar as the historical narrative endows sets of real events with the kinds of meaning found otherwise only in myth and literature, we are justified in regarding it as a product of allegoresis.

Seferis’ poetics is the inverse of this process, where myth and literature, generally ancient Greek myth and literature, are endowed with the kinds of meaning found in historical narratives. In poetry, myth becomes the true witness of human events. The weight of history is expressed, understood, and experienced through poetry, which draws on the precedent of tradition’s authenticity. In the words of Dimiroulis, “we must ask ourselves, consequently: how often do we read history in order to arrive at Seferis, and how often do we read Seferis in order to discover, within his dramatized thematics, the face of another Greece, as his imagination created it?” (1997:160) [9]

Tales of a Lost Homeland

As the poem “Last Stop” demonstrates, Seferis considered war to be among history’s most painful episodes, especially the Greco-Turkish War of 1922 that culminated in Turkey’s expulsion of 3.5 million Greeks, known as the Asia Minor Catastrophe. In a 1944 letter to his then-friend Timos Malanos, Seferis wrote,

Nevertheless it will seem strange to you (perhaps even more than strange) if I tell you that the event that influenced me beyond all else is the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Another event that influenced me significantly (I mean to say: exceptionally, fundamentally) is that war and the efforts of my homeland and people in that maelstrom. But I don’t know at all if there is time for me to extricate myself from that crisis, to find balance, and to express it.

Although Seferis later attempted to distance himself from this statement, objecting that Malanos published it out-of-context and without his permission, it is revealing for its honesty in acknowledging the Asia Minor Catastrophe’s effect on the young poet. Born Yiorgos Seferiadis in Smyrna in 1900, young Seferis left Smyrna in 1914 and did not live through the tragic events of 1922. Yet even while living in Greece and France as a young man, Seferis considered himself to be an Asia Minor Greek, forging his identity as a “Skaliotis,” a Greek from the seaside hamlet of Skala tou Vourla, from where his mother’s family originated (See Beaton 2003:32). From this small village of fishermen and farmers, and from his experiences as a carefree youth, Seferis developed a poetic sensibility, language, and symbolism that represented authenticity. The permanent loss of this place and its traditions was a deep wound, casting Seferis into an emotional exile and instigating the search for an authentic poetic tradition. For Seferis, the crisis of losing a homeland demanded poetry as a means of expressing and balancing loss.

Critics of the literary vein have tended to maintain that there are few, if any, direct references to the Asia Minor Catastrophe in Seferis’ poetry, since loss is a pervasive theme but the object of this loss is obscured and repressed. [10] On the other hand, critics such as Artemis Leontis and Vangelis Calotychos concerned with Modern Greek aesthetic ideologies see his poetry’s quest for a new Hellenic topos as a reflection of a national need to compensate for loss. Both Leontis and Calotychos see Seferis’ poetry as typical of the nation’s response to the end of the Megali Idea, Greece’s irredentist ideology that governed territorial expansion from its founding until the Asia Minor Catastrophe (Leontis 1995:132–140; Calotychos 2003:157–194). I agree that Seferis’ poetry is part of what Calotychos calls Greece’s “national imaginary,” but I think it is time for a reappraisal of the Asia Minor Catastrophe’s impact on Seferis’ poetic voice. Why did Seferis consistently avoid identifiable symbols of the Asia Minor Catastrophe? Why is the loss of his homeland not confronted directly? Why did he narrate his own struggles through the collective voices of myth and tradition, creating what Stathis Gourgouris labels a “poetics of absence?” [11]
I argue that Seferis’ poetics of absence is also one of loss. This poetics of loss views poetry as a site of reconnection and regeneration. The absence, and trauma, at the heart of loss is assuaged in creating something new out of the material of the past. The traces of Seferis’ homeland and its subsequent destruction are present in the way that his poetry tells the story of his origins, and in particular the sense of identity that Skala tou Vourla imparted to him. This sense of identity was a guiding force in his early poetic style, symbolism, and language. Seferis’ diaries and essays contain many references to Skala’s fundamental influence on his poetry and character. In an essay written abroad during World War II, Seferis names Skala as “my homeland,” and its inhabitants “my people” (1992:17). [12] From his youthful attempts at poetry to the accolades he received as an established figure of Greek letters, he sought to express the impact that Skala had on his identity and worldview. In June of 1960 Seferis received an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge for his poetic achievements. Rather than have the award proceedings in Latin as was the custom, Seferis requested them in ancient Greek. In this way, Seferis felt that he was giving back to the environment that shaped him. He wrote to his sister that,

as I stood there dressed in the crimson robe, within this devout atmosphere and listened, not one second did I think that they were honoring me, but how what proceeded was an offering to a world that I loved…Skala had reached even here. That is what I felt more than anything…
Tsatsou 1974:193 [13]
The world of Skala makes an overt appearance in several of Seferis’ poems, most notably in the poems “Argó” and “The Face of Fate,” which I discuss below. Each poem is set in Skala, and reimagines and narrates significant moments from the poet’s life. These poems demonstrate how Seferis narrativizes personal history as if it were a folktale. “Argó,” a 1948 draft poem later published in Book of Exercises II, relates a bittersweet childhood memory of Skala. Poeticizing this memory renarrativizes it and in doing so, reveals that it had a larger significance for the poet’s life.


I learned my folktales next to boats
not from travelers nor from mariners,
nor from the others who waited on the quays—
disembarked boatmen always looking in their pockets for a cigarette.
Nautical figures inhabit my life—
some of them see with one eye like the Cyclops
motionlessly staring at the sea’s mirror,
others move like sleepwalkers, dangerously
still others were taken by the sleep of the deep
wood, ropes, sails, chains and all.
In the cool little garden house
among the cottonwood and eucalyptus trees
close to the rusty windmill
close to the yellow fountain with one lonely carp
in the cool little house which smelled of reeds
I found a nautical compass
it showed me the angels of the seasons
who occupy the noonday silence.

Τα παραμύθια μου τα ‘μαθα κοντά στα καράβια
όχι από ταξιδιώτες μήτε από θαλασσινούς
μήτε απ’ τους άλλους που προσμένουν στα μουράγια
παντοτινά ξέμπαρκοι ψάχνοντας τις τσέπες τους για τσιγάρο.
Πρόσωπα καραβιών κατοικούν τη ζωή μου·
άλλα κοιτάζουν μ’ ένα μάτι σαν τον Κύκλωπα
ακίνητα στου πελάγου τον καθρέφτη
άλλα προχωρούν σαν υπνοβάτες, επικίνδυνα
κι άλλα τα πήρε ο ύπνος του βυθού
ξύλα σκοινιά καραβόπανα κι αλυσίδες.
Στο δροσερό σπιτάκι του περιβολιού
ανάμεσα στα καβάκια και τους ευκάλυπτους
κοντά στο σκουριασμένον ανεμόμυλο
κοντά στην κίτρινη δεξαμενή μ’ ένα χρυσόψαρο μονάχα
στο δροσερό σπιτάκι μυρίζοντας λυγαριά
βρήκα ένα μπούσουλα καραβίσιο
αυτός μου ‘δειξε τους αγγέλους των καιρών
που κατοικούν την καταμεσήμερη σιγή.

Seferis 1976:22 [14]
In the first half of this poem Seferis creates the framework for a brief tale of his own identity. The first line explains that the poet’s childhood folktales are harbor-based: his personal upbringing and tradition is grounded in nautical tales. From this environment, Seferis creates the characters in his tales, fishermen whose souls belong to the sea. In the second half of the poem, Seferis likens himself to these “nautical figures” by relating a personal memory from Skala. In this memory, the poet discovers a “nautical compass” which reveals the “angels of seasons.” Upon finding this compass, the narrator is initiated into the world of the seafaring figures that make up his personal tradition. [15] Although the seafarers of Skala held deep personal significance for Seferis, the world of the sea means separation; the compass also is the symbol of his fate: he will have to leave the native earth that nurtured him.
This short poem is revealing of Seferis’ formulation of poetic paramythia because it builds upon a personal memory, transforms memory into a set of symbols (the landscape and figures of his childhood in Skala) and links this symbolism to Hellenic tradition, namely the myths of the Odyssey (seen in the reference to the Cyclops). In other poems, such as the series Mr. Stratis Thalassinos, the fishermen drawn from Skala reappear as legendary figures with their own tales. In Mr. Stratis Thalassinos, Seferis’ childhood experiences with the sea are woven into a legendary past, one infused with the sights, sounds, and figures of the past and the literary-mythological figure of Odysseus. Just as “Argó” turned a personal memory into a herald of the narrator’s fate and created the framework for a personal mythology, the Mr. Stratis Thalassinos poems take this one step further, turning the personal past into fabular narratives. In Seferis’ creation of the poetic tales in “Argó” and the Stratis Thalassinos poems we see an illustration of Bachelard’s statement that, “every human being bears witness, when he is remembering his childhood, to a legendary childhood. At the bottom of memory, childhood is legendary” (1969:134). Folktale and legend replace a frank reckoning of a lost childhood; the site of loss (a coastal town in Asia Minor) is reframed from a forgotten accident of history (the Asia Minor Catastrophe) into a place that launches a legendary maritime journey.
In another poem drawn from Skala’s legendary fishermen, “Upon a Foreign Line of Verse,” we witness how Seferis’ poetic paramythia console sorrow and offer a lesson to the poet and reader. Here, Seferis reimagines Odysseus as a fisherman of Skala, who appears before the poet to advise him on how he may draw lessons on his own predicaments from the Odyssey. In doing so, the poem reimagines and reframes Odysseus’ trials, as “a man who struggled with the world, with his soul and body” (1974a:88). [16] The lesson Seferis learns from this familiar Odysseus is to “feel the difficult pain as the sails/of your boat are inflated by remembrance and your soul/becomes the rudder” (1974a:89). [17] That is, make your embodied pain an agent that carries you forward in life, while listening to your true self, even if truth and reality are sources of bitter pain. Instead of just being the young man who lost his homeland due to forces of history beyond his control, in poetry he becomes a novice mariner who willfully leaves behind his home for a life of adventure on the high seas. “Upon a Foreign Line of Verse” features one of the first appearances of an “Odysseus” in Seferis’ work; as his ideas change, Odysseus transforms from a legendary sea captain and a symbol of the ancient past to a metaphysical symbol of Hellenism in Thrush. “Upon a Foreign Line of Verse” consoles both Seferis’ personal loss as well as Greece’s collective loss in Asia Minor through the mythical exemplum of Odysseus. Seferis reminds the reader (and himself) that Odysseus also experienced “the bitter pain” of “see[ing] your companions drowned” and yet he still managed to conquer monsters and the nearly insurmountable journey home.
The nautical compass in “Argó” is a potent symbol of the narrator’s fate to be permanently separated from his homeland and living an itinerant existence. This fate is explicitly discussed in the poem “The Face of Fate,” another poem composed during Seferis’ World War II exile. The circumstances of the poet’s birth are reimagined as a matter of pre-ordained destiny, in a poetic scene of the Fates spinning the narrator’s future over his cradle. The fate that is in store for the narrator is one of pain and survival. This paramythi about Seferis’ origins suggests a violent rupture of the traditional fabric, an unnamed massacre, and the promise of vengeance.

“The Face of Fate”
Illustrated folktales in our heart
like silver images of boats
on the icon screen of an empty church,
July on the island.

The face of fate above the birth of a child,
the turning of the stars and the wind on a dark night in February,
old women with folk medicine ascending the creaking stairs
and the dry branches of vine bare in the garden.

The face above the cradle of a child, a black-mantled fate
with an enigmatic smile, lowered eyelids, and a bosom white as milk
and the door opens to a sea-battered boat captain
who tosses his wet cap down onto a black trunk.

These faces and events followed you
as you unwound the thread for nets on the beach
and even when you were sailing abeam, looking at the hollow space between the waves
throughout every sea, at all harbors
they were with you, and it was a difficult and joyous life.

Now I don’t know how to read any further,
because they bound you with chains, they stabbed you with the lance,
because one night in the middle of the forest they took you from your wife
who watched with eyes transfixed and couldn’t bring herself to speak,
because they deprived you of light, sea, and bread.

Why, my friend, did we fall into the gutter of fear?
It wasn’t your fate, nor determined to be mine,
we never bought nor sold such wares—
who is the one who commands and slaughters behind us?

Leave it be and don’t ask—three red horses harnessed and blindfolded
turn human bones
Leave it be and don’t ask, just wait—the blood, the blood—
one day it will awaken
like the horseman St. George
and spear the dragon.

1 October ‘41

“Η μορφή της Μοίρας”

Ιστορισμένα παραμύθια στην καρδιά μας
σαν ασημένια σκούνα μπρος στο τέμπλο
μιας άδειας εκκλησιάς, Ιούλιο στο νησί.

Η μορφή της μοίρας πάνω απ’ τη γέννηση ενός παιδιού,
γύροι των άστρων κι ο άνεμος μια σκοτεινή βραδιά του Φλεβάρη,
γερόντισσες με γιατροσόφια ανεβαίνοντας τις σκάλες που τρίζουν
και τα ξερά κλωνάρια της κληματαριάς ολόγυμνα στην αυλή.

Η μορφή πάνω απ’ την κούνια ενός παιδιού μιας μοίρας μαυρομαντιλούσας
χαμόγελο ανεξήγητο και βλέφαρα χαμηλωμένα και στήθος άσπρο σαν το γάλα
κι η πόρτα που άνοιξε κι ο καραβοκύρης θαλασσοδαρμένος
πετώντας σε μια μαύρη κασέλα το βρεμένο σκουφί του.

Αυτά τα πρόσωπα κι αυτά τα περιστατικά σ’ ακολουθούσαν
καθώς ξετύλιγες το νήμα στην ακρογιαλιά για τα δίχτυα
κι όταν ακόμη αρμενίζοντας δευτερόπριμα κοίταζες το λάκκο των κυμάτων·
σ’ όλες τις θάλασσες, σ’ όλους τους κόρφους
ήταν μαζί σου, κι ήταν η δύσκολη ζωή κι ήταν η χαρά.

Τώρα δεν ξέρω να διαβάσω παρακάτω,
γιατί σε δέσαν με τις αλυσίδες, γιατί σε τρύπησαν με τη λόγχη,
γιατί σε χώρισαν μια νύχτα μέσα στο δάσος από τη γυναίκα
που κοίταζε στυλώνοντας τα μάτια και δεν ήξερε καθόλου να μιλήσει,
γιατί σου στέρησαν το φως το πέλαγο το ψωμί.

Πώς πέσαμε, σύντροφε, μέσα στο λαγούμι του φόβου;
Δεν ήταν της δικής σου μοίρας, μήτε της δικής μου τα γραμμένα,
ποτές μας δεν πουλήσαμε μήτε αγοράσαμε τέτοια πραμάτεια·
ποιος είναι εκείνος που προστάζει και σκοτώνει πίσω από μας;

Άφησε μη ρωτάς· τρία κόκκινα άλογα στ’ αλώνι
γυρίζουν πάνω σ’ ανθρώπινα κόκαλα κι έχουν τα μάτια δεμένα,
άφησε μη ρωτάς, περίμενε· το αίμα, το αίμα
ένα πρωί θα σηκωθεί σαν τον Άι-Γιώργη τον καβαλάρη
για να καρφώσει με το κοντάρι πάνω στο χώμα το δράκοντα.

1η Οχτώβρη ’41

Seferis 1974a:193–194
The poem’s epigraph is the poet quoting himself—a bit of verse that helps to contextualize the poem’s content. This epigraph, composed of a series of images strung together, is an extended metaphor for memories of Skala. The “fables illustrated in our heart” denotes a nostalgic reverie of Seferis’ childhood in Skala, which is likened to silver votive offerings in the shape of a boat (a reference to Skala’s fisherman, or perhaps Odysseus in his role as the archetypal mariner) and summers on one of the little islands off the coast of Skala’s harbor. From this “illustrated” reverie, come the poetic folktales narrating a legendary version of Seferis’ childhood in Skala. The epigraph refers to deeply nostalgic fables, which act as “a nostalgia of nostalgia” (Bachelard 1969:129). It also demonstrates a meta-commentary on the process of creating consolatory tales that counterbalance a painful past. Self-quotation acknowledges the transformation of memory into a story (paramythi) and a symbol, or talisman of identity (a tama, in Greek), both of which pay homage to the past while conveying a wish for the future (making an offering to the Virgin Mary or a Saint). The image of an icon screen in the epigraph foreshadows the presence of Saint George and the dragon, a Christian narrative of a legendary triumph over evil.
The first two stanzas of “The Face of Fate” reimagine Seferis’ birth in February 1900 as a solemn and mythical event. Seemingly ancient women steeped in the old ways, who evoke the ancient Fates, also known as the Graies (the grey-haired ones), attend the narrator’s birth. In Ancient Greece, the three fates were goddesses of destiny who spun your fate on a spindle at birth, named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. These elderly “faces of fate” are accompanied by the figure of a traditional fisherman, all of whom marked the speaker and made him who he is (“these faces and events follow you”).
This “folktale” ends abruptly in the fourth stanza with the line “I don’t know how to read any further.” The transition from first to second person in the fourth stanza suggests that the speaker is reading the story of his own life, that the speaker and the subject of his tale are the same person. The technicolor memories have been replaced by pain; this world has been attacked and destroyed, and remembering it is debilitating. From here, the fabular memories turn didactic and allegorical in an attempt to provide a rationale for an end to childhood happiness. Blood in Seferis’ poetry can be a multivalent symbol of heritage, race, and of a transcendent humanism, but here it assumes a literal significance as a symbol for violence. [18] The final stanza echoes much of Seferis’ writing throughout the Second World War: didactic, with elliptical allegories, self-admonishment, and warnings of blood retribution. In other poems, such as Mythistorima and Thrush, these tendencies would find expression in ancient Greek myth as a symbol and cause of modern Greece’s suffering. Yet here, rather than making reference to myth as the arbiter of historical justice, the story of Christian Saint George slaying the dragon is used as an allegory for the punishment of those who would destroy the world of the narrator’s childhood.
The story told in “The Face of Fate” encapsulates Seferis’ practice of historical poetics. A story of personal origins is self-consciously narrativized into an “illustrated folktale,” a device that first and foremost helps the narrator tell the story of his past. When the story turns tragic (“because they bound you with chains, they stabbed you with the lance”), the only response to the question of why this happened is not to ask. Instead, the narrator takes refuge in a mood of deep foreboding and symbols of blood retribution. Does an answer to this question ever come?
I contend that one of the chief modes of Seferis’ historical poetics is the creation of symbols that reveal history’s lessons. These symbols work together with consolatory tales to narrate the lessons of history. In this way, Seferis’ didacticism reassures both poet and audience that history’s significance is not senseless violence and a break with the past, but rather a profound set of traditional symbols and lessons. The answer to the question “Why?” is answered in the stories and symbols of Seferis’ historical poetics, symbols that rely on a sense of tradition and belonging.
The trauma of the Asia Minor Catastrophe that is discussed in “The Face of Fate” becomes a historical lesson during Seferis’ World War II exile. In exile, with Greece’s fate uncertain, Seferis revisits the traumas of the past seeking an explanation for the present. In another, posthumously published poem from this exile period, “Gymnopaidia, Postscript,” Seferis reviews yet other “lessons” he learned from his past and referred to in previous poems. Past events and poetic discoveries are woven into a poetic reckoning of preceding didactic messages. “Gymnopaidia, Postscript” responds to and amends the two-poem volume Gymnopaidia from 1935, reconsidering the symbolism of the sea, blood, and stones of the original poems.

“Gymnopaidia, Postscript”
January 1945

The sea that took you far away
so soft like a mother’s breast,
the sea knows.

Whatever you used to ask when you were a child
such things that now old men mumble;
fantasies about useless objects
like locked trunks of drowned sailors.
Look, they fear the light of the sun
they fear seeing;
they babble, they have nothing else.

Children grew up hungry
uprooting trees devastating the mountains;
other children ask and they answer you
why did they go one step farther—
on the ascent? on the descent?
I don’t know, it makes no difference;
and they still have many fires
to light for the feast of St. John.

I used to say, blood
brings blood and more blood—
they took it to be the performance of a buffoon,
useless folktales.
Still I would whisper, stones are heavy
and the millstones are unliftable
that you heard stopping one night
on the edge of time,
and the young bodies that drowned tragic—

“Tattered clothing” said the scapegoats.
—But how will we dress in the cold
when we have nothing new?
And what will you say to your friends
when they are sorrowful and fall silent
and the passionate songs are celebrated
only by extravagant whores?

And still this: to set apart
one moment of life, to distinguish
the wind that shakes the roses
and the roses, in the little garden
in one handful of earth—
and this I tried to do, I would say
not at all as a kind of reflection
but as a kind of breath
mine, yours,
or better yet as a kind of voice;
voice is like the wind and it passes through.

The sea took you far away
and it brought you back to the familiar port
giving you the silence in front of the moorings
the boundless silence of the mid-day,
the sea knows how to teach you
the meaning of Good Friday and Easter.

“Γυμνοπαιδία, Υ.Γ.”

Η θάλασσα που σε πήρε μακριά
τόσο απαλή σαν τον κόρφο μητέρας
αυτή το ξέρει.

Ό,τι ρωτούσες σαν ήσουν παιδί
τέτοια ψελλίζουν τώρα οι γερόντοι·
φαντασίες για ανώφελα αντικείμενα
σαν κλειδωμένες κασέλες πνιγμένων θαλασσινών.
Κοίταξε· φοβούνται το φως του ήλιου
φοβούνται να ιδούν·
παραμιλούν, δεν έχουν άλλο.

Παιδιά μεγάλωσαν πεινώντας
ξεριζώνοντας δέντρα ερημώνοντας τα βουνά·
άλλα παιδιά ρωτούν και σ’ αποκρίνουνται
γιατί πήγαν ένα βήμα παρακάτω-
στην ανηφόρα; στην κατηφόρα;
δεν ξέρω, το ίδιο κάνει·
κι έχουν ακόμη πολλές φωτιές
ν’ ανάψουν για τ’ Αι-Γιαννιού το πανηγύρι.

Έλεγα κάποτε, το αίμα
φέρνει το αίμα κι άλλο αίμα—
το πήραν για παράσταση σαλτιμπάγκων,
άχρηστα παραμύθια.
Ψιθύριζα ακόμη, βαριές οι πέτρες
κι ασήκωτες οι μυλόπετρες
που άκουσες μια βραδιά να σταματούν
στο σύνορο του καιρού,
και τραγικά τα νέα κορμιά που βούλιαξαν—

“Τριμμένα ρούχα” λέγαν οι φαρμακοί.
—Μα πώς θα ντυθούμε στην παγωνιά
όταν δεν έχουμε καινούργια;
Και τι να πεις στους φίλους σου
σαν έχουν πίκρα και σωπαίνουν
και τα περιπαθή τραγούδια τα γλεντούν
μόνο οι μεγάλες πόρνες;

Και τούτο ακόμη· να ξεχωρίσεις
μια στιγμή ζωής, να ξεχωρίσεις
τον άνεμο που κλονίζει τα τριαντάφυλλα
και τα τριαντάφυλλα, στο μικρό περιβόλι
σε μια φούχτα γης—
και τούτο το προσπάθησα, θα ‘λεγα
όχι καθόλου σαν είδος στοχασμού
αλλά σαν είδος ανάσας
δικής μου, δικής σας,
ή καλύτερα σαν είδος μιας φωνής·
άνεμος η φωνή και διαβαίνει.

Η θάλασσα που σε πήρε μακριά
και σε ξανάφερε στο γνώριμο λιμάνι
χαρίζοντάς σου τη σιγή μπροστά στη σκάλα
την ανεξάντλητη του μεσημεριού,
ξέρει να σου εξηγήσει
τη Μεγάλη Παρασκευή και το Πάσχα.

Seferis 1976:9–11
Like the epigraph to “The Face of Fate,” “Gymnopaidia, Postscript” has the quality of a note from the poet to himself. With a didactic tone and symbols drawn from earlier poems, it would seem to be a reflection on poetry and its capacity for offering moral lessons. The narrative framework for this reflection is a story of exile and return: the sea—a familiar and potent topos for Seferis drawn from the landscape of his homeland in Asia Minor—transported the narrator to far-off lands and then enabled a return. Throughout the narrator’s travails, the sea imparted knowledge and essential truths to the speaker.
This hard-won knowledge, however, was sometimes in opposition to reality, or discredited by the wider world. The sentiment that the speaker’s knowledge and perspective was ignored accounts for the didactic tone of the poem, which unfolds as a conversation rebutting a perceived rejection. The fourth stanza offers the key to the perceived rejection and the didactic lesson that the poet wishes to impart. In an ironic, almost exasperated tone the speaker confesses that his warning, “blood/brings blood and more blood,” was dismissed as the “performance of a buffoon,” or, as “useless folktales.” Though the message was “whispered,” still the enigmatic warning that “stones are heavy” and the “millstones stop[ped]” was ignored, causing tragic results. These images refer to Gymnopaidia, and in particular the poem “Mycenae,” which revolves around images of stones. Several lines from “Mycenae” are echoed here: line 12 “He who lifts the great stones drowns,” and lines 38–39 “Bodies sunk in the foundations/of the other time, naked” (Seferis 1974a:77–78). [19] As for the millstones, the last lines of “Mycenae” read, “Nor is the silence yours anymore/here where the millstones stop” (Seferis 1974a:78). [20] This would seem to be a reference to the Book of Revelations (18.21–22), where an angel, upon casting a millstone into the sea, prophesies that the great city of Babylon will fall silent: “and the lyre players, musicians, pipers and trumpeters shall fall silent in thee, and no craftsman of any sort shall be found in thee, and the sound of millstones shall no longer be heard in thee” (Antipas 2007:194). [21] With this reference Seferis assumes the voice of the prophet, forewarning the reader of the decline of a great tradition. This potential for loss is addressed in the following stanza as the speaker asks,

And what will you say to your friends
when they are sorrowful and fall silent
and the passionate songs are celebrated
only by extravagant whores?
In the final two stanzas the poet seems to overcome his disappointment that the didactic messages of the original Gymnopaidia were dismissed as “useless folktales.” Yet in revisiting conclusions made in the past, he reaffirms the function of poetry for himself, leaving open the possibility that these folktales were useful. In the second-to-final stanza Seferis abandons the didactic tone and affirms that poetry is a kind of special speech, akin to breathing (an ebb and flow of internalization and externalization) that marks moments, objects, and experiences with special significance. Poetry gives voice to a collective landscape and people through an externalization of the poet’s inner truth which is assumed to be representative of a collective truth. In the final stanza the speaker acknowledges what the sea has taught: that redemption and resurrection are possible (“the meaning of Good Friday and Easter”). Just as in “The Face of Fate,” a tragic fate might yet someday be redeemed through Christian imagery of resurrection and righting of past wrongs. In fact, the poem Thrush, written in late 1946, envisions a revelatory healing of a wounded and humiliated Hellenism. Although “Gymnopaidia, Postscript” does not directly address myth, in the next section I will discuss how its self-referential symbolism links to ancient Greek myth as a means of allegorizing the fate of modern Greece.
“Argó” and “The Face of Fate” demonstrate how Seferis’ personal history as an Asia Minor Greek becomes reframed as paramythia, narratives that console the pain of loss by retelling the story of the poet’s experiences and identity. This process allows personal experiences to assume wider significance, as they become symbolic of a lost past and tradition, and are linked metaphorically to an overarching Hellenic tradition. Thus, poetic paramythia console by giving new expression to a painful personal past that was wounded by history. Incorporating this past into a traditional symbolism relieves private pain by connecting it to a collective pain. This is a pattern that will be repeated in the remainder of the essay, as I aim to show how Seferis links his personal loss—the loss of Asia Minor Hellenism—to the collective sorrows of modern Greece. While “The Face of Fate” and “Gymnopaidia, Postscript” prophesied continuous bloodshed through retribution for personal loss, in the next section I will examine how this cycle of tragedy extends back into ancient times. Christian narrative exempla (Saint George, the life of Christ, and the Book of Revelations) are replaced by ancient mythological exempla, in particular the myth of the House of Atreus, dramatized in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. The bloodshed in Seferis’ personal tales is transformed into a powerful cycle of transgression and retribution when paired with an ancient concept of blood miasma passed through generations.

Folktale of Blood

The previous section examined how Seferis’ historical poetics uses folktales to narrate personal history. These folktales console the pain of history by transforming Seferis’ memories and trauma into fiction; this is what I believe Seferis meant by history as “a situation as independent of myself as the characters in a novel.” Let us now turn to the question of myth. What is the relationship between folktale and myth in Seferis’ historical poetics? To answer this question, I compare a draft sketch to several finished poems from Mythistorima. I aim to highlight myth’s moral and ideological functions in Seferis’ poetry by discussing how folktales that are based on myth act as historical exempla. Ultimately, I demonstrate how Seferis’ historical poetics reframes Aeschylus’ Oresteia as allegory of history.
The twenty-four poem series Mythistorima was composed between 1933 and 1935, with several draft poems appearing later in Seferis’ diaries and Book of Exercises II. “The Last Dance” is one such “sketch,” which appeared in Seferis’ journals of 1934–1935, and then was edited for inclusion in the posthumously published Book of Exercises II (1977:14).“The Last Dance” was omitted from the final version of Mythistorima. However, according to Seferis’ biographer Roderick Beaton, it was part of a set of poems written together, three of which were included in Mythistorima. Its earliest title was “Fairytale of Blood” (Beaton 2003:125–126). [22]

“The Last Dance”

We’re paying off a varied folktale
we and the others
so too the cremated old men
who had canes in their hands and used to speak serenely.
The clouded bath, the net, the knife,
the deep-hued purple and the voice that asked about the sea
who will drain it,
nourished our life.
We imbibed our love slowly
it seemed a capsule to build our immunity against the poison—
until the end came and it was eradicated.
Truly, our people always guided us
with prudence.

Let it be enough, this life
amidst Mounts Pendeli and Hymettus and Parnitha.
But the roots
the roots don’t wither easily
they don’t easily disappear, defilements
of madness, of injustice, of vain pursuits.
Three thousand years and more
upon the same rocks
we’re paying for the variant of a folktale.
Pity those who are yet to come!

“Ο τελευταίος χορός”

Ένα παραλλαγμένο παραμύθι ξεπληρώνουμε κι εμείς
και οι άλλοι
όπως κι οι αποτεφρωμένοι γέροντες
που είχαν ραβδιά στα χέρια και μιλούσαν ήρεμα.
Το βουρκωμένο λουτρό, το δίχτυ, το μαχαίρι
η πορφύρα κι η φωνή που ρωτούσε για τη θάλασσα
ποιος θα την εξαντλήσει,
θρέψανε τη ζωή μας.
Την αγάπη μας την πίναμε σιγά-σιγά
μας φαίνουνταν καταπότιο για μιθριδατισμό·
ώσπου το τέλος ήρθε κι απονεκρώθηκε.
Αλήθεια, πάντα φρόνιμα μας οδήγησε
ο λαός μας.

Αρκείτω βίος, τούτη η ζωή
ανάμεσα Πεντέλη και Υμηττό και Πάρνηθα.
Όμως οι ρίζες
οι ρίζες δε μαραίνουνται εύκολα
δε φεύγουν εύκολα τα μιάσματα
της αλλοφροσύνης, της αδικίας, της κενοσπουδίας.
Τρεις χιλιάδες χρόνια και περισσότερα
πάνω στους ίδιους βράχους
πληρώνουμε το παραλλαγμένο παραμύθι.
Λυπήσου εκείνους που περιμένουν!
26. 11. 1934

“The Last Dance” problematizes modern Greece’s recent past as a function of ancient Greek myth. The past, present, and future of a Greek collective are framed in the narrative form of a folktale. Here the notion of folktale functions as an exemplum, a moral tale about the fate of the Modern Greek people. The details of this folktale may change overtime, but the story, and its symbolism and message, remains the same. By likening history to a folktale, Seferis is able to discuss the burdens of contemporary Greek modernity through the rhetorical device of a narrative containing a beginning, middle, and end, while at the same time relying on symbols to convey unstated and deeper meanings. This structure would seem to reflect Ricoeur’s theory that history and literature are linked by virtue of possessing a shared primary referent, “the aporias of temporality,” which can only be discussed in symbolic or figurative terms (White 1987:173–175). [23] “The Last Dance” gives us a view to the way Seferis used symbolism to discuss the problem of being a Greek in the twentieth century.
“The Last Dance” briefly encapsulates the problems of temporality that obsessed Seferis. The poem’s narration is grounded in the present, but comments on the past and future. These time periods are united by the fact that they all concern the story of a collective. An ironic and resigned narrator lays out the terms of the problem; in the first two lines we learn that this collective is “paying off a varied folktale.” The remainder of this stanza recounts events in the past as a means of understanding them. In the second stanza these past events are a justification for present conditions, and a precursor to what will happen in the future. The fact that this “folktale” has influenced “three thousand years and more” of history “upon the same rocks” is a matter of tragedy, since it has engendered continuous bloodshed and folly. The tragedy is the cyclical nature of history and time, a process that operates according to the absolute value of a foundational and continuous cultural tradition. Time is subservient to the workings of an ancient and ideal cultural system. This formulation of time and cultural heritage demonstrates Bakhtin’s historical inversion chronotope, which is “characterized by a[n]…assumption of ‘beginnings’ as the crystal-clear, pure sources of all being, of eternal values and modes of existence that are ideal and outside time” (1981:148). Essentially, this is Seferis’ chronotope of Hellenism.
The particular “folktale” in “The Last Dance” that illustrates this chronotope is the myth of Agamemnon’s murder by Clytemnestra following his return from the Trojan War, as dramatized in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. The first stanza contains a series of symbolic images drawn from Aeschylus’ dramatization of the myth. “The clouded bath, the net, the knife” symbolize the act of murdering Agamemnon, while “the deep-hued purple and the voice that asked about the sea / who will drain it” are symbols of Clytemnestra’s hubris and pre-meditation in carrying out this murder. Clytemnestra’s implied presence, as a figure that embodied deviation and offence in ancient times, conveys a sense of irreversible transgression. Indeed, Clytemnestra’s speech in lines 958–974 of Agamemnon, after she goads him to walk on a priceless royal robe of murex purple, would seem to hold special significance for Seferis. His gloss on the phrase “ἔστιν θάλασσα, τίς δέ νιν κατασβέσει” at line 958, “the sea exists, and who will exhaust it,” appears in three other poems: Mythistorima 20, and two early poems, poem 5 “Man” from Mr. Stratis Thalassinos Describes a Man, and “Wednesday” from Notes for a Week. In Seferis’ poetic world, which has deeply internalized ancient tragedy’s pathos and lessons, these lines of Clytemnestra’s suggest that modern Greeks are suffering the effects of an ancient tragedy. Seferis’ obsession with Clytemnestra is a means of commenting on modern tragedies, such as failed and corrupt leaders and senseless wars. In Beaton’s view, subsequent instances of “the inexhaustible purple” and the murder of Agamemnon in “Mycenae” from late 1935’s Gymnopaidia are obscured references to the Plastiras putsch and the restoration of King George II that occurred at this time (Beaton 2003:137.).
But the story of Agamemnon’s murder in “The Last Dance” also contains a meta-tale of how tradition is maintained. The folktale of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon “nourished” the lives of the collective; it was an enriching part of the “love” that provided “immunity against the poison,” until it too “was eradicated.” This vague and elliptical statement suggests the end of a continuous cultural tradition; is this a reference to the end of Asia Minor Hellenism, or the end of the House of Atreus, dramatized in The Eumenides? Whatever the lesson the collective learned from this eradication, it was one “guided” by the “prudence” of our people, a metaphor for cultural continuity and tradition. With this statement, Seferis sanctions the idea of a community united in blood—joined in ethnic unity and in tragedy’s snare, both ancient and modern. This is an example of how Seferis combines ethnic heritage with folk tradition to form “[an] organism that preserves in the present whatever is valuable and ought to be saved from history’s evolution,” according to Dimitris Dimiroulis’ analysis (1997:95). [24] The people’s prudence ensures that “Fairytale in Blood” continues.
In the second stanza the poem comments on the modern consequences of sharing a blood link with the ancient past, using the language of Agamemnon. The symbolic references to Clytemnestra’s murderous act suggest that this myth is an allegorical explanation for the tragic problems of modern Greece. The phrase “let it be enough, this life,” is another gloss on a line from Agamemnon, this time Cassandra at line 1314 as she prophesies her death, and the deaths of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. The lines “the roots / the roots don’t wither easily” is still another reference to Clytemnestra’s speech discussed above at line 966. Here the reference to roots is yet another metaphor for the continuation of a cultural tradition; however this cultural tradition brings with it “defilements” that future generations will pay for and that the current generation is suffering. The deep roots of this tradition ensure that it remains the same. Even the topographical description of this place suggests a closed circle of myth and fate. This line is reminiscent of the opening line of Mythistorima 10: “Our country is closed off, all mountains” (Seferis 1974a:54 ). [25] The unedited ending of “The Last Dance,” published with Seferis’ journals read:

Three thousand years
we’re paying for this folktale—
it changes with each of us
but nevertheless remains always the same

Seferis 1977:14. [26]

This alternate ending tells us that circumstances change, but the moral message stays the same: The injustices of the past are paid for by those who are part of the same land and the same cultural tradition, an encapsulation of how a nation-state defines identity. The phrase “this folktale / it changes with each of us” is a self-conscious reference to Seferis’ recreation of the Agamemnon myth in this poem. While the tale itself may vary in the re-telling, the moral remains the same because it is based on a timeless ideal.

What is the cumulative effect of these symbols drawn from the Agamemnon? The story of Clytemnestra’s hubris and its inauguration of a seemingly endless series of murders and unjust acts reframes canonical Greek myth as an exemplum for contemporary audiences. In this way, Seferis becomes the voice of tragedy’s chorus, a voice that orchestrates and explains an unfolding narrative in the context of a continuous tradition. (The word “dance” in the title of the poem could also be interpreted as a “chorus.”) As the poet, Seferis reweaves the story of the collective and its national identity into a tragic tale, whose validity and strength, no matter the pain, is drawn from a common past. In the transition from a personal to collective voice, personal pain is lessened when it is shared with the collective’s pain. I agree with Dimiroulis’ assessment of the collective voice in Mythistorima: that Seferis subsumes his personal voice and viewpoint within a collective that speaks as “a hyper-historical consciousness” (1997:162).This collective consciousness is the voice of the poet himself, who has become the voice of an ancient tradition during contemporary loss.
“The Last Dance” sheds light on the way that Aeschylus’ Oresteia works as an allegory for history throughout Seferis’ poetry, and in Mythistorima in particular. As Mario Vitti observes, the folktale, paramythi, of “The Last Dance” was transformed into the παναρχαίο δράμα, the primeval drama of Mythistorima 1 (Vitti 1978:109). The primeval drama is an example of a notional pure origin of culture and tragedy that is outside time. A chief difference between these two formulations is that the folktale is a master narrative of identity and tragedy, varied because of the passage of time, but the same in essence. It is the master narrative distilled into a simple concept of identity as fate, history and time as circular entities, and myth as an absolute cultural value. In contrast, the primeval drama is the living perpetual reenactment of this master narrative, drawn from an ancient tradition. The protagonists in Mythistorima 1 are waiting to reenact the master narrative and succumb to tragedy for the good of the collective. This distinction, finally, helps to clarify Seferis’ elliptical statement explaining the concept of “mythistorima.” Seferis’ “certain mythology” is a set of symbols derived from ancient myth that together make up a narrative about modern Greece’s history and temporal dilemmas. The varied folktale, or primeval drama is a metaphor for history, substituting historical events and processes with mythological exempla and an overriding sense of tragedy. The mythological exempla in Mythistorima are drawn not only from the House of Atreus, but also from the myths of the Argonauts, Perseus and the Trojan War. Through this process, history becomes a matter of poetry, incorporated into an idealized cultural tradition. Seferis’ historical poetics reveals lessons to the reader while reassuring himself that poetry best represents the overarching temporal aporia of history.
Seferis’ folktales of his Asia Minor origins objectified a painful personal history by transforming it into a traditional narrative with a moral ending. This moral ending suggested that contemporary bloodshed is linked to a continuous cycle of loss and death, but one that could be avenged through traditional Christian themes of blood sacrifice. Through an analysis of the poem “The Last Dance” we saw that myth, and in particular, the myth of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, supersedes history to provide a fundamental and symbolic rationale for bloodshed. Both Christian themes and myth reflect a desire for something absolute, a world where history, seen as a contemporary trauma, is only the current phase of a timeless cycle. In this way, bloodshed is not random, but ordained as part of a productive cycle. Elli Philokyrpou, in her comprehensive analysis of pain and relief in Seferis’ poetry, supports this idea, since Mythistorima suggests that,

passing through the bloodshed that is imposed on him, perhaps one is able to recover the severed thread of his fate; he will be able, in any case, to defeat evil…The blood of sacrifice, or metaphorically, the total devotion to something, can produce miracles defeating the monsters of history, but also liberating men generally from the bonds of fear and time.
Philokyprou 2006:186–187 [27]

This notion is the guiding force behind Mythistorima; the voices we hear and the journey we witness moves toward a “just” death in which blood sacrifice is the only means of transcending a life lived in the shadow of continuous tragedy.

“The Last Dance” is a folktale of the Modern Greek nation. It is a story of historical determinism that uses myth as an allegory for Greece’s bloodshed in expansionist wars such as the Asia Minor campaign and its contemporary political impasses. It is a deeply conservative view of history, one that confines agency to the past and tragedy to the present and future. In the final part of my discussion of Seferis’ historical folktales, I examine how Seferis questions his desire for the absolute determinism of myth. In his later poems, especially the Cyprus poems of Logbook III, Seferis revisits the lessons of his historical poetics, opening up the possibility for myth to become more “varied” and move beyond the confines of Greece. Myth becomes a symbol of the richness of the Hellenic tradition, rather than as a symbol of totality and consistency in the face of change. The source of this revision in Seferis’ thinking about myth and history is the poet’s experiences with Cyprus and its alternative version of Hellenism. Cyprus, and its Eastern Hellenic tradition offer a new perspective on the relationship between myth and history, and the way that Seferis frames this relationship through narrative.

A Varied Folktale in Cyprus

In the late 1950s Seferis began a decade-long personal and professional engagement with Cyprus. His experiences in Cyprus were memorialized in the volume Logbook III, which is dedicated to the people of Cyprus, and celebrates its landscape and traditions. The Greek culture of Cyprus prompted him to revisit questions of myth, history, and tradition, and more broadly, Hellenism’s connection to the topos of Greece. In the poem “Helen” from Logbook III these questions are again explored through folktale, but with different conclusions than the ones we have seen thus far. Where “The Last Dance” framed myth as an absolute value of Hellenism, “Helen” opens the possibility that perhaps totality itself is a myth, and identity and tradition can vary over time. The poem questions the didactic messages Seferis’ previous work sought to impart and discusses problems surrounding the objectification of symbols.
The source of Seferis’ reappraisal of the relationship between myth and history is a poetic retelling of the myth of Helen in Euripides’ drama Helen. Helen reveals that Helen’s abduction by Paris was a lie, a false cause of war promulgated by the gods. Helen remained ensconced in Egypt for the duration of the Trojan War, while a fabricated image of her presided over Troy. Teucer, the brother of Ajax, stumbles upon Helen while he is traveling to Cyprus to refound his home city of Salamis, having been banished by his father who wrongly blamed him for Ajax’s death. In Euripides’ play, Teucer is a minor character who acts as a foil for revealing Helen’s identity so that the rest of the story can unfold. Euripides’ Teucer is unaware that he has met the real Helen. Yet in Seferis’ recreation, Teucer has reached Cyprus after recognizing Helen in Egypt, and this prompts him to consider the tragic implications of the gods’ deception. Both Euripides’ original play and Seferis’ reimagining are pessimistic political statements on man’s pretexts for war. While Euripides comments on Athens’ folly in disastrous campaigns, Seferis’ Cypriot Teucer questions the rationale for bloodshed in World War II and the Greek Civil War and indicates a potentially bloody crisis in Cyprus. “Helen” represents a shift from relying on Aeschylus and Homer in his previous work to Euripides and 5th century drama in the poems of Logbook III ( Maronitis 2008:163). This change also signals a difference in the relationship between myth and history.


Teucer: … to the land of Cyprus on the sea, where Apollo declared
I must live, establishing there a Salamis
in honor of my fatherland.
Helen: I did not go to Troy; it was a phantom.
Messenger: What do you say?
We suffered in vain due to a cloud?
Eurpides, Helen

“The nightingales don’t afford you any rest in Platres.”

Timid nightingale, among the breathing leaves,
you who bestow the melodic dew of the forest
upon the dislocated bodies and souls
of those who know they will not return.
Blind voice, that fumbles in the dark night of memory
searching for footsteps and gestures—I wouldn’t dare say kisses—
and the bitter rage of the deranged slave-woman.

“The nightingales don’t afford you any rest in Platres.”

What is this place, Platres? Who recognizes this island?
I lived my life hearing names for the first time:
new places, the latest crazes of men
or gods; my fate, which billows between
the last sword of an Ajax
and another Salamis,
brought me here to this shore. The moon
rose from the sea like Aphrodite;
it veiled the stars of Sagittarius, and now heads for
the heart of the Scorpion, changing everything.
Where is the truth?
I too was an archer in the war—
my destiny, that of a man who missed his mark.

Singing poet nightingale,
it was such a night as this, on Proteus’ shore
when the enslaved Spartan women heard you and led the lament,
and among them—who would have thought—Helen!
She whom we sought for years on the banks of the Scamander.
She was there, in the lips of the desert; I touched her, she spoke to me:
“It’s not true, it’s not true,” she cried.
“I never went into the blue-bowed boat.
I never set foot in courageous Troy.”

With a high corset, the sun in her hair, and that stature
shadows and smiles everywhere
on her arms, on her thighs, and on her knees;
with radiantly alive skin,
and heavy-lidded eyes,
she was there, on the banks of a Delta. And in Troy?
Nothing in Troy—a reflection.
That’s how the gods wanted it.
And Paris, he made love to a shade as if it were a solid being—
and we slaughtered each other ten years for Helen.

A great suffering had fallen over Greece.
So many bodies cast
into the jaws of the sea, into the jaws of the earth,
so many souls
given over to the millstones, like wheat.
And the rivers swelled with bloodied silt
for a ripple of linen, for a cloud
the trembling of a butterfly, the down of a swan
for an empty robe, for a Helen.
And my brother? Nightingale nightingale nightingale,
what is a god? What is not a god? And what is in between?

“The nightingales don’t afford you any rest in Platres.”

Tearful bird, in sea-kissed Cyprus
where they promised it would remind me of my homeland,
I moored alone with this folktale,
if it is true that it is a folktale,
if it is true that men will never again seize
the ancient deceit of the gods; if it is true
that some other Teucer, after many years,
or some Ajax or Priam or Hecuba
or some unknown man, anonymous, who nevertheless
saw a river Scamander disgorge corpses,
isn’t destined to hear
heralds coming to say
that so much pain, so much life
went into the abyss
for an empty robe, for a Helen.


ΤΕΥΚΡΟΣ: … ἐς γῆν ἐναλίαν Κύπρον, οὗ μ᾽ ἐθέσπισεν
οἰκεῖν Ἀπόλλων, ὄνομα νησιωτικὸν
Σαλαμῖνα θέμενον τῆς ἐκεῖ χάριν πάτρας.
ΕΛΕΝΗ: οὐκ ἦλθον ἐς γῆν Τρῳάδ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ εἴδωλον ἦν.
ΆΓΓΕΛΟΣ: τί φῄς;
νεφέλης ἄρ᾽ ἄλλως εἴχομεν πόνους πέρι;

“Τ’ αηδόνια δε σ’ αφήνουνε να κοιμηθείς στις Πλάτρες”.

Αηδόνι ντροπαλό, μες στον ανασασμό των φύλλων,
συ που δωρίζεις τη μουσική δροσιά του δάσους
στα χωρισμένα σώματα και στις ψυχές
αυτών που ξέρουν πως δε θα γυρίσουν.
Τυφλή φωνή, που ψηλαφείς μέσα στη νυχτωμένη μνήμη
βήματα και χειρονομίες· δε θα τολμούσα να πω φιλήματα·
και το πικρό τρικύμισμα της ξαγριεμένης σκλάβας.

“Τ’ αηδόνια δε σ’ αφήνουνε να κοιμηθείς στις Πλάτρες”.

Ποιες είναι οι Πλάτρες; Ποιος το γνωρίζει τούτο το νησί;
Έζησα τη ζωή μου ακούγοντας ονόματα πρωτάκουστα:
καινούργιους τόπους, καινούργιες τρέλες των ανθρώπων
ή των θεών· η μοίρα μου που κυματίζει
ανάμεσα στο στερνό σπαθί ενός Αίαντα
και μιαν άλλη Σαλαμίνα
μ’ έφερε εδώ σ’ αυτό το γυρογιάλι. Το φεγγάρι
βγήκε απ’ το πέλαγο σαν Αφροδίτη·
σκέπασε τ’ άστρα του Τοξότη, τώρα πάει νά ‘βρει
την καρδιά του Σκορπιού, κι όλα τ’ αλλάζει.
Πού είν’ η αλήθεια;
Ήμουν κι εγώ στον πόλεμο τοξότης·
το ριζικό μου, ενός ανθρώπου που ξαστόχησε.

Αηδόνι ποιητάρη,
σαν και μια τέτοια νύχτα στ’ ακροθαλάσσι του Πρωτέα
σ’ άκουσαν οι σκλάβες Σπαρτιάτισσες κι έσυραν το θρήνο,
κι ανάμεσό τους -ποιος θα το ‘λεγε- η Ελένη!
Αυτή που κυνηγούσαμε χρόνια στο Σκάμαντρο.
Ήταν εκεί, στα χείλια της ερήμου· την άγγιξα, μου μίλησε:
“Δεν είν’ αλήθεια, δεν είν’ αλήθεια” φώναζε.
“Δεν μπήκα στο γαλαζόπλωρο καράβι.
Ποτέ δεν πάτησα την αντρειωμένη Τροία”.

Με το βαθύ στηθόδεσμο, τον ήλιο στα μαλλιά, κι αυτό το ανάστημα
ίσκιοι και χαμόγελα παντού
στους ώμους στους μηρούς στα γόνατα·
ζωντανό δέρμα, και τα μάτια
με τα μεγάλα βλέφαρα,
ήταν εκεί, στην όχθη ενός Δέλτα. Και στην Τροία;
Τίποτε στην Τροία—ένα είδωλο.
Έτσι το θέλαν οι θεοί.
Κι ο Πάρης, μ’ έναν ίσκιο πλάγιαζε σα νά ηταν πλάσμα ατόφιο·
κι εμείς σφαζόμασταν για την Ελένη δέκα χρόνια.

Μεγάλος πόνος είχε πέσει στην Ελλάδα.
Τόσα κορμιά ριγμένα
στα σαγόνια της θάλασσας στα σαγόνια της γης·
τόσες ψυχές
δοσμένες στις μυλόπετρες, σαν το σιτάρι.
Κι οι ποταμοί φουσκώναν μες στη λάσπη το αίμα
για ένα λινό κυμάτισμα για μια νεφέλη
μιας πεταλούδας τίναγμα το πούπουλο ενός κύκνου
για ένα πουκάμισο αδειανό, για μιαν Ελένη.
Κι ο αδερφός μου; Αηδόνι αηδόνι αηδόνι,
τ’ είναι θεός; τι μη θεός; και τι τ’ ανάμεσό τους;

“Τ’ αηδόνια δε σ’ αφήνουνε να κοιμηθείς στις Πλάτρες”.

Δακρυσμένο πουλί, στην Κύπρο τη θαλασσοφίλητη
που έταξαν για να μου θυμίζει την πατρίδα,
άραξα μοναχός μ’ αυτό το παραμύθι,
αν είναι αλήθεια πως αυτό ειναι παραμύθι,
αν είναι αλήθεια πως οι ανθρώποι δε θα ξαναπιάσουν
τον παλιό δόλο των θεών· αν είναι αλήθεια
πως κάποιος άλλος Τεύκρος, ύστερα από χρόνια,
ή κάποιος Αίαντας ή Πρίαμος ή Εκάβη
ή κάποιος άγνωστος, ανώνυμος, που ωστόσο
είδε ένα Σκάμαντρο να ξεχειλάει κουφάρια,
δεν το ‘χει μες στη μοίρα του ν’ ακούσει
μαντατοφόρους που έρχουνται να πούνε
πως τόσος πόνος τόση ζωή
πήγαν στην άβυσσο
για ένα πουκάμισο αδειανό για μιαν Ελένη.

The poem’s tale unfolds as Teucer laments the tragic news that the Trojan War was fought over nothing but a shade, an empty ghost of a woman. Teucer, now established in Cyprus, bemoans his own fate: banished and bewildered in a new land, he questions the rationale for the entire Trojan War. Teucer’s reflection is addressed to a nightingale, whose midnight song prevents the speaker from sleeping. This refrain, “The nightingales don’t afford you any rest in Platres,” refers to a mountainous Cypriot village meant to be the setting for Teucer’s dialogue with the nightingale. [28] The nightingale acts as a symbol of lament and musical poetry, allowing the speaker to retell the tale of Helen, while also offering a commentary on the process of poetic composition. As Gregory Nagy demonstrated in Poetry as Performance, the nightingale, both in Homeric poetry and in medieval French poetry, is described poetically as a songbird of lament that sings a multi-patterned song. Using the nightingale’s song as a metaphor, Nagy goes on to develop a theory of “continuity in variation” in oral poetic traditions (1996:58). These poetic traditions are perceived from the inside as being stable, changing all the while as poets recreate and recompose their songs. In Nagy’s argument, the nightingale acts as a signifier of poetry’s multiformity and the role of poets in recomposing traditional songs. This applies to Seferis’ “Helen” as well, since the poem’s nightingale is a Cypriot ποιητάρης, a traditional poet-folksinger, who by virtue of being a Cypriot presents a variation on mainland traditions. Seferis’ nightingale represents cultural variation: both Cyprus’ cultural variation as well as myth’s variation through generations of retelling. The myth that is being recomposed ostensibly in the poem is Euripides’ Teucer, while structurally myth’s role in Seferis’ historical poetics is revised.
In “Helen,” the speaker, imagined as Teucer, reckons with the truth of a perceived absolute fact, that the Trojan War was fought on account of Helen’s abduction by Paris. However, faced with the reality of exile and the task of refounding another Greek city in Cyprus, the voice of Teucer begins to question the assumptions of his homeland and its myth. Helen, the Greek symbol of sublime beauty and disaster, is humanized when she reveals to Teucer in Egypt that she too was manipulated by the gods and never went to Troy. The once-unassailable truth of Helen’s abduction is in question, now denigrated as nothing but a “folktale,” a fictive pretext for the slaughter of so many innocent men.
Seferis cannily employs Teucer’s lament to reflect upon the didacticism of his previous poetry and its insistence upon ancient Greek myth as an absolute cultural value. With his use of the word folktale, Seferis exploits its connotation as something false; a παραμυθάς is someone who tells tall tales, or a liar. In “Helen” the folktale is still a story, but its simple narration of deeper truths is seen in negative terms, not positively, as it was in the previous examples. In the final two stanzas, the speaker questions whether the Trojan War was fought justifiably, or in response to nothing but a hollow pretext, “for an empty robe, for a Helen.” The speaker wonders if the Trojan War is just a tragic “folktale,” or the workings of a divine system, even if the gods do deceive men. This final reflection, whether the Trojan War is nothing but a senseless tragedy, an accident of history, or the result of a divine order beyond men’s control, adds a coda to Seferis’ previous formulation of historical poetics. In “Helen” we witness Seferis questioning whether to allow himself to admit that history is truly random and tragic, a product of man’s folly and not a timeless ideal system. If so, would this mean letting go of his need for “folktales and parables” based on a totalized Hellenic culture and tradition? If there is no hubris to punish what will happen to the perpetrators of war? What consolation will we have for the wounds of history?
Teucer’s recreated myth is a venue for Seferis to diplomatically reconsider his cultural assumptions about Hellenism. Seferis utilizes Teucer’s persona as an exile and an outcast to reflect upon Greece’s role in instigating conflict. Helen’s “empty robe” is a veiled criticism of Greece and its bellicose rhetoric and national pride. Seferis’ genuine regard and appreciation for Cyprus leads him to see parallels between Asia Minor and Cyprus and wonder if Greece’s irredentist desires are simply sources of tragedy. Yet at the same time “Helen” shifts folktale’s role from consoling the pain of loss, to lamenting what was lost; Seferis is expressing pain, rather than repressing it. Yet confronting myth’s inherent untruthfulness and variation brings a different kind of consolation. The Cypriot singing-poet nightingale signifies an appreciation for Cyprus’ varied Hellenism. In Cyprus Seferis discovers a Hellenism that is authentic and autochthonous, one that reminds him of his childhood homeland in Asia Minor and gives him hope for the future of Hellenism. Many of the poems in Logbook III celebrate Cyprus’ cultural and historical difference from mainland Greece, reflecting Seferis’ personal reservations about the prospect of Cyprus uniting with Greece. [29] In “Helen” the past still determines the future, but it can be a source of positive inspiration and recovery in the present, rather than only tragedy. Contrary to “The Last Dance,” “Helen” entertains the possibility that as myth changes over time its moral messages change, too. “Helen” is a cautious attempt to embrace change and diversity by a poet deeply wounded by Greece’s recent past and deeply attached to Greece’s ancient heritage.


In essence, Seferis’ historical poetics are a means to reflect upon the lessons of the past and share these lessons with the reader. This process reflects a core belief that poetry was a means of obtaining knowledge (Maronitis 2008:175–177). His historical poetics are an example of the ancient meaning of istoria, narration by inquiry, or a narration of what one has learnt. Through poetry, Seferis develops an approach to history that answers his own doubts and consoles his personal trauma while commenting on the meaning of history and myth for a Greek collective. His poetry narrates history as if it were a traditional tale, an action that distances the poet from his personal pain and offers refuge in a collective cultural heritage. Becoming the contemporary voice of a glorious ancient past assuages the poet’s tragic disconnection from his authentic heritage in Asia Minor. Rupture becomes reconnection at the level of Hellenism’s fundamental core—ancient Greek myth and culture.


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[ back ] 1. Seferis 1974a:213 “ένας τρόπος / ν’αρχίσεις να μιλάς γιά πράγματα που ομολογείς / δύσκολα,” my translation above.
[ back ] 2. Seferis 1974a:213 “Εύκολα τρίβεται ο άνθρωπος μες τους πολέμους· / ο άνθρωπος είναι μαλακός, ένα δεμάτι χόρτο·,” my translation above. The use of χόρτο, grass, may also refer to the passage at Psalm 103:15–16.
[ back ] 3. Seferis 1974a:213, “ο τόπος που τον πελεκούν και τον καίνε σαν / το πεύκο,” “ένα πάρθενο δάσος σκοτωμένων φίλων το μυαλό μας,” my translation above.
[ back ] 4. Πάλι τα ίδια και τα ίδια, θα μου πεις, φίλε.
Όμως τη σκέψη του πρόσφυγα τη σκέψη του αιχμάλωτου τη σκέψη
του ανθρώπου σαν κατάντησε κι αυτός πραμάτεια
δοκίμασε να την αλλάξεις, δεν μπορείς.
Seferis 1974a:214, my translation above.
[ back ] 5. Κι α σου μιλώ με παραμύθια και παραβολές
είναι γιατί τ’ ακούς γλυκότερα, κι η φρίκη
δεν κουβεντιάζεται γιατί είναι ζωντανή
γιατί είναι αμίλητη και προχωράει·
στάζει τη μέρα, στάζει στον ύπνο
μνησιπήμων πόνος.
Seferis 1974a:215, my translation above.
[ back ] 6. Martha Klironomos in 2002:222 contextualizes Seferis’ quotation of this line from Aeschylus within the theme of knowledge emerging from hardship and woe.
[ back ] 7. The neuter noun παραμύθι, denotes a folktale, story, or fairy tale, while its feminine form παραμυθία means solace, or comfort.
[ back ] 8. For the subjects of the “mythical method” and the “objective correlative,” as well as the influence of Eliot on Seferis see Vagenas 1979:105–184, Beaton 1987:135–182, Keeley 1983:68–94, and Dimiroulis 1996:225–239.
[ back ] 9. “Πρέπει να ρωτήσουμε συνεπώς: πόσο συχνά διαβάζουμε την ιστορία για να φτάσουμε στον Σεφέρη και πόσο συχνά διαβάζουμε τον Σεφέρη για να ανακαλύψουμε, μέσα από την σκηνοθετημένη θεματολογία του, το πρόσωπο μιας άλλης Ελλάδας, όπως το έπλασε η φαντασία του,” my translation above.
[ back ] 10. See Emrich 1992:197, who writes, “Despite over forty possible references which can be found in the whole poetic work—excluding the prose—the Asia Minor disaster never became in itself the primary theme of a poem,” and Vitti 1978:75–77.
[ back ] 11. Gourgouris 1996:212 writes, “Seferis’ presence signifies the most elaborate construction of a personal mythology, a condition he cultivated by virtue of his constant self-effacement in the name of a transcendental Hellenicity, a practice itself of a ‘poetics of absence.’”
[ back ] 12. “στη Σκάλα του Βουρλά, που ήταν για μένα ο τόπος μου,” and “Εκεί, οι άνθρωποι, θαλασσινοί και χωριάτες, ήταν δικοί μου άνθρωποι,” my translation above.
[ back ] 13. “όταν στεκόμουν εκεί ντυμένος τη κόκκινη τήβεννο, μέσα σ’αυτήν την κατανυκτική ατμοσφαίρα και άκουα, ούτε μια στιγμή δε συλλογίστηκα πως με τιμούσαν εμένα, αλλά πως ήταν αυτό που γινότανε μια προσφορά, σ’έναν κόσμο που αγάπησα…Η Σκάλα είχε έρθει ως εδώ. Αυτό ήταν που ένιωσα το περισσότερο απ’ όλα,” my translation above.
[ back ] 14. All translations of Seferis’ poetry are my own.
[ back ] 15. See Keeley 2005:6, where Seferis discusses this memory with Keeley and states that the nautical compass “became something mythical for me.”
[ back ] 16. “[πως ήταν κι αυτός] ένας άνθρωπος που πάλεψε με τον κόσμο, με την ψυχή και με το σώμα,” my translation above.
[ back ] 17. “Μου λέει το δύσκολο πόνο να νιώθεις τα πανιά του καρα- / βιού σου φουσκωμένα από τη θύμηση και την ψυχή / σου να γίνεται τιμόνι,” my translation above.
[ back ] 18. See Dimiroulis 1997:94–96 where he discusses the notions of species, race, and nation in Seferis’ aesthetics. In Thrush blood becomes a transcendent symbol of the power of ancient humanism.
[ back ] 19. “Βουλιάζει όποιος σηκώνει τις μεγάλες πέτρες·” and “Σώματα βυθισμένα στα θεμέλια του άλλου καιρού, γυμνά,” my translation above.
[ back ] 20. “Μήτε κι η σιωπή είναι πια δική σου / εδώ που σταμάτησαν οι μυλόπετρες,” my translation above.
[ back ] 21. “καὶ φωνὴ κιθαρῳδῶν καὶ μουσικῶν καὶ αὐλητῶν καὶ σαλπιστῶν οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ πᾶς τεχνίτης πάσης τέχνης οὐ μὴ εὑρεθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ φωνὴ μύλου οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι,” my translation above.
[ back ] 22. The three poems were 7, 14, and 15. See also Beaton 2003:439n89.
[ back ] 23. At 173n6 White quotes Ricoeur’s thesis “that speculation on time is an inconclusive rumination to which narrative activity can alone respond. Not that this activity solves the aporias through substitution. If it does resolve them it is in a poetical and not theoretical sense of the word.”
[ back ] 24. “[του οργανισμού] που συντηρεί στο παρόν ό,τι άξιζε και ώφειλε να σωθεί από την ιστορική εξέλιξη,” my translation above.
[ back ] 25. “Ο τόπος μας είναι κλειστός, όλο βουνά,” my translation above.
[ back ] 26. “Τρείς χιλιάδες χρόνια / πληρώνουμε τούτο το παραμύθι· / με τον καθένα μας αλλάζει / κι όμως μένει πάντα το ίδιο / πεισματικά,” my translation above.
[ back ] 27. “περνώντας μέσα από την αιματοχυσία που του επιβλήθηκε, ίσως μπορέσει κανείς να ξαναβρεί το κομμένο νήμα της μοίρας του· θα μπορέσει, πάντως, να κατατροπώσει το κακό…Το αίμα της θυσίας ή, μεταφορικά, η πλήρης αφοσίωση σε κάτι, μπορεί να θαυματουργήσει νικώντας τα τέρατα της ιστορίας, αλλά και λυτρώνοντας γενικά τους ανθρώπους από τα δεσμά του φόβου και του χρόνου,” my translation above.
[ back ] 28. See Seferis’ note at 1974a:338.
[ back ] 29. According to Beaton 2003:317–318, Seferis was skeptical about the Greek government’s ability to administer Cyprus.