Treasure Island

Giorgos Seferis

(13 March 1900 - 20 September 1971 / Izmir)

In the Manner of G.S.


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

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

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

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

Wherever I travel Greece wounds me,
curtains of mountains, archipelagos, naked granite.
They call the one ship that sails AGONY 937.

Submitted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Edited: Sunday, April 15, 2012

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