Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Death and Resurrection of Constantine Paleologos

I

As he stood there – erect before the Gate and impregnable in his sorrow

Far from the world – where his spirit sought
 to bring Paradise to his measure – And harder even than stone – for no one had ever looked
 on him tenderly – at times his crooked teeth 
whitened strangely

And as he passed by with his gaze a little
 beyond mankind – and from them all
 extracted One who smiled on him
 – the Real One 
– whom death could never seize

He took care to pronounce the word sea clearly that all the dolphins
 within it might shine – And the desolation so great it might 
contain all of God
 – and every water drop ascending steadfastly toward the sun

As a young man he had seen gold glittering
 and gleaming on the shoulders of the great – And one night – he remembers – during a great storm the neck of the sea roared so it turned murky – but he would not submit to it

The world's an oppressive place to live through 
– yet with a little pride it's worth it.


II

Dear God what now
 – Who had to battle with thousands 
– and not only his loneliness
 – Who?
 – He who knew with a single word 
how to slake the thirst of entire worlds
 – What?

From whom they had taken everything
 his – And his sandals with their criss-crossed straps and his pointed trident – and the wall he mounted every afternoon like an unruly and pitching boat 
– to hold the reigns against the weather

And a handful of vervain
 – which he had rubbed on a girl's cheek
 – at midnight – to kiss her – (how the waters of the moon gurled
 on the stone steps three cliff-lengths above the sea...)

Noon out of night 
– And not one person by his side
 – Only his faithful words that mingled
 all their colors to leave in his hand
 a lance of white light

And opposite – along the whole wall's length
 – a host of heads poured in plaster
 as far as his eyes could see

“Noon out of night – all life a radiance!"
– he shouted and rushed into the horde 
– dragging behind him an endless golden line

And at once he felt – the final pallor overmastering him – as it hastened from afar.


III

Now – as the sun's wheel turned more and more swiftly – the courtyards plunged into winter and once 
emerged red from the geraniums

And the small cool domes – like blue medusae
 – reached each time higher to the silverwork 
the wind so delicately worked as a painting 
– for other times more distant

Virgin maidens
 – their breasts glowing a summer dawn
 – brought him branches of fresh palm leaves – and those of the myrtle uprooted from the depths of the sea

Dripping iodine 
– While under his feet he heard
 – the prows of black ships 
sucked into the great whirlpool – the ancient and smoked seacraft
 from which still erect with riveted gaze
 – the Mothers of God stood rebuking

Horses overturned on dumpheaps 
– a rabble of buildings large and small
 – debris and dust flaming in the air

And there lying prone
 – always with an unbroken word
 between his teeth
Himself

the last of the Hellenes!

(Odysseas Elytis)

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