Monday, 13 April 2009

The Return of the Exile

Below is Giorgios Seferis’ great poem, The Return of the Exile, about the perennial Greek theme of nostalgia and what awaits the nostos – Odysseus, Agamemnon, Orestes, the Greek refugee, immigrant, etc, etc – when he returns to his homeland after years in a foreign country. The poem has been set to music by Yiannis Markopoulos and I’ve made the song available in Radio Akritas. The singers are Ioanna Kiourtsoglou and Lakis Halkias.


The return of the exile

‘My old friend, what are you looking for?
After years abroad you’ve come back
with images you’ve nourished
under foreign skies
far from you own country.’

‘I’m looking for my old garden;
the trees come to my waist
and the hills resemble terraces
yet as a child
I used to play on the grass
under great shadows
and I would run for hours
breathless over the slopes.’

‘My old friend, rest,
you’ll get used to it little by little;
together we will climb
the paths you once knew,
we will sit together
under the plane trees’ dome.
They’ll come back to you little by little,
your garden and your slopes.’

‘I’m looking for my old house,
the tall windows
darkened by ivy;
I’m looking for the ancient column
known to sailors.
How can I get into this coop?
The roof comes to my shoulders
and however far I look
I see men on their knees
as though saying their prayers.’

‘My old friend, don’t you hear me?
You’ll get used to it little by little.
Your house is the one you see
and soon friends and relatives
will come knocking at the door
to welcome you back tenderly.’

‘Why is your voice so distant?
Raise your head a little
so that I understand you.
As you speak you grow
gradually smaller
as though you’re sinking into the ground.’

‘My old friend, stop a moment and think:
you’ll get used to it little by little.
Your nostalgia has created
a non-existent country, with laws
alien to earth and man.’

‘Now I can’t hear a sound.
My last friend has sunk.
Strange how from time to time
they level everything down.
Here a thousand scythe-bearing chariots go past
and mow everything down.’

Ο γυρισμός του ξενιτεμένου
‘Παλιέ μου φίλε τι γυρεύεις;
χρόνια ξενιτεμένος ήρθες 

με εικόνες που έχεις αναθρέψει

κάτω από ξένους ουρανούς 

μακριά απ' τον τόπο το δικό σου’.

‘Γυρεύω τον παλιό μου κήπο 

τα δέντρα μου έρχουνται ως τη μέση 

κι' οι λόφοι μοιάζουν με πεζούλια


κι όμως σαν είμουνα παιδί

έπαιζα πάνω στο χορτάρι 

κάτω από τους μεγάλους ίσκιους 

κι έτρεχα πάνω σε πλαγιές

ώρα πολλή λαχανιασμένος’.



‘Παλιέ μου φίλε ξεκουράσου 

σιγά σιγά θα συνηθίσεις 

θ' ανηφορίσουμε μαζί 

στα γνώριμά σου μονοπάτια 

θα ξαποστάσουμε μαζί

κάτω απ' το θόλο των πλατάνων

σιγά σιγά θα 'ρθούν κοντά σου 

το περιβόλι κι οι πλαγιές σου’.



‘Γυρεύω το παλιό μου σπίτι 

με τ' αψηλά τα παραθύρια

σκοτεινιασμένα απ' τον κισσό 

γυρεύω την αρχαία κολόνα 

που κοίταζε ο θαλασσινός.


Πως θες να μπώ σ' αυτή τη στάνη;

οι στέγες μου έρχουνται ως τους ώμους 

κι όσο μακριά και να κοιτάξω

βλέπω γονατιστούς ανθρώπους 

λες κάνουνε την προσευχή τους’.



‘Παλιέ μου φίλε δε μ' ακούς; 

σιγά σιγά θα συνηθίσεις 

το σπίτι σου είναι αυτό που βλέπεις

κι αυτή την πόρτα θα κτυπήσουν 

σε λίγο οι φίλοι κι οι δικοί σου

γλυκά να σε καλωσορίσουν’. 



‘Γιατί είναι απόμακρη η φωνή σου; 

σήκωσε λίγο το κεφάλι 

να καταλάβω τι μου λες 

όσο μιλάς τ' ανάστημά σου

ολοένα πάει και λιγοστεύει 

λες και βυθίζεσαι στο χώμα’.



‘Παλιέ μου φίλε συλλογίσου 

σιγά σιγά θα συνηθίσεις

η νοσταλγία σου έχει πλάσει

μια χώρα ανύπαρχτη με νόμους

έξω απ' τη γής κι απ' τους ανθρώπους’.



‘Πια δεν ακούω τσιμουδιά

βούλιαξε κι ο στερνός μου φίλος 

παράξενο πως χαμηλώνουν 

όλα τριγύρω κάθε τόσο 

εδώ διαβαίνουν και θερίζουν 

χιλιάδες άρματα δρεπανηφόρα’.

2 comments:

Hermes said...

Some great poems lately - helping me see Seferis in a different light. By the way have you heard about Shoestring Publishers in the UK? They appear to try and do interesting English translations and analysis of Greek poems; although, I am not sure Kalvos can be translated, they are trying at least.

Below is a review of another Cavafis collection. My favourite, the Sachperoglou collection, is also mentioned.

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Waiting-for-the-grammarians-4047

john akritas said...

H.
There's a bit more from Seferis I'm going to post. I've always liked Seferis; but have got into him a lot more lately after reading an excellent biography of Seferis by Roderick Beaton, called Waiting for the Angel. It is a superb book about Seferis' poetics and the creative process in general and, just as importantly, provides an extraordinary account of all the events which comprise 20th century Greek history and which Seferis, from a prominent Asia Minor family and then as a senior diplomat, was intimately involved with. If anyone thinks that Greek society's decline and bankruptcy is a recent phenomenon, then they should pay attention to Seferis' accounts of Greek governments and politicians from 1935 to 1960.

I've noticed that Kalvos has recently been translated into English. I've also come across recent English translations of Karyotakis, Nanos Valaoritis, Embirikos and Engonopoulos.