George Seferis – Collected Poems

Mr Stratis Thalassinos Describes a Man     III Ephebe

On my sixteenth year in the summer a foreign voice sang in my ears;

it was, I remember, by the sea shore among the red nets

and a boat abandoned on the sand, a skeleton

I tried to go near that voice by putting

my ear on the sand the voice disappeared

but there was a shooting star

as though I saw a shooting star for the first time

and on my lips the salinity of the waves.

From that night the roots of trees never came to me.

The next day a voyage opened in my mind

and closed again like a book of pictures;

I thought of going down to the shore every evening

first to learn of the shore and then to go on a trip;

the third day I fell in love with a girl on a hill;

she had a little white house like a lone chapel

an old mother at the window and glasses always

lowered on her knitting, always silent

a pot of basil a pot of carnations

I think her name was Vasso Frosso or Billio;

so I forgot the sea.

One Monday in October

I found a broken water pitcher before the little white house

Vasso (for short) appeared in a black dress,

her hair uncombed and her eyes red

when I asked her:

‘She died, the doctor said she died because

we didn’t slaughter a black cock when we started

the foundations…where can one find a black cock

around here…there are only white flocks…and

in the market they sell chicken already plucked.’

I never imagined sorrow and death being like that

I left and returned to the sea.

That night on the deck of “St Nicolas”

I had a dream of a very old olive tree crying.

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