I’m reading Mark Mazower‘s thorough and well-written book Inside Hitler’s Greece and was struck by his remark: “During the Second World War Greek poets would produce a body of work comparable in quality to the British war poetry of 1914-18. Two Nobel laureates, Seferis and Elytis, and other major poets… wrote some of their finest poems in those years.” Much as I love modern Greek poetry, I’ve been neglecting it lately, and this sent me back to my Collected Poems of Seferis. I thought about reproducing his wartime poem “The Figure of Fate” (Oct. 1, 1941), but it’s a bit long and depressing (“How did we fall, my friend, into the pit of fear./ It wasn’t your fate, nor was it decreed for me,/ we never sold or bought this kind of merchandise;/ who is he who commands and murders behind our backs?”). So instead I offer this gem from his last prewar collection, uncharacteristically tiny, a pure burst of lyricism.

The Jasmin
Whether it’s dusk
or dawn’s first light
the jasmin stays
always white.

The translation (and the spelling) are by Keeley and Sherrard. Here’s the original (in transcription; dh = voiced th, as in “then”):

Ite vradhyázi
ite féngi
méni lefkó
to yasemí.


  1. Schluuuurp. (Must — not — spend — money! Must — resist!)

    I’m sure someone’s already pointed this out before, but wow, that has a nearly haiku quality. Beautiful.

  2. “Much as I love modern Greek poetry, I’ve been neglecting it lately”.

    I wish I could say that.

  3. Gosh, that’s lovely.


  4. Iam i Romano Man from sweden and my first family arivde in sweden i 1600.
    and i can speak my language swe-romani
    Ja ninna vorssnos baroá devel fann erssnos mala Lenny

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