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Helen - Poem by Giorgos Seferis

Teucer: . . . in sea-girt Cyprus, where it was decreed
by Apollow that I should live, giving the city
the name of Salamis in memory of my island home.
. . . . . . . . . .
Helen: I never went to Troy; it was a phantom.
. . . . . . . . . .
Servant: What? You mean it was only for a cloud
that we struggled so much?


— Euripides, Helen


‘The nightingales won't let you sleep in Platres.'

Shy nightingale, in the breathing of the leaves,
you who bestow the forest's musical coolness
on the sundered bodies, on the souls
of those who know they will not return.
Blind voice, you who grope in the darkness of memory
for footsteps and gestures — I wouldn't dare say kisses —
and the bitter raving of the frenzied slave-woman.

‘The nightingales won't let you sleep in Platres.'

Platres: where is Platres? And this island: who knows it?
I've lived my life hearing names I've never heard before:
new countries, new idiocies of men
or of the gods;
my fate, which wavers
between the last sword of some Ajax
and another Salamis,
brought me here, to this shore.
The moon
rose from the sea like Aphrodite,
covered the Archer's stars, now moves to find
the heart of Scorpio, and alters everything.
Truth, where's the truth?
I too was an archer in the war;
my fate: that of a man who missed his target.

Lyric nightingale,
on a night like this, by the shore of Proteus,
the Spartan slave-girls heard you and began their lament,
and among them — who would have believed it? — Helen!
She whom we hunted so many years by the banks of the Scamander.
She was there, at the desert's lip; I touched her; she spoke to me:
‘It isn't true, it isn't true,' she cried.
‘I didn't board the blue bowed ship.
I never went to valiant Troy.'

Breasts girded high, the sun in her hair, and that stature
shadows and smiles everywhere,
on shoulders, thighs and knees;
the skin alive, and her eyes
with the large eyelids,
she was there, on the banks of a Delta.
And at Troy?
At Troy, nothing: just a phantom image.
That's how the gods wanted it.
And Paris, Paris lay with a shadow as though it were a solid being;
and for ten whole years we slaughtered ourselves for Helen.

Great suffering had desolated Greece.
So many bodies thrown
into the jaws of the sea, the jaws of the earth
so many souls
fed to the millstones like grain.
And the rivers swelling, blood in their silt,
all for a linen undulation, a filmy cloud,
a butterfly's flicker, a wisp of swan's down,
an empty tunic — all for a Helen.
And my brother?
Nightingale nightingale nightingale,
what is a god? What is not a god? And what is there in between them?

‘The nightingales won't let you sleep in Platres.'

Tearful bird,
on sea-kissed Cyprus
consecrated to remind me of my country,
I moored alone with this fable,
if it's true that it is a fable,
if it's true that mortals will not again take up
the old deceit of the gods;
if it's true
that in future years some other Teucer,
or some Ajax or Priam or Hecuba,
or someone unknown and nameless who nevertheless saw
a Scamander overflow with corpses,
isn't fated to hear
messengers coming to tell him
that so much suffering, so much life,
went into the abyss
all for an empty tunic, all for a Helen.


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Poems About Paris

  1. 1. Helen , Giorgos Seferis
  2. 2. Paris , Nassy Fesharaki
  3. 3. Orlando Furioso Canto 8 , Ludovico Ariosto
  4. 4. Viva Le France , Charles Hice
  5. 5. Abishag , gershon hepner
  6. 6. London To Paris , Joyce Hemsley
  7. 7. Daily Blessing , Bill Grace
  8. 8. (my Mother) Retirement Plans , Janice Windle
  9. 9. Ce Que Je Veux Faire (What I Want To Do) , Lawrence S. Pertillar
  10. 10. :) On Paris Hilton , Bill Grace
  11. 11. Travel Haiku - New York City Central Park , john tiong chunghoo
  12. 12. Paris Song , Aldo Kraas
  13. 13. Helen Of Troy , Rm.Shanmugam Chettiar.
  14. 14. White Rose From The Atlas , Atef Ayadi
  15. 15. Three Cute Tiny Angry Ants , Heather Schroer
  16. 16. Paris Rain , Windsor Guadalupe Jr
  17. 17. December In Paris , oskar hansen
  18. 18. Travel Haiku - Spring In Paris , john tiong chunghoo
  19. 19. M.Tsvetaeva, In Paris - Translation (Rus.) , Lyudmila Purgina
  20. 20. Affairs In Paris , sallam yassin
  21. 21. The Murder Of The Orient Express , Joe Rosochacki
  22. 22. Defending Helen Of Troy , gershon hepner
  23. 23. Through Paris 1970 , Terry Collett
  24. 24. En Paris Ces'T Ma Maison , Peter LeBuhn
  25. 25. Paris You Are Always In My Heart , Aldo Kraas
  26. 26. Writing Poetry Late At Night After My Wi.. , Bill Grace
  27. 27. Road From Paris 1970 , Terry Collett
  28. 28. My First Love , Peter LeBuhn
  29. 29. Ghost Of Paris , Joseph Narusiewicz
  30. 30. Our Last Tango , Marieta Maglas
  31. 31. Haiku Eight Homeless Dead , Jonathan ROBIN
  32. 32. Americans In Paris , gershon hepner
  33. 33. Travel Haiku - Nevada , john tiong chunghoo
  34. 34. Limerick: Once Cute Pute In Gay Paris Ca.. , T (no first name) Wignesan
  35. 35. September 22 , David Lehman
  36. 36. Paris , Marta Xoxx
  37. 37. Limerick: Once A Lion Of A Man In Ruin , T (no first name) Wignesan
  38. 38. Larence Of Judaea , gershon hepner
  39. 39. Parisian Boulangeries-Patisseries , Terence George Craddock (Spe ..
  40. 40. The Young Woman From Paris In France , Francis Duggan
  41. 41. Ooh-La-La Oompa-Loompa , Joe Rosochacki
  42. 42. Doublethink , gershon hepner
  43. 43. The Idler’s Calendar. Twelve Sonnets Fo.. , Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
  44. 44. Qualifications , Lawrence S. Pertillar
  45. 45. My Beautiful Lady , Framarz Bagheri
  46. 46. Baton , gershon hepner
  47. 47. A Paris State Of Mind , Robin Bennett
  48. 48. To Provence! ! , Gayle Sweeney
  49. 49. Autumn Passed Through Paris , Endre Ady
  50. 50. Limerick: Once Monsters From Fearful Mot.. , T (no first name) Wignesan
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