No birds are heard. No blossom on the immortelle. The manes of the night horses are transparent. An empty boat floats on an arid estuary And, lost among grasshoppers, the word swoons.
The word slowly grows, like a tent or shrine, Now throws itself down like demented Antigone, Now like a dead swallow falls at one’s feet, With Stygian affection and a green twig.
Oh, to bring back the shyness of clairvoyant fingers, Recognition’s rounded happiness! I am so afraid of the sobbing of the Muses, Of mist, of bells, of brokenness.
They who are going to die can love and see, Even sound can pour into their fingers, But I have forgotten what I wanted to say And a thought without flesh flies back to its palace of shadows.
The transparent one keeps on repeating the wrong thing: Always swallow, my love, Antigone… And on my lips the black ice burns, The recollection of Stygian bells.
For the sake of delight Take from my hands some sun and some honey, As Persephone’s bees enjoined on us.
Not to be untied, the unmoored boat; Not to be heard, fur-shod shadows; Not to be silenced, life’s thick terrors.
Now we have only kisses, Like little furry bees, Which perish when they fly from the hive.
They rustle in transparent thickets In the dense night forest of Taigetos, Nourished by time, by honeysuckle and mint.
For the sake of delight, then, take my uncouth present: This simple necklace of dead dried bees That turned honey into sun.
Here is the pyx, like a golden sun, For a splendid moment hanging in the air; Now only the Greek tongue should resound, Holding the whole world in its hands like an apple.
The exultant zenith of the service has come round, Light under the dome inside the circular temple in July, So that with nothing held back we sigh, beyond time, For that green pasture where time stands still.
And the Eucharist hovers like an eternal midday – All partake, play and sing; Under the eyes of everyone the holy vessel pours With inexhaustible rejoicing.
Because I had to let go of your arms, Because I betrayed your salty tender lips, I must wait for dawn in the dense acropolis. How I abhor these weeping ancient timbers!
Achaean men fit out the Horse in the dark, They hack into the walls with their toothed saws, Nothing can quiet the blood’s dry murmur, And you have no name, no sound, no copy.
How could I think you would come back, how could I dare? Why did I break with you before it was time? The gloom hasn’t lightened and the cock hasn’t crowed, The hot axe hasn’t yet split the wood.
The walls ooze resin like a transparent tear, The town feels its wooden ribs, But blood has rushed to the ladders and taken it by storm, The men have been enticed three times in dreams.
Where is dear Troy? Where the imperial, where the maidenly house? Priam’s lofty starling-coop shall be a ruin. And arrows fall like dry, wooden rain And other arrows grow from the ground like hazel-nut trees.
The last star-pricks are dying out painlessly, As morning, a grey swallow, raps at the window. And lethargic day, like an ox waking in straw, Stirs on the streets, tousled by long sleep.
When the city moon looks out on the streets, And slowly lights the impenetrable town, And darkness swells, full of melancholy and bronze, And songs of wax are smashed by the harshness of time;
And the cuckoo is weeping in its stone tower, And the ashen woman descends to reap the dead world, Quietly scattering huge spokes of shadow, And strews yellowing straw across the floorboards…
When, on my lips a singing name, I stepped Into the ring of dancing shadows Stamping on the tender meadow, A mist of sound was left of what had melted.
To begin with I thought the name was ‘seraph’ And I fought shy of such a light body, A few days passed and I blended with it And dissolved into that dear shadow.
And again from the apple-tree wild fruit falls, And the secret form flickers in front of me, Blaspheming and cursing itself And swallowing jealousy’s hot coals.
Then happiness rolls by like a golden hoop Fulfilling someone else’s will, And cutting the air with the palm of your hand You chase the sweetness of Spring.
And it is so arranged that we do not dance away From these spell-bound circles. The expansive hills of virginal earth Lie swaddled away.
I like the grey silences under the arches: Public prayer, funeral processions, The affecting obligatory rites and requiems at Saint Isaac’s.
I like the priest’s unhurried step, The winding-sheet’s expansive bodying-forth, Lent’s Galilean gloom, like an ancient fishing-net,
And smoke of the Old Testament on glowing altars, And the priest’s orphaned cry. And royal meekness: Unsullied snow on shoulders, wild purple vestments.
Hagia Sophia and Saint Peter’s – everlasting barns of air and light, Storehouses of universal goods, Granaries of the New Testament.
Not to either of you is the spirit drawn in years of grave disaster: Here, up the wide and sullen steps, The wolves of tribulation slink; we’ll never betray their tracks:
For the slave is free, having overcome fear, And in cool granaries, in deep bins, The grain of whole and perfect faith is stored.