Odysseus Elytis
The Axion Esti
Translated by Edmund Keeley and George Savidis
Anvil Press, 1980

This, Elytis' master work first appeared in 1959. It is an extended poem, part autobiography, part history of WWII Greece. "The pervasive theme of the poem is that the measure of man's humanity resides in his ability to hold opposites in just relation, his ability to survive as neither angel nor devil, sensualist nor saint, but as something beyond the two, something that can assimilate both." -- from the preface by Keeley and Savidis.

The poem is in three sections. I include some brief quotes from each. Punctuation is as in the translation.

THE GENESIS

"Your commandment," he said, "is this world
and it is written in your entrails
Read and strive
and fight," he said
...
THIS WORLD!
this small world the great!

THE PASSION

Here then am I,
created for the young Korai and the Aegean islands.
...
Greek the language they gave me
poor the house on Homer's shores.
My only care my language on Homer's shores.
There bream and perch
windbeaten verbs,
green sea currents in the blue

THE GLORIA

Praised be the light and man's
first rock-carved prayer
the vigor in the beast leading the sun
the plant that warbled so the day rose

ODYSSEA ELYTH

TO AXION ESTI

ISBN 960-7233-46-8

(Greek Edition of The Axion Esti)

 

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Last modified 7/20/14; posted 1/14/00; original content © 2014, 2000 John P. Nordin