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This review is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

THE MARBLE HEAD George Seferis, Collected Poems, translated, edited and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Expanded edition (Anvil Press) £5.95

'Wherever I travel, Greece wounds me', says a poem ironically titled 'In the Manner of G. S.' - the poet himself of course. That line becomes memorable even in translation, the country that wounds being a physical presence - 'curtains of mountains, archipelagos, naked granite', a place which is itself travelling in time, and where the poet cannot disentangle himself from the mythologies of the classical past, or from personal memory, which seem to merge together in this metaphor: 'my hand was nailed to the gunwale/by an arrow shot suddenly/from the confines of a vanished youth'. None of these meanings can be evaded, even though the others in the poem, the inhabitants of 1936, live in a bewilderment which they do not themselves recognise: 'strange people! they say they're in Attica, but they're really nowhere'. They seem to have no place because they ignore the journey they are on, while for the poet there seems to be an ugly destination ahead, when the Aegean will 'flower with corpses'. It is not something he can avoid, though he suffers for it, since it travels in and out of his consciousness. This interpenetration of place, seen in geographical, historical and cultural contexts, and mind, which both creates and is created by all those places, is perhaps the outstanding feature of Seferis's poetry. The metaphor of travelling is as much a movement towards and away from hope and despair, or a movement of a difficult spiritual quest, as it is the real ...


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