Translation of George Seferis The Last Station

The Last Station

imageFew are the moonlit nights
That I care for.
The alphabet of the day that one pronounces, as the day’s efforts dictates,
And that one interprets Into other meanings and hopes, that one will now more clearly be able to read.
Now that I sit idle and
Unemployed
and consider
That but a few moons are left in memory,
Islands,
Colours bereaved
Of The Virgin.
Slow stanzas.
The night moonlight
once fell on cities of the North
Fell once
on traumatized roads,
rivers and traumatized people’s futures
Heavily
And yet last night
On this
Our last station
where we wait for
our return to dawn,
Like some old debt that
Has remained bundled
in a money hoarders
treasure chest.
And finally the moment
has come for payment
And the sound of coins
Are heard falling on the table.
In this Tyrrhenian village
Behind the sea of Salerno
Behind the harbours
Of return
on the edge of an autumnal gust
The moon overcame
The clouds,
lit,
enamelled,
houses on opposing shore.
Beloved silences of the moon,
A means of thought,
A way of speaking of things that one considers truly difficult.
And at those unbearable moments
When a leaf secretly escapes and brings tidings of home, of life companions, and you rush to open your heart lest the exile of living in foreign lands, heads you off and changes it.
We come from Africa, from Egypt, from Palestine,from Syria, our holding place Commagene, that was snuffed out like a small lamp.
Many times it turns about in our minds, the large cities that flourished for thousands of years, that then later became fields for shepherds,
Fields for sugar cane
and corn .
We come from sands of barren lands from Protean oceans
Souls marred
From public sin
Each one displayed
like a bird in a cage
The wet rain soaked autumn
here in this ditch
Infects the wound
In each one of us,
that which one would otherwise call nemesis
or fate
Or perhaps merely bad habit
Unfortunate, unscrupulous,
And final,
bearing fruit
on the blood of others.
Easily a man is ground up in wars. Man is soft, a bundle of grass, lips, and fingers that desire;
A white breast, eyes with lids half closed in the brightness of day ,
and feet that, although so very tired, would run at the smallest whistling of profit.
Man is soft and thirsty like grass, unwashed like grass .
Roots are his nerves and they spread. When the harvest comes he prefers that the threshing begins, the scythes whistling, in the neighbouring fields. When the harvest comes, others scream to exorcize the demons, others preoccupy themselves in their innocents, others break into rhetorics,
but the exorcisms, the innocents, the rhetorics, seeing as the living are so far away, of what use are they? Perhaps humanity is another thing, perhaps it is that which imparts life. Time of sowing, time of reaping. Always the same , the same things, you will say I tell you my friend. But the thought of the refugee, the thought of the prisoner, the thought of the man become possession, possessor, try and change it. You can’t. Perhaps he has wanted to remain a king of cannibals, spending strengths that no one would buy. To wander in the valleys to hear thundering under the bamboo trees. But at the spot where they beat and hack at him,
Or on broken platforms
Without water, broken windows, night and night again,
Or on the ship in flames that will sink, as statistics show, these are rooted in the brain and do not change; these are planted images in the brain, same as the trees that drop their seeds in the virgin forest which are nailed into the soil to grow once again, and drop their seed again. A virgin forest of the murdered leaves of our minds.
And I speak to you in fables and parables because this is the way that they sound sweeter, and what travesty can’t be spoken, because it’s alive, because it’s unspoken, and it proceeds, it drips in the day, it drips in sleep. Our pain. Should I speak of heroes, should I speak of heroes : Michael who left the hospital with open wounds. Perhaps he was speaking of heroes that night as he was dragging his leg through the darkness of the city , crying out our pain in a high pitch: through the darkness:
We are travelling in the darkness, we are proceeding, through the darkness. Heroes proceed in the darkness. Few are the moonlit nights that I care for.

-George Seferis

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