Sixth Reading of Axion Esti By Odysseus Elytis
Many years after the sin, which they called virtue in the churches and which they blessed. The tempest that man's mind shall give birth to sweeping away relics of old stars and cobwebbed corners of the sky. And Creation paying for the works of the ancient rulers shall shudder. Turmoil shall fall on Hades, and the planking shall sag under the great pressure of the Sun. Which first shall hold back its beams as a sign that it is time for dreams to take revenge. And then it shall speak and say: exiled Poet, say what do you see in your century?
I see the nations once arrogant, given over to the wasp and sorrel.
I see axes in the air splitting busts of Emperors and Generals.
I see merchants stooping to collect the profit from their own corpses.
I see the sequence of secret meetings.
Many years after the sin in which they call virtue in the churches which they blessed. But before that, behold, there will be the handsome Phillips and Roberts who admire themselves narcissistically where three roads meet. They shall wear their rings reversed and they shall comb their hair with a nail. And they shall decorate their chest with skulls, to tempt loose women. And these women shall be dazzled and give in. So that the word may become true that the day is close when beauty shall be given over to the flies of the Agora. And the body of the whore, having nothing else to envy, shall be outraged. And the whore shall become the denouncer of the wise and the mighty, using as a witness the sperm that she served loyally and she shall shake off the curse, stretching out her arm to the East and crying: exiled Poet, say, what do you see in your century?
I see the colors of the Hymmetus at the sacred base of our new Civil Code.
I see little Myrto the whore from Sikinos a stone statue raised in the Agora square with the Fountains and the rampant lions.
I see ephebes and I see the girls in the annual Lottery of Couples.
I see on high in the aethers the Erectheum of Birds.
The tempest that man's mind shall give birth to sweeping away relics of old stars and cobwebbed corners of the sky. But before that, behold, generation shall move the plow upon the barren earth. And secretly the Rulers shall take stock of their human merchandise, declaring wars. And the Policeman and Military Judge shall be satiated. Leaving the gold to the unseen, and they shall collect the wages of insult and torture. And big ships shall hoist their flags, marching songs shall advance along the roads, balconies shall strew flowers on the Victor. Who shall live in the odor of the corpses. And near him the mouth of the tomb shall open up the darkness according to his measure, crying exiled Poet, say, what do you see in your century?
I see the Military Judges burn like candles on the big table of resurrection..
I see the policeman offer their blood, a sacrifice to the purity of the heavens.
I see that continual revolution of plants and flowers.
I see the cannonbearers of Eros.
And Creation paying for the works of the ancient Rulers shall shudder. Turmoil shall fall on Hades and the planking shall sag under the great pressure of the Sun. But before that, behold, the young shall sigh and their blood shall grow old for no reason. Prisoners with shaved heads shall strike their mess-kits on the bars. And all the factories shall empty out, and they then shall fill up again because of requisitions, to produce dreams conserved in thousands of tin cans, and bottle natures of a thousand different varieties. And pale years shall come and years weak in their bandages. And each shall have a few grams of happiness. And the things in him shall already be beautiful ruins. Then the poet, having no other exile where he can lament, pouring out the health of the storm from his open chest, shall return to stand amid the beautiful ruins. And the last of men shall speak his first word, that the grass grow tall, and the woman emerged from his side like a sunbeam. And again he shall worship the woman and lay her on the grass, according to the order of things. And dreams shall take revenge, and they shall sow generations forever and ever!
From The Collected Poems of Odysseus Elytis, translated by Jeffrey Carson and Nikos Sarris