George Seferis

And for the soul,

if it is to know itself,

it is into the soul

that it must look.

The stranger and the enemy, we have seen him in the mirror.

They were good lads, the comrades who did not grumble

because of weariness or because of thirst or because of the freezing.

They had the manner of trees and the manner of waves

that accept the wind and the rain,

accept the night and the sun,

and in the midst of change they do not change.

They used to sweat at the oar with downcast eyes,

breathing rhythmically together,

and their blood flushed up to a subordinate skin.

There were times when they sang, again with downcast eyes,

when we passed the desert island with the Arabian figs,

toward the setting of the sun, beyond the cape of dogs

that howled at us.

If it is to know itself, they used to say,

it is into the soul it must look, it used to say.

And the oars beat on the golden path of the sea

in the middle of sunset.

Many the capes we passed, many the islands, the sea

which leads to the other sea, sea-gulls and seals.

There were times when unfortunate women with lamentations

cried out for their children gone,

and others with desperate faces

looked for great Alexander

and glory buried in the depths of Asia.

Our anchorages were shores steeped in the perfume of night,

among the singing of birds, waters that left on the hands

the recollection of a great good fortune.

But there was never an end to the journeys.

Their souls became one with the oars and the rowlocks,

with the severity of the figurehead on the prow,

with the curling wake of the rudder,

with the water that flecked their faces.

One after another the comrades died

with their downcast eyes. Their oars

indicate the place where they sleep on the shores.

There is none to remember them, and the word is Justice.


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