Three Poems of Nikephoros Vrettakos (Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος) Βρεττάκος

Three Poems of Nikephoros Vrettakos
Τρία ποήματα του Νικηφόρου Bρεττάκου (αγγλική γλώσσα)

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Second elegy

Like corpses that are taken to be burned
in a place appointed for that sacred act,
so in a velvet coffin I am taken
under black clouds on the shoulders of my fate,
and while it rains on my white shroud, the hooded
nights of my life come staggering after me.

The funeral train takes to the hills and descends
into the mist. Among the trees. Into the distance
where a great fire awaits me, one created
from all the colored fires of this world:
from sunset, from the ocean, from the stars,
from fires of moons on snowdrifts, from the blaze
of skies, from evening colors of Taygetos.

Blue, green, white, crimson, silver
flames, like a tangled dance of nymphs and angels
chanting serene hosannas as they gaze
at the lectern of the universe. And as Christ with a dog
crosses the field and my mother gathers crocuses
in her apron, there dances all around the fire
the mournful kingdom of flowers with its shepherds,
while they take me down across through the rattling rain.

My dear friends, O dear friends of mine,
I’m simple in my poems, and simpler still
in my tears. Our age is shadowed; thick flakes snow
through all my blood; I’m naked to the core,
like a careless shepherd trapped by fall of night
on a lightning-blasted mountain. Gather now
my sheep. They’re nailing shut the windows of night
with sledge-hammers. An evil wind is blowing,
it’s getting dark. A rain, a frost, a moon.
My coffin has filled with water. Flailed in a whirl
by the mad and evil wind, blue, green,
in the distance the fires shed their leaves in the mist.
Nikephoros Vrettakos

The purest thing in all creation

Somehow there’s no more darkness left at all.
I’ve soaked up sunlight through a thousand wounds,
and now this whiteness that I cloak you in
you won’t find even in the Alps: this wind
whirls also there on high and stains the snow.
Even white roses bear a hint of dust.
The ultimate miracle is in ourselves:
these white expanses genuinely aglow
against the universe. The purest thing
in all creation then is not the twilight,
nor the sky when it’s reflected off the river,
nor the sun on the apple blossoms. It is love.
Nikephoros Vrettakos

The orange trees of Sparta

The orange trees of Sparta, snow, flowers of love,
sprang into whiteness at your words, bending down their branches,
I hugged them to my small breast and went to my mother.

She was sitting under the moon, worrying about me,
she was sitting under the moon and she scolded me:
Yesterday I washed you, yesterday I changed you,
where did you run off to –
who filled your clothes with tears
and bitter-orange blossoms.
Nikephoros Vrettakos