alexandros-baras.jpg

ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ ΜΠΑΡΑΣ (1906-1990)

from Compositions, I, 1933

(Πατήστε για να ακούσετετε τον Δημήτρη Χορν να διαβάζει (ανέκδοτη ηχογράφηση)
(1963) από το Σπουδαστήριο Νέου Ελληνισμού:

http://www.snhell.gr/lections/content.asp?id=81&author_id=65&page=anthology

THE CLEOPATRA, THE SEMIRAMIS AND THE THEODORA

Once every week,
on a given day,
and always at the same hour,
three handsome ships,
the Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora,
leave their berth
at nine oʼclock
for Piraeus always,
for Brindisi and for Trieste
always.

Without manoeuvres or fuss
or hesitation
or unnecessary blowing on the whistle,
they put out to sea,
the Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora,
like certain well-bred people
who take leave of their hosts
without uncouth and superfluous
handshaking.

They leave their berth
at nine oʼclock,
for Piraeus always,
for Brindisi and for Trieste
always – rain or shine.
They sail
to daub the blue waters
of the Aegean and the Mediterranean

with smoke.
They sail to cast their lights
like topazes on the sea
at night.
They sail
laden with passengers and luggage….

The Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora,
for years now
on the same route,
arriving on the same day
sailing at the same hour.

They resemble white-collar workers
who have become such time machines
that an office door
might come tumbling down
if they were to miss work
even for a single day.

(If the route is always the same
what if it is across an entire Mediterranean
or from one house to another neighbourhood?)
The Cleopatra, the Semiramis, and the Theodora
for a long time now and for many years
have felt the tyranny of boredom,
ploughing always the same route,
mooring always at the same ports.

If I were a Captain,
Yes – si jʼetais roit! –
if I were a Captain
on the Cleopatra, the Semiramis, the Theodora,
if I were a Captain
with four gold stripes,
abandoned on this same route

year after year,
on a moonlit night,
in the middle of the sea,
I would climb to the bridge deck
and while the music from the first class saloon
played on,
with my best uniform,
my gold stripes
and shiny decorations,
I would trace a most perfect curve
from the bridge deck
into the water,
gold braid and all,
like a shooting star,
like a hero of inexplicable death.

ANN ARBOR REVIEW (USA), No. 10/11, 1970.
MUNDUS ARTIUM (USA), Vol. V, No. 3, 1972.
NEW GREECE, Athens, 1975.
HELLENIC QUARTERLY (Athens), No. 6, Autumn 2000.

THREE LAMPS

Three powerful lamps – the three together
produce a thousand candlepower of blinding light –
placed in the vertices
of an isosceles triangle
which forms between them on the ceiling
of this fashionable café – the only one
that will put up with us night after night –

What were we saying? – three powerful lamps
let out certain insolent
electric light cries
as they converse with each other.
(Now how three lamps can talk,
how they can cry out
without uttering a single sound,
only I and my friends
who sit with me
know it,
that is why we are such close
and inseparable friends at night.)

Three lamps… three cries….
Usually when we speak of cries
the term “sky-high” may be applied.
But here we cannot use it.
They cannot reach sky-high
since the impenetrable ceiling,
a concrete barrier, prevents them
from rising skywards,
and so they break against it
and fall on our senses
with immense cruelty!

Again, even if there were no question
of the termʼs inadequacy,
even if these three cursed lamps
shone in the open air,
their cries would still not reach sky-high:

I am thinking of the stars
that would claim this privilege,
especially if it were July
• a beautiful, clear July night –
I am thinking of the starsʼ all-powerful
illuminating rivalry,
the stars that aeons and aeons ago
formed a Trust,
the largest Trust, of light.

CAVE (New Zealand), No. 6. No date printed.

SOUTH AMERICAN REPUBLICS

In certain centrally located purlieus
with their becoming quietudes,
in stately mansions,
in consulates and embassies,
Dons reside, of noble birth, representatives
of South American republics
peculiar and remote.
Every Sunday,
to the sound of peeling church bells,
gold-braided commissionaires
hoist flags
of fanciful designs
to be found only in Larousse,
and perhaps not even there.

And those who do not go to church,
because here too they feel out of place,
as in their cities, their homes, their times,
those who wander about on Sundays
as on other days,
stop and stare pensively
at the mansions, the alien flags,
with thirst-ridden curiosity
and a tension torpid and adventurous
which uneasily awakens:
…Venezuela… Honduras… Paraguay
• capital Asuncion –
(they remember now
the name of the capital from their schooldays).

Their spirit craves for something new.
Horrid is the repetition
of the same known things;

lifeʼs circle narrows
from the frequent blows
of partings and deaths…
Unlucky love affairs,
hidden sins,
great misfortunes
one after the other.
Ah, they obviously should have come
on a more appropriate day.

Their spirit craves for something new.
If it were only possible to start
their life anew!
How careful they would be,
how circumspect,
if they could begin in a new land,
if they could begin there
guided by old experiences.

South America…
The equator and the tropics…
Perhaps the worldʼs evils
have not as yet reached that far,
and perhaps the liner companies
take passengers
who are tired of living
always the same despairing life
in the same city always…
If they could only start afresh
in some tropical country?

Thatʼs that. Meanwhile the church services
have come to an end,
people pass by,
the hooting of the taxis

awakens them from their reveries,

and – there they go again –
the neurasthenics
walk among the crowd,
their boredom faithfully tagging on…

CAVE (New Zealand), No. 5, May 1974.

THE ASIATICS PASS…

In the night yesterday
a long column of white elephants
passed in stateliness
through the narrow, hushed streets
of the city.
These sacred pachyderms
were somewhat perturbed.
All their majesty
trudged along in a striking antithesis
to the shabby surroundings of the city.

Mounted on their backs,
the rajahs of Asia,
gorgeously dressed
in luxurious materials
from Burma,
kept in balance their swarthy,
their voluptuous, slothful,
and handsome bodies.

The sky was star-studded,
the moon donned its sweetest gold,
their servants burnt aromas
profusely,
And the sensual and sluggish smoke
rose towards the starry swarm.
Emeralds and rubies
cast green and crimson reflections
and the diamonds glittered swiftly
like momentary desires,
ardent desires.

The servants,
a large retinue,
each one with his own retainer,
and the rajahs from the safe backs
of the elephants,
cast curious glances
about them:
“Why must there be such crises,
such big crises?”

Thus did they all proceed,
Knights of Nirvana
and Kings of Serenity,
thus did they fade leisurely
in the beautiful summer night…

CAVE (New Zealand), No. 6. No date printed.

“LEO AFRICANICUS – SUDAN, 1901”

This sign, fixed on his cage
for the curious visitors to the zoo,
how many times has it been faded by the summers
that came and went,
how many times has it been repainted!

In so many years of captivity,
how many restless miles
has he walked
on ten square yards!

Twenty-four hour centuries
have made him a neurasthenic
without managing to tame him.
He was not taken that young
so as not to have a past,
so as not to remember.
On the contrary,
his memory is strong:

Those former nights at Bahr el Ghazal,
so resplendent…
his first love affairs beneath the stars…
the triumphal expeditions
to the ends of the desert,
the reeds where he lay in ambush for gazelles…
the rocks baked by the tropical sun…
the river that quenched his thirst,
where are they, where are they all?
How long ago was it?
How long?

Twenty-four hour centuries
have made him a neurasthenic
without managing to tame him:
his entire being is still majestic
despite the fleeting years,
despite the great hardships
suffered in the Great War
with food rationing
and other miseries.
The fierceness has not left his eyes
despite the fleeting years,
the muscles are bound tight on his flesh
and his mane is always handsome
despite the fleeting years.

He no longer gets violent and overwrought
• not that he has grown used to his bondage,
that he can bear it –
but he remains aloof out of a sense of duty,
and stands his height.
When Sunday comes, he feels it
intuitively,
he can distinguish it by all that commotion
and the saucy dogs in the arms of ladies
which come and yelp outside his cage,
which enjoy the world while he slowly dies away…

He was not taken that young
so as not to have a past,
so as not to remember…
O nights of Bahr el Ghazal
beneath the stars!

(And, O fortune, so similar
to that of people!)

ANN ARBOR REVIEW (USA), No. 10/11, 1970.

from Compositions, II, 1938

DOCKYARD SADNESS

I saw a very old, derelict ship
badly listing to the side,
her hull eaten away by rust
and her rudder protruding from the water,
broken down,
gnawed
by an unknown sea monster.

Such a miserable looking hulk of a ship…
And yet – who would have thought it? –
a faint trace of smoke rose slowly upwards
from her sloping funnel, and dwindled away…
(The derelict ship had one last spark hidden
in her bowels, and perhaps
dreamed of future voyages,
perhaps it was with this hope that she turned in
at night in the dreariness of the dockyard…)

I gazed at her. And my thoughts unwittingly went
to people of similar plight,
who had been gradually eaten away by life…

And the comparison rushed at me.

CAVE (New Zealand), No. 6. No date printed.

CENTAUR

In the prime of his youth and beauty,
naked, astride his horse,
he walked it in the shallow waters
on the seashore there.

Young and handsome:
his lissom body glowed
from the sun, from the water,
from his brimming health.
His hair shone black,
ample light on his brow,
lightning in his eyes,
stubborness and willpower on his lips,
the cords of his neck stretched taut
holding the head high,
his chest open and broad
that his strong heart might resound,
that it might hold many loves,
his muscles tight and well-knit
on his shoulderbones and his arms,
on the hands that seized the mane,
tense curve of a bow
shaped by his back,
splendid folds at his ribs,
his sex unwittingly hidden,
his sleek thighs squeezing
the wet body of the horse,
his knees smoothly shaped,
his calves perfectly cast
down to his slender ankles,
the small curve of his heels,
and his soles circumflexed.

And the horse!
Its unwieldy movements in abrupt rhythms!
At times, ready to gallop towards the sea,
it sucked in the indigo of open space with its eyes,
at times it turned towards the shallow waters
in order to come out on the land,
but again, longing for the waters,
it tossed them to brilliance
in foam and spray!

CAVE (New Zealand), No. 6. No date printed.