These two poems by George Seferis explore the disorienting confusion and fear that arises from living through war and catastrophe. Seferis spent his life as a spokesman for the Greek state and Hellenic culture, working as a career diplomat and poet. He lived through the Balkan Wars, World Wars I & II, and the Greek Civil War as well as continual political crisis.
His poetry interprets Greece’s contemporary tragedies as the result of a mythical hubris, especially internecine murder in the heroic past. Bloodshed in the present is due to an endless chain of retribution set in motion by ancient Greeks who transgressed against the laws of nature, the gods, and the rights of their fellow men in pursuit of power and self-gain.
A wave of suicides has swept over our battalion. Those who attempt suicide are deceived if they think they may do with themselves as they please. From now on, I order company commanders to carry out preliminary inquiries, interrogating anyone who has attempted suicide. The results of such inquiries will be sent to me immediately and official indictments will be remanded to a Special Military Court.
–Daily orders of Captain Commander Vasilopoulos Antonios on March 6, 1948.
Harper Perennial published The Complete Plays of Sophocles: A New Translation by Robert Bagg and James Scully, on July 26, 2011.The book includes all seven extant plays by Sophocles, two of which will be included in the Norton Anthology of World Literature. The following essay was derived from Robert Bagg’s talk at the Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum in Northampton, MA.
Closing the Gap: “The Complete Plays of Sophocles: a New Translation” for a New Audience