Yannis Ritsos--Greek



Yannis Ritsos


Greek poet and translator, Ritsos was born in 1909.  His early writings reflect the tragedies of his life, the war, and his involvement against the dictatorship in Greece.  Ritsos served five years, 1947-1952 in prison camps, and after the 1967 Greek coup, he was placed under house arrest and surveillance.  His best known works are Tractor, written in 1934, and Pyramids, in 1935.  His lengthy poem, Epitaph, offers a message of brotherhood.  Two volumes of poetry, Vigil and Districtsof the World, were written about his experiences in prison camp.  The Dead House, is a monologue inspired by ancient Greek mythologies, and one of his last great poems, “Late in the Night,” offers a hope for a new start for humanity.  He died in 1990.   

If Only I Had The Immortals' Potion

If only I had the immortals' potion if only I had
A new soul to give you, if only you could wake for a moment,

To see and to speak and delight in the whole of your dream
Standing right there by your side, next to you, bursting with life.

Roadways and public places, balconies, lanes in an uproar,
young maidens are picking flowers to sprinkle on your hair.

My fragrant forest full of tens of thousands of roots and leaves,
how can I the ill-fated believe I can ever lose you?

My son, all things have vanished and abandoned me back here
I have no eyes and cannot see, no mouth to let me speak.


Audible and Inaudible

A sudden, unexpected movement; his hand

Clutched the wound to stop the bleeding,

Though we had not heard the gunburst at all

Or the whistling of a bullet.  A short time later

He lowered his hand and smiled;

But again slowly he placed his palm

On that same spot, pulled out his wallet,

Paid the waiter politely, and went out.

Just then the small coffee cup cracked by itself.

That least we heard clearly.


Translated by Minas Savas