George Seferis

George Seferis was born on 13 March 1900 in Smyrna but moved with his family to Athens while in his teens. After studying law in Paris, he returned to Athens in 1926 and joined the Royal Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served in Great Britain, Albania, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. He was the Greek ambassador in London from 1957-62. Seferis was mostly known as a poet and essayist and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. His poetry has been widely translated, the largest English version by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard  titled: George Seferis: Collected Poems 1924-1955), which was published in 1969. He is the most distinguished of the pre-war poets. His work is permeated by a deep feeling for the tragic predicament of the Greek, as indeed, of modern man in general. As a diplomat and traveler Seferis poems contain the recurring themes of alienation, exile and death which are also the main themes in Greek popular music. Seferis was an outspoken critic of the military Junta of 1967-74 and his death and funeral in September of 1972 was one of the largest and emotional mass demonstrations against the dictatorship. Seferis was a friend of the writers Henry Miller and Laurence Durrell. Seferis is considered one of the fathers of 20th century European poetry. His poems are perhaps the most easy to read of the modern Greek poets in translation.

The angel – 3 years we waited intently for him,
closely scanning the pines the shore the stars…
One with the plough's blade or the keel of the ship
We were searching to rediscover the first seed
so that the ancient drama could begin again.

From the Mythistorema in Collected Poems
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

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