Masterpiece Gallery

Iconic works of art inspired by Santorini


Gymnopaidia Santorini I (excerpt)

Bend if you can to the dark sea forgetting
the flute’s sound on naked feet
that trod your sleep in the other, the sunken life.

Write if you can on your last shell
the day the place the name
and fling it into the sea so that it sinks.

We found ourselves naked on the pumice stone
watching the rising islands
watching the red islands sink
into their sleep, into our sleep.
Here we found ourselves naked, holding
the scales that tipped toward injustice.

Instep of power, unshadowed will, considered love,
projects that ripen in the midday sun,
course of fate with a young hand
slapping the shoulder;
in the land that was scattered, that can’t resist,
in the land that was once our land
the islands, – rust and ash – are sinking.

From the Collection “Poems” (Ikaros Publishing).
Translation by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

 

Giorgos Seferis
(1900-1971)

A leading figure of 20th-century poetry, Giorgos Seferis was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. Born in Smyrna, Asia Minor, he studied law at the University of Paris and became interested in literature, before embarking on a long and successful diplomatic career. His wide travels provide the backdrop and color for much of his writing, which centers on the themes of alienation, wandering and death.

Ode to Santorini (1939, excerpt)

You were the first to leap forth into the world,
Porphyrogenite, sea-begotten,
You sent to the far horizons
Blessings nurtured in the sea’s vigils
To caress the hair of daylight’s waking hour.
Queen of the heartbeats, and wings of the Aegean,
With words that convert the infinite
With fire, lava, smoke,
You discovered the great lines of your destiny.

Now justice stands revealed before you
Black mountains sail in the brightness
Longings dig their craters
In the heart’s tormented land
And from hope’s struggle a new earth is made ready
So that on a morning full of iridescence
The race that vivifies dreams
The race that sings in the sun’s embrace
May stride forth with eagles and banners.

∗From the collection “Orientations” (Ikaros Publishing).
Translation by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.

Odysseus Elytis
(1911-1996)

Acknowledged as one of the most important figures of 20th-century poetry, Odysseus Elytis, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Literature, is also one of the leading representatives of surrealism. In his work, modernism and tradition are fused in harmony.
His first collections (“Orientations,” 1939, and “Sun the First,” 1943) are a celebration of the Greek landscape as an ideal world of sensual enjoyment and moral purity.
The influence of the sea and the sun is diffused in almost all his poems.

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