Saturday, July 7, 2007

Denial (poem of exile and anthem of resistance)

by Giorgos Seferis (translated from Greek by Edmund Keeley & Phillip Sherrard)

On the secret seashore
white like a pigeon
we thirsted at noon;
but the water was brackish.

On the golden sand
we wrote her name;
but the sea-breeze blew
and the writing vanished.

With what spirit, what heart,
what desire and passion
we lived our life: a mistake!
So we changed our life.

Giorgos Seferis (1900-1971) was born in Urla, near Smyrna in Asia Minor. In September 1922, Smyrna was recaptured by the Turks after a two-year Greek occupation, and its Greek population, including Seferis' family, fled. Seferis would not visit Smyrna again until 1950.

I think this poem carries with it a sense of exile. Many of us who are clergy abuse survivors, and survivors of blind-eyed church shaming tactics, feel a sense of exile as well. We often feel exiled, not only from our churches, but also from the entire faith community, and even from that part of our own selves where a strong faith once resided.

After the coup that overthrew the Greek government in 1967, many of Seferis' poems were banned. This one - Denial - was set to music and became an anthem of resistance.

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