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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

George Seferis: Red Pigeon


Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) in flight: photo by Alan D. Wilson, 2006

Three red pigeons in the light
inscribing our fate in the light
with colours and gestures of people
we once loved.

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California
: photo by Alan D. Wilson, 2006

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California: photo by Alan D. Wilson, 2006

Red Pigeon (Columba livia domestica), Fife, Scotland: photo by Steph Cowie, 16 October 2010

George Seferis: Mythistorema 14, 1935, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


Nin Andrews said...

Pigeons are so beautiful--and they are so . . . not appreciated. Funny to think how birds are like people . . . Different birds, different people, now that I think about it. I love this!

TC said...

Sometimes I see birds as better versions of people. Prettier, for sure. Smarter, certainly.

For example, Guru Penguin, explaining the truth about business.

I'm basically a bird-brain, but ever since attending that lecture, I've understood many things much better than I had understood them before.

aditya said...

Ah Tom! what a genuine beauty. And what bi-polar emotions evoked.

So many red pigeons abound in the place where I live. Birds are almost always good.

leaving me alone
even the red pigeons depart-
evening prayer call

By the way I had misread fate as faith the first time.

TC said...

If this poem had been part of the script of On the Waterfront, and we heard the word "fate" uttered by Marlon Brando (who keeps pigeons, in that picture!), we'd perhaps be tempted to think that what he was really saying was "faith".

Because of his accent, the same accent we who have fallen off the hay-rick use when we plead, "But... I coulda been a contendah".

But it's a picture in which fate blots out faith, in the end, so I don't know.

Prayer time. My pigeons depart into the ice-fog.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

I feel I've now attended all the lectures - penguin guru! - faith for fate - and the deep anguish in Karl Malden's eyes.

It's official, I get a pass for Sunday services this week.

"I'd rather be a bird man."

Wonder full Seferis and excellent pictures.


PS And just to take it to the limit, the word verification for this post is "poodog."

TC said...

Reverend Don,

Let every poodog have its day.

The monster road graders and asphalt scoopers gobbling up and spitting out chunks of street out front are scaring off every bird within several city blocks.

Therefore let us pray.

"I don't like the country, the crickets make me nervous".

Mythos + Istoria

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Just brilliant ... I'd forgotten, the glove and all - growing up in Jersey, those were Hoboken streets if ever I've seen them, Union City, Jersey City, the docks, I'm swooning ...

"Better get you home, there's guys around here with one thing on their mind ..." The way he goes back and forth between come-on and sincere. So real.

Anybody doesn't get the Stanislavski method, just show 'em this scene.

Mythos + Istoria!

You made my morning with a mashup, as the kids say, of home, religion, pigeons, Eve Marie, Sefaris and all.


Peter said...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pigeon Valentine

I know how Virgil felt
standing alone between
Homer and Dante
his two prized goats
whose horns made
small incisions in the air
on market day
I know how responsibility
felt standing naked
between free will
and biology its fate
I know how the drink
felt between the bottle
and the mouth
and the bullet
between the chamber
and the revolution
until a pigeon flew down
and shat on my sophia
in a country of pigeons
I know how it felt

TC said...


Part of Brando's brilliance -- that "bit of business" with the glove, which gives the scene so much life.

We're reminded of his amazing improvisation in The Godfather. Just before Vito suffers his fatal heart attack, in his garden with his grandson, he puts that orange peel under his top lip, like a fighter's mouth piece. Orange-peel teeth. The kid playing the grandson is really scared. No one told him that was going to happen. He wasn't expecting it. That touch makes the scene, like the bit with the glove in On the Waterfront. Sheer genius, what else can one say. The lost art of on-screen poetry.


Homer, Dante, Brando, Seferis, Guru Penguin, Eva Marie Saint, biology, free will, fate... this is turning into quite a revival meeting. Let's make a real shindig out of it and invite that ultimate party animal John Milton, to sing

...In discourse more sweet;
For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense.
Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reasoned high
Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost...

Charles Olson used to offer that triadic option to his gawking followers. "Which would you choose?" he'd say. Once, posing the question as he went down his back stairs in a snowstorm, he took a giant step and tumbled into a three-foot-high drift. That pretty much ruled out foreknowledge absolute and free will, in one fell swoop. Now had Brando done that scene, playing Olson, imagine how much more fun losing Paradise might have been...



"pigeons in the light" (and on the grass alas, "crickets make me nervous") "people we once loved" (first kiss at, pairs of doves sometimes landing on the branch out there, this morning a shadowed bird . . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, shadowed bird standing on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

present, as it was just now
whereas a moment when

as if it were a “minus” one
that is, as both, and

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
pelican flapping to the left toward it

TC said...


Thanks for that flapping pelican,

just now
whereas a moment

to take our prayer meeting out into "the country"... where it belongs.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

One should hear this poem set to music by Ilias Andriopoulos and sung by the late, great Nikos Xylouris--pure exaltation.

TC said...


Grateful for your good knowledge, once again.

I went searching... and did discover this:

Nikos Xylouris sings Seferis' poem Stratis Thalassinos on the Dead Sea.

A gravity and solemnity hinting of depths of feeling buried "many fathoms below the surface"...

TC said...

And here Vassilis brings us closer to the light:

In Lieu of "Three Red Pigeons".

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Tom and Vassilis:

Very powerful lines from the post "In Lieu of Three Red Pigeons," fine verse. I was especially touched by

"let them not forget us, the weak souls among the asphodels ..."


TC said...

What a beautiful line that is, the fragile little souls (animula blandula vagula), in amongst the asphodels... of this or perhaps another world.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

And, of course, the mind then skips to Williams ... "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower", part 1 here, with that wonderful line:

It is difficult /
to get the news from poems /
yet men die miserably every day /
for lack /
of what is found there.

No proper indentation but, reading this over, as great as it is, the rest of part one just overwhelms it (or perhaps the line itself is just meant as a summing up of sorts).

I notice in my 2 different selected WCWs that different sections have been excerpted from this poem - in the first, Part I and the Coda, in the second, edited by Tomlinson, Part 2.

Lovely, part I ... lovely, the asphodel ...