Nikephoros Vrettakos

Second Elegy

Like corpses that are taken to be burned
in a place appointed for that sacred act,
so in a velvet coffin I am taken
under black clouds on the shoulders of my fate,
and while it rains on my white shroud, the hooded
nights of my life come staggering after me.

The funeral train takes to the hills and descends
into the mist. Among the trees. Into the distance
where a great fire awaits me, one created
from all the colored fires of this world:
from sunset, from the ocean, from the stars,
from fires of moons on snowdrifts, from the blaze
of skies, from evening colors of Taygetos.

Blue, green, white, crimson, silver
flames, like a tangled dance of nymphs and angels
chanting serene hosannas as they gaze
at the lectern of the universe. And as Christ with a dog
crosses the field and my mother gathers crocuses
in her apron, there dances all around the fire
the mournful kingdom of flowers with its shepherds,
while they take me down across through the rattling rain.

My dear friends, O dear friends of mine,
I'm simple in my poems, and simpler still
in my tears. Our age is shadowed; thick flakes snow
through all my blood; I'm naked to the core,
like a careless shepherd trapped by fall of night
on a lightning-blasted mountain. Gather now
my sheep. They're nailing shut the windows of night
with sledge-hammers. An evil wind is blowing,
it's getting dark. A rain, a frost, a moon.
My coffin has filled with water. Flailed in a whirl
by the mad and evil wind, blue, green,
in the distance the fires shed their leaves in the mist.
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