Anticythera

 
This is a different island. Not the one

To which the girls and gallans, heedless, go –

Aetherial, across a flame-strewn sea.

That island fades as do its votaries.

But this grows brighter in the starlit haze

Through which we voyage. Now the marbled heights,

Austere, forbidding, harsh, seen from afar,

Appear the softer as we sail close in;

The moss, the lichen, and the crannied fern

Provide a verdure all unknown before,

And there are wind-bent curved wild olive-trees.

This is the island where the bronzes are

Drawn up in dragnets from the surfing sea.

Beneath their myriad mollusc coating, they

Are full-wrought, perfect, graced with since forgotten

Art, their balanced features flawless still.

They speak an early language, which is hard,

Although the island closes on us, to

Construe: our bodies soon will be the same,

But breathing, framed reflective to our souls,

With youth, with beauty never gone. What Greeks

Had glimpsed, what cousins to the Spartans better

Knew, all shall be ours, but only if

We, watchful on our voyage, avoid shipwreck,

For there are shoals before the opening port.

Courage! The morning now the evening star

Shines to the right. See where that Cypress screen

Gives on the long embowered palace walks.

There, crowned with laurel, then no longer green

But gold, with all the living sculptures friends,

We shall be happy. But, far more than this,

We shall be loved by Him to whom the stars,

The statues, our transfigured selves belong.

 

June 15th – 17th,1974