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'They'll choke me with thorns and fallen petals.'

Mathios Paskalis Among The Roses

by George Seferis
ABOUT THIS EPISODE

 

Mathios Paskalis Among The Roses 

 


I've been smoking steadily all morning
if I stop the roses will embrace me
they'll choke me with thorns and fallen petals
they grow crookedly, each with the same rose colour
they gaze, expecting to see someone go by; no one goes by.
Behind the smoke of my pipe I watch them
scentless on their weary stems.
In the other life a woman said to me: 'You can touch this hand,
and this rose is yours, it's yours, you can take it
now or later, whenever you like'.

I go down the steps smoking still,
and the roses follow me down excited
and in their manner there's something of that voice
at the root of a cry, there where one starts shouting
'mother' or 'help'
or the small white cries of love.

It's a small white garden full of roses
a few square yards descending with me
as I go down the steps, without the sky;
and her aunt would say to her: 'Antigone, you forgot your exercises today,
at your age I never wore corsets, not in my time.'
Her aunt was a pitiful creature: veins in relief,
wrinkles all around her ears, a nose ready to die; 
but her words were always full of prudence.
One day I saw her touching Antigone's breast
like a small child stealing an apple.

Is it possible that I'll meet the old woman now as I go down?
She said to me as I left: 'Who knows when we''ll meet again?'
And then I read of her death in old newspapers
of Antigone's marriage and the marriage of Antigone's daughter
without the steps coming to an end or my tobacco
which leaves on my lips the taste of a haunted ship
with a mermaid crucified to the wheel while she was still
beautiful.

by George Seferis

“Mathios Paskalis Among the Roses” from GEORGE SEFERIS: Collected Poems 1924-1955. Bilingual edition, translated, edited, and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Copyright © 1967, renewed 1995 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission.

Poem as Friend to John

  • Mathios Paskalis Among the Roses
  • -
  • by George Seferis
00:00 / 00:00

In this episode, John McAuliffe talks about the poem that has been a friend to him – 'Mathios Paskalis Among The Roses' by George Seferis.

We’re delighted to feature ‘Mathios Paskalis Among The Roses’ in this episode and would like to thank Princeton University Press for granting us permission to share the poem in this way.

You can find “Mathios Paskalis Among the Roses” from GEORGE SEFERIS: Collected Poems 1924-1955. Bilingual edition, translated, edited, and introduced by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Copyright © 1967, renewed 1995 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission.

John visited The Poetry Exchange at HOME, Manchester.

www.homemcr.org

You can find more about John and his poetry here:


www.gallerypress.com/authors/m-to-n/john-mcauliffe

 

John is also Professor of Creative Writing at The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing 


www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/centrefornewwriting

 

John is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Bennett and Al Snell.

ABOUT THE POETRY EXCHANGE

We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 

 

We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.