Trigons: Note on "Les Anges Sont Blanc"

Henry Miller photographed in Hydra by George Seferis

Full text.

Seferis wrote this poem in 1939 after he and Miller had visited Hydra together:


   Like a sailor in the shrouds he slipped over 
      the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricom
   and it was natural he couldn't stand before us at a man's
      height 
   but looked at us all from the height of a fire-fly or from the 
      height of a pine tree 
   drawing his breath deeply in the dew of the stars or in the
      dust of the earth. 
   Naked women with bronze leaves from a Barbary fig tree 
      surrounded him
   extinguished lamp posts airing stained bandages of the
      great city 
   ungainly bodies producing Centaurs and Amazons
      when their hair touched the Milky Way. 
   And days have passed since the first moment he greeted us 
      taking his head off and placing it on the iron table
   while the shape of Poland changed like ink drunk by
      blotting-paper 
   and we journeyed among shores of islands bare like strange
      fish bones on the sand 
   and the whole sky, empty and white, was a pigeon's huge 
      wing beating with a rhythm of silence 
   and dolphins under the colored water turned dark quickly
     like the soul's movements
   like movements of the imagination and the hands of men 
      who grope and kill themselves in sleep 
   in the huge unbroken rind of sleep that wraps around us 
      common to all of us, our common grave 
   with brilliant minute crystals crushed by the motion of
      reptiles. 
   And yet everything was white because the great sleep is white 
      and the great death
   calm and serene and isolated in an endless silence. 
   And the cackling of the guinea-hen at dawn and the cock
      that crowed falling into a deep well 
   and the fire on the mountain-side raising hands of sulphur
      and autumn leaves 
   and the ship with its forked shoulder-blades more tender 
      than our first lovemaking,
      all were things isolated even beyond the poem
   that you abandoned when you fell heavily along with its
      last word
   knowing nothing any longer among the white eyeballs 
      of the blind and the sheets
   that you unfolded in fever to cover the daily procession
   of people who fail to bleed even when they strike themselves 
      with axes and nails;
   they were things isolated, put somewhere else, and the steps 
      of whitewash
   descended to the threshold of the past and found silence and
      the door didn't open
   and it was as if your friends, in great despair, knocked
      loudly and you were with them
   but you heard nothing and dolphins rose around you
      dumbly in the seaweed. 
   And again you gazed intently and that man, the teethmarks 
      of the tropics in his skin,
   putting on his dark glasses as if he were going to work with
      a blowlamp,
   said humbly, pausing at every word: 
   "The angels are white flaming white and the eye that would
      confront them shrivels 
   and there's no other way you've got to become like stone if 
      you want their company
   and when you look for the miracle you've got to scatter your
      blood to the eight points of the wind
   because the miracle is nowhere but circulating in the veins 
      of man.

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