Elytis received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979. He is considered to be one of the most important writers of modernism in Greece. Born in 1911 in Crete, Elytis had his firs poem published in 1935. In 1937, he began fulfilling his military requirements by joining the National Military School in Corfu. During World War II he served as a Second Lieutenant as part of Greece’s 24th Regiment. Throughout the German occupation Elytis continued to write poetry and essays on contemporary poetry and art. He was program director of the Greek National Radio Foundation and president of the Administrative Council of the Greek Radio and Television. Among the many awards he received were the First State Poetry Prize of Greece in 1965 and the Order of the Phoenix in 1975. He died in Athens at the age of 84.
The Sleep Of The Brave
They will smell of incense, and their faces are burnt by their crossing through the Great Dark Places.
There where they were suddenly flung by the Immovable
Face-down, on ground whose smallest anemone would suffice to turn the air of Hades bitter
(One arm outstretched, as though straining to be grasped by the future, the other arm under the desolate head, turned on its side,
As though to see for the last time, in the eyes of a disembowelled horse, the heap of smoking ruins)—
There time released them. One wing, the redder of the two, covered the world, while the other, delicate, already moved through space,
No wrinkle or pang of conscience, but at a great depth
The old immemorial blood that began painfully to etch, in the sky’s blackness,
A new sun, not yet ripe,
That couldn’t manage to dislodge the hoarfrost of lambs from live clover, but, before even casting a ray, could divine the oracles of Erebus...
And from the beginning, Valleys, Mountains, Trees, Rivers,
A creation made of vindicated feelings now shone, identical and reversed, there for them to cross now, with the Executioner inside them put to death,
Villagers of the limitless blue:
Neither twelve o’clock striking in the depths nor the voice of the pole falling from the heights retracted their footsteps.
They read the world greedily with eyes now open forever, there where they were suddenly flung by the Immovable,
Face-down, and where the vultures fell upon them violently to enjoy the clay of their guts and their blood.