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Reviews 167 Our dead . . . [are] indifferent to honey-liquor, votive offerings, futile glory. Better a plain stone and a pot of geraniums, a secret sign, or even nothing at all. For safety's sake, we might do well to hold them inside us if we can, or better still, not even know where they lie. The way things have turned out in our time, who knows, we ourselves might dig them up, throw them out someday. ("The Tombs of Our Ancestors," 67) It's hard not to understand such a passage as a gloss on Ritsos's work as a whole—those innumerable shards, gems, or sketches, wistful or surreal, pretty or brutal. Read together, so many short poems can come to feel unambitious , a set of glib variations on a theme. It is therefore a revelation when, in a poem like "The Apples of the Hesperides I" (a mere fourteen long lines, but by Ritsos's miniaturist scale it feels much longer), a key to the mass of this oeuvre glints out at us, in the guise of comment on a myth. I have space to quote only the end of this marvelous poem, an end which seems to evoke not a shopworn stoa of battered statues but the modest meticulousness of an Elizabeth Bishop: This little bit of cunning, so human, which had overcome the malevolence of Atlas, brought the whole myth down to our measure, giving it at the same time a certain indefinite and intimate lighting, an almost aesthetic radiance. (78) "Indefinite and intimate": the phrase perfectly captures Ritsos's agile balance between the portentous and the personal, the vatic and the informal. Keeley has gathered in this volume poems which, to the credit of both anthologist and poet, cast an indefinite but also an intimate light on one another. Rachel Hadas Rutgers University, Newark David Ricks, The Shade of Homer: A Study in Modern Greek Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Pp. xi + 192. $42.50. This study aims to define more sharply what Dimitris Nikolarei'zis meant when he said: "Homer's poetry is present in the contemporary Greek poetic consciousness" (1947). Then term parousta, with its religious connotations, can allow too much talk about the "spirit" of Homer. Thus Seferis could observe of "the antiquity-obsessed Athens of 1860" that "in spite of the endless racket about them, the ancients are nowhere to be found." David Ricks concerns himself not with the mere aspirations or gestures of poets (though he may 168 Reviews note these) but essentially with their work in itself. His study is centered upon three major poets, Sikelianos, Cavafy and Seferis, as revealed in their verse between 1892 and 1940. Dr. Ricks's chosen limits coincide with a great era of modern poetry throughout Europe. He provides "a series of close, even strenuous readings" devoted to short poems (hence, the Odyssey of Kazantzákis has no place here). The poems, examined with tact and rigor, are seen in the context of a developing tradition, where the interplay between contemporary poems is no less important than their relation to Homeric text (not merely Homeric myth). The three Ionian poets, Kalvos, Solomos and—illuminatingly brought into the argument—Ugo Foseólo, belong to the prehistory of the subject. Palamas, for all his excellence, failed to engage truly with Homer, though his adoption as a persona of the bard Phimios from the Odyssey, with a divine gift that incapacitates him for action, was clearly suggestive to Seferis. Sikelianos, younger than Cavafy, precedes him in this book, since Cavafy does not participate in the mainstream tradition. Very important for Ricks's theme are Sikelianos's "Yannis Keats" which so brilliantly comes to terms with the Hellenism of the 19th-century European romantics, guiding Keats into a kind of Telemachy. "Achelous" goes "beyond Homer" to reshape the river episode in Iliad 21 as a myth better suited to Sikelianos's glorifying of the imagination. In "Secret Iliad" he forsakes Homeric allusion for Pindar, whose supposed "free verse" sends him on the slippery path to Whitman. Palamas had celebrated his rootlessness in The Gipsy; Sikelianos claimed that Homer was present in his own Lefkadian landscape. Cavafy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 167-169
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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