Helen (excerpt)

Helen (excerpt)

According to one version of this myth, Aphrodite didn’t give real Helen to Paris, but one phantom image of her. Hermes ordered by Hera led Helen to Egypt, at the palace of the king Protea, where Menelaos met her as he was returning from Troy. Euripides negotiates this version of the myth in his tragedy “Helen”.Also in the tragedy Teucer meets Helen in Egypt who passes by on his way to Cyprus.

And at Troy?

At Troy, nothing: just a phantom image.

That’s how the gods wanted it.

And Paris, Paris lay with a shadow as though it were a solid being;

and for ten whole years we slaughtered ourselves for Helen.

Great suffering had desolated Greece.

So many bodies thrown

into the jaws of the sea, the jaws of the earth

so many souls

fed to the millstones like grain.

And the rivers swelling, blood in their silt,

all for a linen undulation, a filmy cloud,

a butterfly’s flicker, a wisp of swan’s down,

an empty tunic — all for a Helen…



George Seferis

Based on the myth of Helen


Translated by by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.



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