29 August 2010

Mistra: A Poem


Resident by Mistra

Here on the black butt of the mountain they spattered an angle
of the Morea with their strongholds, so galvanized East to West
in feudalities of stone. How, here, to disentangle
Villehardouin from Paleologues? That hawk's nest

of a keep tumbled on the crest armored the Franks' baron,
while they below of the thunderous, the now crashed and sunken lizard-written hall 

 fought him, sword to adze in the bloody defiles, pounded him from his warren.
Saints fade their eastern look on the murals now. South down the mountain wall

the Pantanassa crosses her convent in cypresses, serene
strokes on white plaster where nuns are alive next the welter
of wrecked chapels. Beyond, the staggering slopes lean
up into air angels live in, and by St. Barbara's shelter

peoples of the plain ascend in processionals red gold and white
to splash one day a year with singing in the cold growth of light.
Richmond Lattimore 

This poem, printed here for its archaeological value, was published in Poetry Magazine in 1958.  Richmond Lattimore, poet and translator, is best known for his great translations of the Iliad (1951), the Odyssey (1965) and the Oresteia (1969), among much else.

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